Writing Job Applications
Your written application provides a summary of your education, qualifications, skills and experience relevant to the duty statement of the position for which you're applying. To successfully gain a new position you must clearly demonstrate in your written application that you meet all the selection before you will be shortlisted for an interview.
The written application is important because it is probably the only information that the selection panel has about you. The selection panel does not have access to your file (for current employees) or to details about you from previous applications, and they will normally contact referees after interviews have been held. Even if there are some members of the selection panel who know you, there may be others on the panel who know nothing about you.
A written application also indicates the following things about you:
For these reasons it is important to prepare your written application as well as possible. Your aim is to persuade the selection panel that you are the best person for the job and worth interviewing. Suggestions on how to do this are outlined below.
What is included in a written application?
A written application consists of a number of documents, some of which are usually requested by the organisation and others which are optional.
You are expected to provide the following items:
Optional items that you may also need to include are:
When the Appointment Committee receive your application, they are not only looking at your range of skills and experience, but will also assess your written communication skills. The Committee may examine any of the following:
In order to show that you have high quality written communication skills, your job application should use of action words (verbs) to indicate the range tasks you can achieve, and use of a positive tone to demonstrate your abilities. This will indicate that you are proactive (rather than passive) in your job, and focuses on what skills you do have rather than anything you might not have as much experience in.
When putting together your written application, you will need to describe your skills and competencies.
In describing the skills you have and use, it is important that you describe them accurately. Often we undersell our skills by using 'inactive' words, such as 'do' (do the mail, do minutes).
Sometimes we go to the other extreme and use terms that come across to the reader as bureaucratic jargon ('utilise interpersonal communication'). Occasionally we give an inflated indication of our level of responsibility for a task and use 'manage' and 'control' when we actually 'administer' and 'monitor'.
View a list of action words which may be helpful in labeling your skills, together with some examples of how they could be used.
How you phrase what you say and the words you use in your written application can convey either a positive or a negative message to the selection panel.
Try to avoid including what you can't do; avoid phrases such as:
or adjectives such as:
Use of such words and phrases may convey a negative message to the selection panel that you either do not have the necessary skills and experience, or that you lack self-confidence.
Instead, focus on positive statements about what you can do, such as:
and adjectives such as:
Such positive words and phrases convey to the selection panel that you do have the skills and experience, and that you have confidence in your own abilities.
The Cover Letter
The covering letter is a brief introduction to the rest of your written application. It is the first document the selection panel will read. Your aim is to introduce yourself to the panel and encourage them to read on and find out more about you. For this reason it is important that the covering letter looks professional, sounds positive and enthusiastic, and attracts the reader's attention. It is also one way of demonstrating your written communication skills.
A cover letter is a summary of the reasons why you are the best candidate for the position. Its purpose is to make the reader want to read more about you in your resume and to get you an interview. It can help to answer three questions that are often on the mind of the employer:
Cover letters also demonstrate your analytical abilities. Employers will be assessing how well you have researched the organisation and the position and how you have analysed and addressed the company's needs in the letter.
Include a cover letter with every application you make but don't use the same cover letter for different positions. Each letter should be specific to the position and the organisation. Employers recognise standard letters and will know you have not put in the effort they expect.
What should your Cover Letter include?
It is suggested that you include the following information in your covering letter:
Cover Letter Examples
If possible, keep your covering letter to a single page. Too much information, especially if it is not relevant to the job, may detract from the letter. Your statement addressing the selection criteria is the place to give more detailed information about yourself and your ability to do the job.
Example 1 -
Example 2 - Professional Staff cover letter
What is a résumé or curriculum vitae?
The terms résumé and curriculum vitae (or CV) tend to be used interchangeably to mean a summary of your background, personal details, education, qualifications, skills and work experience. The main purpose of the résumé is to promote yourself so you get to the interview stage. Prospective employers will usually spend one to three minutes scanning a résumé and approximately 80 per cent of this time is spent on the first two pages, so its content must be clear, concise and relevant to the job.
There is no single way for your résumé to look, however, it should:
In some instances, employers will request that you submit an electronic résumé when applying for a position. Often, these electronic résumés are ‘read’ by scanners (essentially text readers) in the first instance, rather than by a human being. These scanners are not designed to interpret or distinguish non-standard characters or formats; therefore you should consider submitting your electronic résumé in ASCII format.
Making your résumé easy to read
It is often said that employers on average spend only about two minutes reading an applicant's résumé. This means that your résumé must look good and attract the reader's attention, and all relevant details must be clear, easy to read and easy to find. To make it easy for the selection panel, consider the following:
The way you structure your résumé in terms of order and appearance is up to you, and there are a number of different formats you can use. Much depends on personal preference and on what aspects of your qualifications or experience you want to emphasise most strongly (and the amount of experience from which you have to draw). Whatever style you choose, make sure that the items most relevant to the vacancy are covered and are easy to find. résumés vary greatly in the way they are presented and the information they include, depending on such factors as personal preference. The following information may help you to decide what to include in your résumé and what to leave out.
Can be listed in a number of ways:
For each item listed, include the following:
Other Qualifications and Training
Can be listed in a number of ways:
Give the following information about each job:
The further back in time you go, the less detail you need to give for each individual job.
