Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

Constructing your application


Your primary purpose in submitting an application is to get the interview, not to get the job.

There is little point in developing your skills as an interviewee unless you know how to structure your application so as to get that interview in the first place. There are three parts to this process that need to be mastered:

  1. A good covering letter
  2. Writing your CV
  3. Filling in Application forms.

There are also some general points that apply to the whole application process.

Use the advertisement to help you

It is worth cross-checking your covering letter, form details and so on against the advert. You should be able to use this to help you

  • Decide if the job is really for you at all
  • Decide who to address the letter to
  • Include a heading (‘Re: customer service manager position’, for example)
  • Check the spellings of names of individuals and organisations
  • Get the application in well before any closing deadlines
  • Tailor your letter and CV to the specific post – you may wish to use some of the wording in the application as a starting point (but don’t just copy the wording in the advert).

The job advert should also help you to form the questions you will ask at the interview. Asking a question that was answered in the advert makes you look unprepared and a bit foolish!

Always keep the initial advert so you can refer back to it before an interview.

Think about what the organisation is looking for

A good organisation will have spent some time deciding on the qualities they are looking for in the person they select to fill the vacancy. To present yourself well, both at interview and in your application, we would recommend you undertake a similar exercise and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What key qualities does the role require?
  • What experience do you have that is relevant to the post?
  • How can you show in your covering letter and application that you have the required skills and experience?

As part of your preparation for a possible interview, it may also be useful to identify any gaps in what you have, compared with what they are asking for.

Job descriptions and lists of job competencies are helpful tools that organisations should use when drawing up the list of qualities they are looking for. Some organisations may be happy to supply you with this before you submit your application, while others prefer not to send these out at this stage. If you want more information before submitting your application, do not be afraid to ask. As long as you are sensitive in how you approach the organisation, few people can fault you for showing initiative and having the confidence to ask.

Other helpful sources of information are people who are already doing the job successfully – do you know any one who does a similar role elsewhere? If you do, what skills or traits do they have that you can demonstrate you also possess? What advice can they offer to you about the needs of the role? Conversely, if someone you know has struggled to do a similar job before – why was that, what skills did they lack?