Applying for a job
So you've found a job you want… prepare your application and CV/resume to suit the job. If you get an interview, know what to expect and prepare for this process before you go in.
For most jobs, even low skilled ones, you may need to prepare a formal written application. Most applications are submitted online at job sites or directly with the business you are applying to.
You will need to tailor each application to emphasize the skills, achievements and experience that makes you the right person for that job.
Increase your chances of getting a job by:
1. Researching the job
What does the job involve?
Most jobs, particularly full time and permanent jobs have a position description. This describes the tasks required in the role, important skills, experience, qualifications and personal qualities (called key selection criteria).
Often you will need to address these criteria. Some employers will not consider your application if you miss this important step.
The application process may be more casual for part time or casual jobs, and you will only need to give your resume/CV and a cover letter.
What skills do you have?
Think about the skills and attributes you have and how these can be transferred to the job you’re applying for. Discover the ‘buzzwords’/jargon. Every occupation uses a unique set of words. Read websites, magazines and talk with people in the industry to find out what the buzzwords are and to make sure you are using them correctly.
Find out about the business and the industry
Research the organisation and industry. Have a look at their website, competitor's websites, industry associations and peak bodies. Find out about any challenges facing the industry and reflect this knowledge in your application.
Give them a call
Phoning a potential employer with some intelligent questions will help you write a better job application. It also shows that you have initiative and confidence.
It is important you make a good impression with whoever answers the phone. Before you call, make sure you feel calm and have a written list of questions to ask. Always be polite.
2. Write the job application
Most written applications include:
- a cover letter where you outline who you are and why you’d like the job
- your resume or CV where you outline your experience, skills and qualifications
- a statement addressing the key selection criteria where you give examples of when you have demonstrated the specific skills and qualities they are looking for
You should only include the documents relating to what the employer has asked for in the advertisement. Take letters of commendation (letters where people recommend or vouch for you), copies of qualifications and any other supporting documents to the interview rather than attaching them to your application (unless you are specifically asked to attach them).
Clear, concise and easy-to-read
Because employers sometimes have to read hundreds of applications, it’s important to make yours as clear, concise and easy-to-read as possible.
Use action words such as: I coordinated, I liaised, I managed etc. Support these words with real outcomes such as, ‘I coordinated the Summer Event, which attracted over 5000 people. This was an increase of 10% on last year’s event’.
Use positive words and phrases. Replace negative phrases like: 'Unfortunately I only have limited experience in customer service’ with positive phrases like: ‘I have two year’s experience in customer service volunteering at the school canteen’.
Need help writing?
- Get help from someone you know who can write well
- Ask for help at a job network provider, recruitment agency or career counsellor (at your university, college or TAFE) (xlink to list of careers advice/services)
- Take a course in writing a resume and completing job applications at a neighbourhood house or community centre in your local area
- Read or browse books on the subject (borrow from your local library).
Type your application on a computer. If you don’t have one yourself use a friend’s, or access one at your education provider, the local library, neighbourhood house or job network provider.
Most jobs advertised online will allow you to send your application online. If not, you will need to ensure there is access to a printer.
Here are some general guidelines to help make your resume look clean and easy to read:
- use black ink on plain white paper and print on one side of the paper only
- don’t include a separate title page
- avoid too much text – consider using bullet points
- don’t overcrowd the page – use spacing, margins and indents
- always align your text left
- use a standard, well-accepted business ‘font’ (style of text) like Helvetica, Arial or Times New Roman
- use 11 to 12 ‘point’ (measurement of size of text) for the body of your text and slightly bigger, say 14 point, for headings, which you can also put in bold
- be consistent and stick to the same style for headings and text throughout your documents
Check, re-check and triple check your application
Mistakes do not look good with a potential employer – they suggest a lack of care and attention to detail.
Use your computer’s ‘spell check’ and ‘grammar check’ but don’t rely on them to pick up everything. Proofread your application two or three times before and after you print it out. Ask a friend to double check that everything is correct, makes sense and reads well. Importantly, check your contact details are correct.
3. Submitting your job application
Always check the closing date for your application and make sure you upload online, email, fax or mail and consider the time it will take to get there. Try to get it in early as this creates a good impression, and sometimes employers start reviewing resumes early. You might also want to call or email to confirm they've received it.
Don't forget to keep a copy of your application for yourself. You will need it to prepare and refer to if you get an interview.
This information relates to applications made online, i.e. job websites.
