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Applying for Jobs

When you apply for jobs, it’s important to be clear in your mind what type of job you’re looking for. The best way to get a job is to be well prepared, and in order to prepare you have to know what you’re looking for. Once you do know what you’re looking for, you can tailor your CV and covering letter towards your ideal job. Look at the person specification on the advertisement you want to apply for. Edit your CV to match this skill set, and cut out any skills which aren’t relevant. If you’re looking for a change of career and don’t have any relevant experience, concentrate on transferable skills. Explain how your skills and experience can relate to this job. For more advice on writing a great CV and covering letter, go to CV Writing Tips. It’s always worth calling the hiring manager to find out more: this gives you more details of what they’re looking for, and makes you more than a sheet of paper – you will be more memorable.

Once you’ve got an interview, prepare for the interview questions in a similar way. Try mock interviews with a friend, write down in-depth examples of experiences in previous jobs, and be sure that you emphasise the strengths you have that the employer is looking for. For more information on competency-based interview questions and other interview tips, see our section Interview Advice. A nasty interview question is: ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ The important thing to remember here is that you should always turn your weakness into a positive; there are three main ways to do this:

  • Give your negative point a positive spin: for example, say 'I'm a perfectionist' instead of 'I spend too much time on tasks and don’t make deadlines.'
  • You could explain how you've improved a previous weakness: for example, 'I used to be unorganized but I've learnt how to manage my time'. If you use one of these, explain how you improved the weakness.
  • Or simply offer a weakness which isn't a skill necessary for the job you're applying for: for example, 'I don’t have strong selling ability; which is why I've chosen an administration path'.

If there are a variety of options for how to apply, always phone rather than email if possible. A phone call is more personal and forces the employer to make time for you, plus it gives you the chance to allow your personality to shine through. If you don’t hear anything, call after a few days to follow up. While no contact may mean that your application is unsuccessful, your call will remind the employer of you. When an employer receives a hundred CVs with similar experience and skills, a little personal touch can make all the difference.

When applying, don’t forget to be sure that the job, and employer, is right for you: for both the company and the candidate to be happy, they must be right for one another. Don’t be afraid to make certain that the company you’re applying to is suitable for your needs, as well as your suitability for their needs. The most important point to remember is that when applying for a job you are selling yourself. Don’t allow modesty or self-doubt interfere with your applications. Try to be objective, write down a list of all your skills and positive points, and really emphasise them.