Outline details of reasons for any gaps in employment, eg: home duties, travel.
Volunteer Work or Work Experience
Set these out in the same order and format as your employment history.
Summary of Relevant Skills
These may include:
Membership of Professional Associations
Hobbies and Recreational Interests
It is optional whether you list such details. If you include them, make sure you:
Referees are people who are willing to testify confidentially to a prospective employer on your behalf.
You must provide details of the number of referees requested - if the advertisment asks for three referees, you must provide three. If the number of referees is not specified, provide details of at least two, preferably work-related, including:
Tips on selecting referees
Optional Résumé Details
To help you decide whether or not to include such details, ask yourself the following questions:
If you cannot answer yes to any of these points, exclude these personal details.
There are a number of additional documents you may wish to add to your written application. These include:
When deciding what to include, bear in mind that the selection panel won't have time to read pages and pages of information. Be selective about what you provide, and only include the best or most relevant documents.
Although you are asked to provide the names and addresses of at least two referees in your résumé, the selection panel are unlikely to contact them until they have interviewed the shortlisted applicants. Since your aim is to obtain an interview, you may decide to include written references in your application.
Good written references will enhance your application and demonstrate to the Appointment Committee what others think of your abilities, strengths and personal qualities.
If you are going to attach copies of written references there are a number of things you need to think about:
Usually, if a job applicant wants to provide the selection panel with samples of their work, they take them to the interview. If the panel wants to see them they can either look at them during the interview or afterwards.
The kinds of work samples you can include in a written application are generally limited to such documents as newsletters, leaflets or flyers, copies of short reports, samples of complex spreadsheets, etc. If you decide to include a work sample make sure it is:
Don't provide more than one or two samples - the Appointment Committee won't have time to look through lots of information. If you're in any doubt, ask the contact person for the job if they would like you to include samples in your application.
You may wish to provide copies of qualifications achieved, including:
The question of whether or not to provide copies of qualifications when you apply for a job is unclear and a lot depends on the preference of the selection panel. Some employers don't want to see them, some like copies to be included in the written application, while others prefer you to take originals along to the interview.
If you are uncertain whether to provide such documents in your written application, consider the following:
Plenty of advice and sample letters: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/coverletters/Cover_Letters.htm
Remember to be a little different from the others. Do not use the samples as they appear on the web; make them more personal. The reader should feel that it is you who wrote the letter. Use short sentences and active senetences and paragraphs.
Addressing Selection Criteria
Format and Layout
There are a number of things you can do to make your selection criteria effective and easy for the selection panel to read:
Structuring Answers to Address Selection Criteria
Your statement addressing the Selection Criteria needs to demonstrate how your previous experience, skills, education and training have equipped you to meet the requirements of the position. When structuring your answers you may:
The STAR Method
Most Selection Criteria will ask for tangible examples of your experience. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action Results) method for example based questions. This approach is outlined below:
Selection Criteria Statement Examples
Here are some examples of phasing in text and point form that illustrate how you can sell the benefits of your experience.
Download a full example of a Selection Criteria Statement
Incorporating the Duty Statement
Refer back to the example Duty Statement and Selection Criteria. When outlining tasks performed in previous jobs to demonstrate that you meet the Selection Criteria, try to do so using tasks similar to those outlined in the Duty Statement. For example:
Duty Statement: Provide a full range of administrative
services, including the provision of administrative support for research
projects and the preparation of research applications
Duty Statement: Upgrade and maintain list of contacts
By using examples similar to the tasks outlined in the Duty Statement, you are not only showing you can do the tasks required of the job, but also demonstrating that you possess skills outlined in the Selection Criteria. This clearly demonstrates your suitability for the position.
Covering your career
Two forms of cover letter can be written, depending on circumstances. You are either applying for an advertised job, in which case you write to the specifications of the advertisement, or you are speculating on the chance of a vacancy arising. Here the aim is to reach the relevant party.
Securing an advertised job:
When writing cover letters for advertised jobs try to match each of the job specifications outlined in the advertisement with at least one appropriate line on your skills and experience. This way you show your suitability for the position.
But make sure your letter is not too long (never more than one A4 page) and remember that a more in-depth listing of your skills and talents will be contained in the attached CV.
Speculating to get interviews:
The central point is to identify your target reader before touching the keyboard. The letter must be addressed directly to them if you are to stand any chance of success. It's generally regarded as a mistake to address it simply to "the Personnel Manager" if you are looking for a job in the regional office.
Similarly do not address the letter to "Dear Sir/Madam" or "The Production Manager". This reads too much like a circular. All it takes is a short phone call to the receptionist or secretary in the organisation.
A sample letter would look something like this. But do not use this as an ironclad template.
Peace and survival of life on Earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed, and a lack of respect for the Earth's living things... . It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past, which resulted from ignorance. Today, however, we have access to more information, and it is essential that we re-examine ethically what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations. Clearly this is a pivotal generation... . Our marvels of science and technology are matched if not outweighed by many current tragedies, including human starvation in some parts of the world, and extinction of other life forms... . We have the capability and responsibility. We must act before it is too late. Tenzin Gyatso the fourteenth Dalai Lama.