From time to time I find myself coaching people through the job search process. This seems to be more complicated than it needs to be and I find myself giving the same advice time and again. The following correspondence is fairly typical:
Client: Attached is basically the application form I need to submit for a job with Anytown Councill, in the housing department. The position is Lettings Assistant. I only saw the application about a week ago, and normally I’m quite good at filling in applications.
As you can see, towards the end of the form, it asks me to go into what skills I feel I have, when I have used them and how I think they are good for the job.
I was wondering, how do you think I should word it?
Should I be listing each skill as bullet points, then giving an example on each?
Matt: I have had a look at the form and can only conclude that it has been designed by:
- A brain damaged moron
- The victim of a cruel medical accident
You get six pages on your ethnic origin and sexual orientation and a small box to explain if you’re any good.
The key thing with an application form is to remember that your aim is NOT getting the job at this stage; that comes later. The purpose of the application form is to get to interview stage.
It is likely to be scanned by some spotty oik in HR who will have a tick list of things to look for. Scanning application forms is the most tedious job in the world so you need to make their task easy.
I would go for bullet points and repeat as many of the key words they’ve used in the advert/job-description/person specification as possible.
All you’re aiming for is to make sure you get added to the ‘invite for interview’ pile and not the ‘reject’ file.
There will be hundreds of applications so make yours stand out by being brief, punchy, upbeat and positive.
Client: Matt this is absolutely brilliant and will come in very handy when I go through the application tonight, so many thanks for that.
I forgot to mention, do you advise I complete that section on the computer, or in hand-writing? I’m a bit of a moron when it comes to hand-writing, I’m almost certain to make a mistake one way or another, then have to print the whole thing out again!
Matt: In my view, unless the actual job requires you to have good handwriting (and you therefore want to show your skills at this stage), you should type. Legibility and neatness being key.
There are really good quality people out there missing out on jobs and work because they simply don’t know the basics. Why aren’t we teaching people this stuff?