Writing a job application

A written job application should establish your claims to the advertised position and thereby secure an interview. It introduces you to the prospective employer and provides a brief overview of your attributes, employment history, and qualifications. Many positions these days require not only a résumé but also a document in which you address the selection criteria. First, the following résumé outline is offered to help you get started and will be followed by an outline and discussion on how to address selection criteria and finally the covering letter.

The résumé or curriculum vitae

Whether you call your document a résumé or curriculum vitae, they are the same type of document. The style or look of your résumé is entirely up to you, as it is a reflection of your personality and even the industry you wish to enter. A word of warning here, a simple and easy to read résumé is preferred by most employers, so although a bit of individuality can be shown, don’t go over-the-top with coloured headings and crazy fonts. Often an employer will be reading applications for graduate positions late at night, so be kind to them. Make your résumé easy read, succinct, well thought out, and thoroughly proof read. The quickest way to have your application discarded is to have errors in grammar and spelling.

What to include in your résumé

  • Address: if you have a home and term address give both
  • Phone: (landline and mobile) please use a professional message service
  • Achievements: academic or private
  • Academic background: in reverse chronological order starting with the current year and working backwards
  • Employment history: in reverse chronological order employers like to see your most current activities first
  • Unpaid or voluntary work: especially emphasised if related to your field of study
  • Skills: divide into two sections:
    • Hard skills: computing, articulated drivers licence, first aid
    • Soft or transferable skills: communication, teamwork, initiative, report writing
  • Memberships of clubs and professional bodies
  • Extracurricular activities: Sports, Hobbies, etcetera
  • Referees: two or three referees. These are not written references but the name, title and contact details of several people the prospective employer can contact to discuss your application and suitability for the position

Your résumé or curriculum vitae should be no more than three pages. It should be clear and easy to read. Your choice of font will make the difference don’t go down below 12pt so you can squeeze more information onto a page as this will make your résumé harder to read. Using space wisely improves the look and readability of your document.

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Selection criteria

For most people, an excellent job application doesn’t simply flow on-demand from the tip of a pen, it takes commitment, hard work, and a sound approach. Your approach should be the framework as to how you write the application. Many people overlook the approach and jump straight into the content which often results in a job application in which the applicant knows what they mean, but to the prospective employer it comes across as garbled or vague.

People have many different approaches, and this is just one suggestion. Using this approach will produce a high quality job application which successfully addresses the selection criteria. This guideline is by no means prescriptive and it is important that you develop your own application writing skills. Take the time to research the organisation and the job itself. Carefully read the selection criteria and be honest with yourself. Do you meet enough of the criteria to be a candidate for the position? Then use the following approach for each example you are giving for a criterion yes, there can be more than one example for each criterion.

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The simple way to write a statement on selection criteria

STARL: S = Situation, T= Task, A = Action, R = Result, L = Learned

  • Situation — Where you were when you acquired the skill, competency and/or experience? For example, university, playing sport, part time job, travelling …
  • Task — What were you doing? Captain of a sporting team, leader of a study team, helping teaching others, public speaking tutorial/presentation, travelling through Asia on your own
  • Action — How did you make it happen? Leading by example, planning, organisation, research, goal setting, preparation and practice
  • Result — What was the outcome? Lead your team to victory, achieved an HD for tutorial presentation, successfully passed information onto others, gained self-reliance, problem solving and negotiation skills
  • Learned — What did you gain from the outcome? The importance of preparation and practice, to use clear language when communicating to groups, to set achievable goals, to use own initiative
  • STARL can also be used when filling in online graduate application forms which very likely contain Selection Criteria. Students often feel overwhelmed by the questions on graduate application forms but if you take each question and address it as above you should start to see success

Good luck with your applications.

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