Putting together a job application is time consuming, so it’s understandable why many get frustrated when their hard work is rewarded with the “thanks but no thanks” email, or even worse, silence.

Job vacancies can receive anywhere from 5 to 500 applications, which means inevitably there are going to be disappointed people. When you are up against the unknown, how do you get your application to stand out from the rest? Let our latest “top tips” guide you through:

Personalise it:
Address your cover letter to the appropriate person. If you are not sure who that is, get in touch and find out. Don’t make assumptions by using gender pronouns e.g: Dear Sir or Dear Mam…
It’s surprising the amount of applications we get addressed to “Dear Sir” despite the fact that we are an all-female team and the “applications to” details are displayed on the ad!

Where possible, tailor your CV to suit the role as well, highlighting your experience or achievements that directly relate to the skillset they are looking for. And don’t get tripped up by the recruiter/employer distinction. Saying how much you want to work at XX is not going to give a good impression if XX is actually the name of the agency recruiting the role, not the employer themselves!

Match the style to your profession:
Receiving a very plain looking CV from a marketer or designer is concerning. This is your first opportunity to show what you can do, so use your CV and cover letter as an example of your work. If your role typically involves a lot of facts or figures, find a way to include this in your CV. If you are in communications or sales, make sure your application is compelling and reads well.

Overall this is your first (and in some cases last) chance to shine; don’t waste it by sending in something subpar. If you’re in a profession that’s highly regulated and requires specific qualifications, then make sure those are included.

Follow the instructions!
Addressing your application to the wrong person also falls under this, but there are other ways that people can be tripped up at the first hurdle. Does the job ad have a close date that has already passed? Don’t just try your luck and apply anyway, make contact to see if they’re still accepting applications.

Keep an eye out for any specific information that needs to be included with your application, or any forms that need to be completed. If there’re minimum requirements listed and you don’t quite tick all the boxes, save yourself some time and effort by giving them a call and asking if those are deal breakers.

Attention to detail:
Following on the theme of paying attention – spelling and grammar mistakes are not a good look on your application, there are even some employers who will use this as an initial test to weed out applicants. Also make sure your CV and cover letter are saved out under appropriate file names, especially if you are using a template that you have sourced elsewhere!

Skip the irrelevant:
Your marital status or the fact that you got an A+ on your History exam in 1982 – these things may be important to you, but they don’t have a place on a job application. While we want to see some personality, we don’t need to know absolutely every detail at this stage. Keep the information relevant and work related.

Photos on a CV also fall under this category, they aren’t necessary and, in some cases, can do more harm than good if the quality is poor or the photo itself is not work-appropriate.

State your intentions:
We commonly receive applications that do a good job of highlighting that person’s experience, but make absolutely no mention of why they’re interested in the job. A generic cover letter that omits the role title or company in question instantly screams “I am applying for any and all jobs”.

To give you a real-life example, we recently received 89 applications for a high-level senior role in a well-known and respected professional services organisation. Of those 89 applications, only 62 included a cover letter, so straight away there is 27 people that have missed the opportunity to show why they wanted the job.

Of the 62 that did include a cover letter, 13 addressed it to the wrong person, and 29 didn’t address it to anyone at all despite the ad clearly stating who to send applications to.

This means that of the original 89 applicants, only 20 people told us why they were applying for the role and sent it to the right person! You can see how quickly the applicant pool narrows if we wanted to be picky!

Have options:
We all know how much Microsoft Word likes to mess with your beautiful formatting at the drop of a hat, so avoid unintentional mistakes like this happening by sending your applications in PDF format.

It’s always a good idea to have a couple of versions ready in different formats just in case – that way if for any reason the system on the other end isn’t recognising or opening your application, you have another version ready to go.

Contact details matter:
You would think this is the most basic aspect of a CV or cover letter – your contact details. Otherwise how else is the employer meant to get in touch if they like what they see? And yet, this is something that is commonly missed. At a bare minimum your CV and cover letter should contain your email address, phone number and the name of the town/city you live in.

On the subject of email addresses – try to use appropriate ones! Getting an application from crazycatlady@… or janeloveswine@… might raise a few eyebrows (unless you are applying for a job that happens to be cat/wine related). Be wary of using a work email address – this could cause problems if your current employer isn’t aware you’re looking elsewhere!

Your Social Media let you down:
It’s extremely common for recruiters and Hiring Managers to check the social media profiles of potential candidates when making short-listing decisions. If you’re actively applying for roles it’s always a good idea to check what information is available about you online – take a look at our previous post for top tips on navigating social media and job hunting.

As you can see there’s a lot to consider when putting together your application, but taking the time to get it right can make a big difference!

Good luck!
Kirsty and Nikki

What to look for in a job application?
What You Need to Know as a Referee