How to Tackle Job Applications
Publish Date: 2023-08-21
There is so much more to tacking a job application than just your CV and cover letter. This guide will help you plan and prepare your application from scratch; from the initial job description, right through the application stage and finally the interview.
We understand how time consuming and complicated applications can feel. Sadly, you can’t just use a universal CV, or cover letter with just the recruiter’s name at the top changing each time. You need a much more targeted approach.
Tip 1: Be organised, set up a filing system.
That might sound obvious, but when you are applying for a job there are many things you need to keep track of - we recommend the trusty Google Drive. You can then save all versions of your CV’s, cover letters and other materials in one place. Although, if a traditional pen and paper suits you better, go for it, use a well organised notepad or ring binder. But be thorough in your notes, this will help you with your time keeping too (without you even trying!).
Key things that need to be in your ‘filing folder’:
- Your ‘main’ CV - I know we said you can't use the same one each time, but you can use your best version as the starting point each time and tailor it to every application. This ‘main’ CV should be your most detailed and thorough. We have another guide to help you write your best CV here.
- Your ‘main’ cover letter - again, you can use this as your ‘template’ for each application. So we recommend making this slightly longer than one you might use, including plenty of anecdotes and examples of your experience. You can then cut out any irrelevant information for each individual application, this will save you a lot of time. We have a cover letter guide here.
- A calendar or diary so you have a visual representation of how best to manage your time. Make sure you highlight each closing date and set aside time regularly to work on applications, a bit like a ‘revision timetable’.
- A ‘Job Tracker’ table or spreadsheet of all the jobs you want to apply for, or have already. Be sure to highlight the application closing date.
- A subfolder for each application you complete - keep all of your research documents about the company, edited CVs and cover letters safe as they will be useful for upcoming applications and any interviews.
Tip 2: Break down job applications into manageable chunks:
I will start this next section by saying not all jobs will be the standard CV and cover letter application style, however most are. Even if an application does not follow this structure, it’s likely the application process will require examples of your experience and skills which can be taken from your CV and cover letter.
We recommend your plan of action should be:
- Research available jobs on YoungProfessionals, and other search engines. Put them into your Job Tracker, noting any key information and highlighting the closing date.
- Print or save the job description, then dissect it (tips on this to come…)
- Create an edited version of your CV tailored to the specific job and save it
- Tailor your cover letter to the specific job, adding any necessary examples
- Send off your application and tick it off on your Job Tracker
Tip 3: Dissecting job descriptions
This is arguably the most important part of your application. If you break down the job role and description properly, it will allow you to tailor your CV and cover letter *perfectly* and will show the employer your enthusiasm.
Unfortunately not all job descriptions were created equal and some may be rather rubbish or boring. If you know the role is something you’re interested in don’t let this put you off. A poor job description isn't a reflection of the job, so we would recommend you still apply.
Get your printed job description out and the highlighter at the ready…
Create a ‘key points’ list to put all your important findings on:
- You must first look at each of the ‘person specification’ points (if they have provided them). Jot each point down on your ‘key points list’ along with an example or anecdote of how you meet the requirements.
- Next go through the actual job ‘description’, each time you can demonstrate your knowledge, experience or understanding of an outlined task, write this down on your list with an example.
- Highlight the company's mission and values and add them to your list - if these are not in the job description, actively seek them out on their website. You must demonstrate your alignment to their ethos in your cover letter. They want to see you have put in the effort to know what stands core to their company.
Go through this ‘key points’ list and highlight the priority points (the most important). Then look if you have used the same example of your experience to demonstrate more than one person specification point or job role requirement, if you have then combine this bullet point - remember that bird-two-stones saying?
Use this ‘key points’ list like a checklist when tailoring your cover letter and CV. You may not fit every single point into your cover letter (this shouldn’t be a list remember!), but you can make sure you have ticked off the highlighted priority points at minimum.
You can find in depth guides on “writing CVs” or “writing cover letters” over on our blog page.
Tip 4: The entire application process is an interview
Each email you send, phone call you have, or stage of the application you submit is a mini-interview. We aren’t saying this to scare you, but instead to make sure you are ready to be professional at every-single-point! Don’t stop selling yourself and your skills.
Tip 5: Your perfect job role doesn't exist, or does it…
If you have scoured the internet and found the company of your dreams, but they’re not hiring - don't just give up and move on.
There is such a thing as a ‘cold job application’. This is when email and approach a company with your CV and cover letter even when they haven't asked for it. You will have to approach this differently and expect to be offered a lower role or unpaid position, but more on this can be found on another guide.
Tip 6: Following up
If you haven’t heard back from your application do you just forget about it and move on? NO. This may happen a lot, especially if companies are inundated with applications.
We recommend you get in touch with the recruiter a couple of days after the deadline has passed. Top tips:
- Wait until either the deadline has passed or if there isn't one, wait for 2 weeks to pass since your application
- Keep your email polite and to the point.
- Only follow up your application once. This is usually enough for someone to reach out with an application update. Although you may be ghosted, it can happen so don't be too disheartened.
Tip 7: The job offer
This tip will come in handy for you, even if it takes a few applications!
The job offer is such an exciting time, by all means enjoy it - but ensure you stop to breathe before signing your contract.
- Read, re-read and read again. A contract is legally binding so make sure you have read it through thoroughly and you understand it fully before you sign the dotted line.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions, at this stage the employer already wants you. If you need to clarify any terms of the contract or let them know of upcoming holidays, do it before you sign the contract
- Check the salary is what you were expecting. Living costs have increased, you need to make sure you consider the reality of the role and if it suits you. If you are required to relocate, make sure the start date allows you enough time to move, if not then get back in touch and negotiate. Salary should also be discussed at this stage if you are not happy.
- If you’re happy with the contract and any questions have been answered then sign your contract! You should send this back via email and formally accept the offer in the body of the text.
Young Professionals UK, founded in 2015, are leading school-leavers experts whose mission is to bring better and more vibrant opportunities to students who need them the most. They have already helped thousands of students accelerate their careers with apprenticeship and work experience programs alongside some of the world’s leading companies. To stay tuned for future student or employer opportunities visit https://young-professionals.uk/ or https://www.instagram.com/youngprouk