Applications are usually the first step to landing a job and give employers the first impression of applicants. It is, therefore, crucial to demonstrate how suitable and qualified you are for the job in order to increase your chances of going on to the next phase.
Preparation makes all the difference when filling in a form. Take time to research the company/institute/organization you are applying for, their previous work and also importantly, what makes them unique to others working in the same field. Browse their website, Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter feed to understand your potential employer better. Each successful organization tends to have built an identity and path throughout the years. As you write the application, let your knowledge about the organization and field show.
After doing your research, think carefully about your experiences and expertise and how they can benefit the company. You have to sell your expertise to the potential employer so it’s crucial to know how your expertise and interest match the company’s work and profile.
Read carefully the job description. It is recommended to call the contact person of the job advertisement and ask relevant questions about the job you are applying for. When calling, you can ask for more information regarding the kind of employee they are looking for or what kind of expertise they require or value. If you have those special qualifications, you can highlight them in your application. In addition, the call is a good chance to show your motivation for the job you are applying for, and it helps the potential employer to remember you. Sometimes only 5 out of 100 applicants call, so increase your chances but plan your call beforehand and have questions ready!
Start your application strongly. In most of the cases, the job applications are not read entirely so write an attractive start. Avoid beginning with “my name is…”. In the first paragraph, you should explain how you found the job, why you are applying for the position and the reason you are interested in it. It is even better if you can show from the beginning how your expertise can benefit the employer.
Use the next paragraph to explain why they should hire you but read carefully the requirements asked. Don’t forget to show in your answers how you fulfil the requirements, given your previous work experience, volunteering roles or educational background. You should try to use specific examples to make it easier for the reader to understand your experience and expertise. Use this opportunity to match the language and expectations set by the employer. And remember, you write the application for the potential employer, not for yourself so think carefully what the employer wants and needs to know about you.
As an early career professional, you may have had several short-term jobs. Turn these into positive things and highlight your roles and responsibilities where you worked, what did you achieve and what skills did you gain, for example. You may explain that having several short-term contracts shows that you are a flexible person and you can adapt quickly to new tasks and work environment. It might help prove that you have a perspective from different organizations or sectors, from various roles. But remember to relate these to the job requirements.
You may also need to write about what kind of employee you are but don’t use only adjectives, rather give examples. If you say you are a responsible and social team player, prove it by using examples from your previous roles. In addition, if you say you are innovative, it might mean different things to different people, so use examples from your previous work or from your studies. Sometimes it is worth to ask feedback regarding your workstyle from your work or student colleagues and use this in your application. You might have a different picture of yourself as an employee and feedback might surprise you positively!
Proofread as many times as necessary and ask someone else to read it to make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammatical errors and so your questions correctly address what was asked. The way the sentences are constructed also play an important role in the indirect message they transmit, so use active sentences, instead of passive. “ I did” instead of “I had to do”.
Take your time, without forgetting the deadline and keep a copy of all your answers. Deep breath and good luck!
The text is based on two seminars focusing on job application letters.
The Balance (2017) How to write a job application letter by Alison Doyle: https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-write-a-job-application-letter-2061569
The Balance (2017) Sample Cover Letter for Job Application with Writing Tips by Alison Doyle: https://www.thebalance.com/job-application-letter-sample-2062548
Prospects (2017) Write a successful job application by Dan Mason: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/applying-for-jobs/write-a-successful-job-application
Prospects (2017) 7 Ways to make your job application stand out by Dan Mason:
Oxford Living Dictionaries (2017) Writing a Cover Letter: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/writing-help/writing-a-cover-letter
Margarida Paixão is a medical doctor, currently doing an MSc in Public Health in the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She previously worked as a Public Health resident in Portugal. She attended NOVA Medical School in Lisboa and besides her medical work, she has an interest in Human Rights.