Kim: 8 steps to improving your job application

Kim is a USQ alumna who studied a Bachelor of Business (Marketing and Leadership) and Master of Management. She originally came from the small South-Western Queensland town of Mitchell, and spent five years living at Steele Rudd College in Toowoomba. She enjoys curling up with a good novel, baking cakes and biscuits, and watching Big Bang Theory.

When it came time to turn my attention from study to landing a job, I didn’t succeed the first time. Or the second.

Some people would see an unsuccessful job application as a failure. I don’t like to use the word ‘fail’ because I strongly believe you only truly fail when you give up. While a knockback is devastating at the time, you need to keep reminding yourself that there will always be an opportunity to try again. With each attempt in my job hunt I learnt more about how to strengthen my written job application, so I thought I would share with you what I learned on my journey and the eight steps that helped me (finally) land that job.

1. Plan

When preparing your next job application, separate each selection criterion from the job description and start to write notes under each one individually, rather than trying to answer them all at once. Plan exactly how you will address each criterion and what examples of your skills and experience you are going to use. A strong plan is the foundation for every good application.

Success doesn't just happen. It's planned for. 

2. Draft

This is where you turn your notes into meaningful sentences and paragraphs. Make sure that all of your responses to the criteria are to the point and that you have given examples of when you have used a certain skill or been in a certain situation. Your written application is the first impression you give to the selection panel, so don’t send them a rushed, rambling document. Make it count!

3. Review and edit

Go back to the original position description and read through the selection criteria again, then read over the application you have written. Have you addressed every item? Are your responses relevant, succinct and accurate? Even if you can’t meet a criterion exactly, never leave it off your application. Do your best to match your experience to what is needed for the job. To do this, you’ll need to have a good understanding of your skills.

4. Proofread

Proofread, proofread, proofread! This time when you read through your application, pay attention to your spelling and grammar (spell check won’t find all of your mistakes). Having typos in your application can come across as unprofessional and sloppy and you don’t want to give that impression to your future employer. Use these tips to proofread like a pro.


5. Proofread again

Leave your application for a few days and come back to it with fresh eyes. This time when you are proofreading, check again that you have addressed the selection criteria and that you don’t have any spelling or grammatical errors. Also critique your writing. Are you being clear and succinct? Could your word choice be better? Always be on the lookout for weak spots in your application.

6. Get a fresh perspective

It is sometimes difficult to find mistakes in your own written work. This happens because you know what you were trying to say and so often you fill in the blanks yourself. Asking a friend, family member or one of the Career Development Team members at USQ to read over your application will help to ensure you have addressed the criteria, that your application makes sense and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

7. Add the finishing touches

Now that you’ve planned, written and edited your application, spend some time working on its presentation. Keep in mind that employers receive many, many applications so you want yours to stand out from the crowd (for the right reasons) and be unique, eye-catching and, above all, easy to read! You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make your application look great. Check out these awesome tips for making your application memorable.

8. Submit

Once you’re confident that your application is ready to go, it’s time to submit! But before you hit send, try and limit the number of attachments you’re sending through. If you can, get your application, résumé, cover letter etc into the one document. This will make your application looks clean and simple when it arrives at the other end. Secondly, try and send your attachments as PDF’s so you don’t lose any of your formatting. Last but not least, make sure you proofread your email as well!

These 8 tips are just some of the things I learned during my job hunting. By far the biggest lesson I took away from the experience was to see every setback as an opportunity for a comeback. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t land the job of your dreams the first, second, third or even tenth time. Ask for feedback, make use of the support available to you at USQ and keep your chin up. You’ll be celebrating your new dream job in no time!

For more advice on how to hone your application and interview skills to get that dream job, chat to one of USQ’s Career Development Team members.


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