- You will probably need to register on the site first. You will need to enter the appropriate sections into a online form and/or attach documents (your CV, cover letter and statements addressing the key selection criteria for example)
- check whether you can save as you go – in case you need to come back later to complete
- if you need to do it all in one go make sure you’ve got all the information and documents you need at hand before you start
- the key is to answer each section in a brief, relevant and organised way
- only give the employer the information they ask for
Performing at job interviews
Interviews are your opportunity to tell the employer why you’re the right person for the job. Be friendly, confident and assertive in any contact with a potential employer. Open, honest communication is the way to go.
Types of interviews
Usually unstructured and informal, these interviews can happen if you drop by a business or organisation to see if there’s any work available, so be prepared! Take copies of your resume with you.
If there are many people going for a job, some employers do a first round of interviews. They will then call back a shortlist of applicants for a second interview.
Follow up or second interview
These are usually offered only to a small number of applicants. The employer might tell you more about the job and may even give you a small test or task to complete.
A panel interview is with more than one person. There will be a person who coordinates the panel, and each panel member will probably ask you a question or two.
When you answer try to address yourself to all members of the panel. It’s important to make a good impression on each panel member as they all contribute to the decision about whether you will get the job. Greet each of them individually by making eye contact and try to remember their names - especially as you thank them for their time and say goodbye. This demonstrates your attention to detail and will leave them with a good impression.
Before the interview
- Prepare for likely interview questions with friends.
- If you've not been to the interview location before do a practice run and time yourself. Make sure you allow enough time after interviews for the rest of your day as interviews can take up to an hour or more.
- Wear clothes that will suit the job you’re going for. For a position in an office, wear a business suit or dress. For a packing job in hospitality wear neat, clean, plain clothes.
- On the day
Be 15 minutes early. It will make a good impression because it shows you value the interview and that you’re organised. You’ll also be more relaxed.
If you’re there early, you'll have longer to review the questions. If you arrive too early, you could go over your notes.
- If you're running late or can't make it due to a last minute emergency, call the employer as soon as possible to let them know.
- Bring your application, resume and a list of questions you might like to ask and any points about your skills, experience and knowledge. You could also bring samples of your work to show if that's appropriate.
- Turn off your mobile phone so it doesn't ring during the interview.
- In the interview
- Be completely honest about your achievements, skills and what you’ve done, including your time out of the paid workforce as a student.
- Never criticise your present or former employers.
- Take your time, this shows the employer you are thoughtful.
- It’s OK to say ‘I’m not sure I understand the question’ or ask for more information. This will give a much better impression than going off topic.
- Speak clearly and try to keep your answers to the point – aim for no longer than four minutes for each answer.
- You might also ask: ‘Did that answer your question?’ to check whether they would like more information.
Your body language
Your body language conveys your personality and in an interview situation, it’s best to show a sense of inner self-confidence.
- Shake their hand
- Make eye contact as you introduce yourself and when asking and answering questions
- Stand up straight and don't slouch in your seat
- Lean forward slightly when you are listening to the question and nod to show that you’re paying attention and are engaged in the conversation
- Stare into space, slump or doodle because you will appear bored
- Stare at people as this can make them feel uncomfortable
- Cross your arms or clench your hands as this can appear defensive
- Fidget or tap your foot or fingers – fold your hands in your lap to help you stay still
- Point at people as this can appear aggressive
Expect to be nervous at your interview – this is normal as you want to be successful and get the job. It’s such a normal reaction that employers expect it and make allowances for nerves when they assess candidates. Here are some hints:
Find out as much as you can about the job and the employer. Revise your job application and make some notes.
Imagine what questions will be asked and then practice your answers before the interview.
Look the part
You’ll feel more confident if you’ve taken extra care with your appearance and your clothes are clean and neat.
Remember why you're there
Think of all the reasons why you decided to work. You know you can do this job. The interview is the time to clearly convey this message to the employer.
Relax and enjoy yourself
To help you relax, take some deep breaths - this is the most helpful thing you can do to calm your physical nerves. Remind yourself that these feelings are natural, and that the other applicants will feel nervous too.
Interviews are also an opportunity for you to interview the employer. Do you really want to work for them? Will this job suit you? Looking at it this way will also help you to feel less nervous.
'Can you tell me about…?'
Asking well thought out questions about what the job entails can help demonstrate your knowledge and experience in the area. You could ask about the team you might be joining, who you would report to, any projects you might be working on, opportunities to develop your skills or undertake training, and possible career pathways.
'What is the hourly rate?'
Ask questions about salary/wages and the work hours at the interview or once they offer you the job. Check that this is the usual rate for this kind of work.
'What’s the next step in the selection process?'
Ask the panel or interviewer when you can expect to hear about the outcome of the interview.
After the interview
If you haven't heard from the employer within the timeframe given, give them a call. If you haven't been successful you can ask for some feedback on your interview and application to help improve your chances next time.