Your application is the first chance you have to impress a potential employer. More importantly, it is the only part of the recruitment selection process over which you have 100% control. A quality job application can make a big difference to your chances of being invited to an interview.
Several documents will usually be required for an application. An application will include some combination of CV, cover letter, and/or application form.
Key points about CVs
- A CV is a marketing document - the purpose of which is to show that you suit the job and company; it is not a simply a record of what you have done.
- You might want to keep a master CV, but you need to target your CV when applying for a particular job - this means being selective about what to include, focus on the qualifications, skills and experiences most relevant to the job
- To decide how to target your CV, you should put yourself in the employer’s shoes – what would an employer most want to know if he/she was employing someone to do this job? Find out what the employer wants by studying the advertisement, job description and company website.
Your CV should have a professional image
- Confine to a maximum of 2 pages
- Error-free - use spell check facility
- Easy to read
- Positive language e.g. designed, developed, progressed…
- Incorporate achievements
There are generally 6 primary sections to a CV
- Personal Details
- Objective or Profile
- Educational Details and Qualifications
- Work Experience/Employment
- Achievements and Interests
A cover letter is an important document in an application. It serves as a professional greeting and provides a snapshot of who you are and what you have to offer.
Key points about cover letters
- The cover letter should tell the employer both why you want the position/graduate programme and why they should employ you.
- It should communicate strongly why you want the position – employers are very interested in your motivation because they know that motivated employees perform well.
- It should highlight your most relevant skills and experiences. Be selective here and focus on two or three which are particularly relevant. It is not the place to list ALL your relevant skills and experiences as this can dilute your message.
- Letters need to be professional and yet personable. Avoid overly formal or academic language and long complicated sentences.
- Remember that employers will use your cover letter to assess your written communication skills.
For more advice on job applications and sample CVs, visit
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What Help is available?
Skills4Employment presentations and workshops: conducted by Careers Service and guest employers, covering key elements of the application and selection process for employment.
CV and Cover Letter Reviews: an appointment can be made (email firstname.lastname@example.org ) to review and give feedback on your CV. To get the most out of a CV Review, attend the relevant Skills4Employment presentations and/or workshop first.
Application Forms are commonly used for Graduate Employment Programmes and by some large organisations for general recruitment.
Key points about applications forms
- Preparation is vital - the form must show the employer that you have really thought about your skills, and how your abilities and interests match the needs of the particular job you are applying for.
- Don’t fall into the trap of spending most of your time on your CV, then doing a rushed job on the application form questions.
- Photocopy the form and practice filling it out before you complete the application.
- Types of questions can include the following:
- Biographical questions about your education, results and experience.
- Open-ended questions relating to your interest in the position, career plans, skills and strengths, knowledge of the organisation or industry, extra-curricular activities, achievements and understanding of the values of the organisation.
Behavioural questions which ask you to give an example of a time when you demonstrated a particular skill/competency. For behavioural questions, use the STAR model to structure your response – the STAR guidelines provided in
- Where word counts apply, give a response of appropriate length and depth – for example, a 50 word response is not suitable for a 250 word question
- Most (but not all) online systems allow you to start the document and save it later for completion.
- Employers can receive large numbers of applications – an easy way to cut down numbers is to discard those with spelling mistakes or poor grammar so take the time to check for accuracy.