By Catherine Armstrong
Read the instructions carefully
Applying for jobs can be an extremely frustrating process, not least because every application form is unique. This means that you cannot just present a standard application and copy and paste it into the relevant form. You effectively have to start from scratch every time. If your job search goes on for months, even years, it means that filling in application forms is incredibly time consuming.
BUT don’t let yourself become careless when filling in the form. Make sure you read every word. Make sure you enter your surname and first name in the requested order. Also, when the form asks for your education details, check whether they ask for the most recent or oldest first.
Contact your referees and ask their permission
It’s important to let your referees know that you are applying for a particular job and ask their permission to use them as a referee. Do this every time you apply for a job. Even though this seems rather tedious it does alert your referee to the fact that they should keep a look out for a reference request in their in-tray.
It also gives you the chance to find out if they have any change in contact details due to spending the following few months away researching, or if in fact they would rather not be a referee at all on this occasion. And it’s just common courtesy to inform them that they will be required to give a reference.
Don’t include too much!
In the sections that ask you to list your education and your previous employment history don’t go too far and tell them about the qualifications gained at school or the job you had in the summer holidays as an undergraduate, unless of course those skills or that experience is relevant to this post!
If you have got a PhD or are about to get one you really only need to go as far back as your undergraduate degree in the education section of the form, unless there is an unusual qualification that you gained earlier in your life that is directly relevant to the job.
When listing your employment simply list those jobs that are in the relevant field or area. So, for example, if you have recently got a PhD and are applying for a lectureship, list all the teaching jobs you have had at your own and other institutions.
You may also be asked to list any other courses from which you have learned skills relevant to the post. In order to answer this question it’s important to look again at the person specification and double-check what the skills required are. For a teaching post such as a lectureship the relevant courses will directly relate to teaching experience. This is the area in which you should say if you have completed a qualification such as the Diploma in Post-Compulsory Education, or a City and Guilds in Adult Education.
Smaller courses that are directly relevant to the job are also worth mentioning. For example, if you are going for a job that involves a lot of online working and you have been on courses teaching computer skills, such as the computer driving license, you should state that qualification.
The ‘Further Information’ section
Almost all application forms will have this daunting section: a large, empty white box with the request that you explain how your skills and knowledge are relevant to the position and why you are applying. This is the most important part of the application form so it’s vital to get this right. Here are a few pointers:
- Read the person specification and then write out (in your own words) what it is they are looking for
- Think of examples from your own experience and skills that show how you match up to each of their requirements.
- Describe these systematically.
- Are there any skills from any other part of your life that you believe make you stand out from the crowd (volunteering etc.)?
- You also need to think about why you are applying. Why would you be good for that particular department? What could you offer them that others couldn’t?
- Think about how that statement is going to appear to interview panels. Remember they may have to sift through well over one hundred applications. Make the font large enough (and plain enough) for easy reading. Break your statement down into small chunks of text and use headings to direct the eye, but don’t go overboard with this. Keep it plain and simple.
- Finally, and it sounds obvious, spell check and grammar check. Get someone else to read over your statement and give you feedback.