Job Applications: How to Stand Out From the Crowd

Have you ever applied for a job that matched your skills perfectly, but never got called to interview? You may have been unlucky as your application may have arrived too late. It’s also possible that your application didn’t make the most of your skills and attributes.

Even if you think your application covered all of the essential and desirable requirements, it’s worth revisiting your application to check a few key details. 

From CVs that give too much or too little information, to covering letters that are clearly generic or so brief they are pointless, there are some basic mistakes to avoid. There are also easy rules to follow that will help boost your application.

Don’t be afraid to say what you’re good at, and what you’ve achieved

When writing about what you did at each of your past jobs, don’t just list your duties or responsibilities. This will tell a recruiter what you were tasked with, but not what you completed successfully or what you excelled at.

For each job, list both your duties, and your achievements. Did you always hit your targets? Did you provide an excellent level of service that led to a high level of patient satisfaction? Were you a great team player who helped a busy clinic run smoothly? Say so. You don’t need to win awards to have something to shout about.

Tailor your covering letter for each job application

Yes, this is a bit of extra work if you’re applying for more than one job, but it is definitely worth it. Remember that your covering letter is the first thing your potential employer will see, and it is your first chance to make a good impression.

If you email a covering letter that makes no reference to the specifics of the role you are applying for, and you use generic phrases that could apply to any job in any company, you may as well not bother. An employer will simply assume that you are using the same letter to apply to many jobs, and it will not give the impression that you care much for this particular role.

State the job you are applying for, and give a brief summary of why you think you are the right person for the job. Don’t make your covering letter too long, see it merely as an introduction to your CV.

Use your covering letter to explain anything that your CV may not

Although your CV should contain all of the essential details about your skills, successes, training, and education, there may be some details that you cannot include.

For example, if the address on your CV is in Edinburgh and the job you are applying for is in London, you can use your covering letter to briefly explain that you are looking to relocate. Otherwise, it could appear that you have misread the advert.

Similarly, if you are applying for a role that differs from your current job in some way, explain why you are looking to make a change.

Amend your CV to make sure it is relevant

Though we are not suggesting you change any factual information on your CV to suit an application, there are sections you should check before emailing it out.

If you have one particular role on your CV that clearly demonstrates that you have the skills for the job you are applying for, make sure you emphasise that role, giving detail on all of your responsibilities and successes there.

Make sure you also remove any information from your CV that contradicts your interest in the job you are applying for. Having a personal statement that mentions your desire to further your career as a freelance make-up artist when you are applying for a role as an aesthetician, is unlikely to help.

Don’t leave out key details of training and employment history

Make sure your CV contains all key details of your training and employment, including the names of employers, your job titles, your responsibilities, and the exact qualifications you have.

Don’t assume that a job title explains what you have done in that role, or that your experience explains what you have formally trained in. Employers may make the assumption that you haven’t got the necessary skills if they are not included on your CV.

And remember that these application dos and don’ts matter whether you’re applying direct to a company advert, or through a recruitment agency. Agencies will receive many applications on a daily basis, and will also have to make a judgement as to who are the most promising candidates.

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