Applications: Planning to Make a good first impression

To maximise your chances of success, take your time and truly consider your job search before clicking apply. Work is where we spend a large proportion of our time on average 3500 days of our lifetime, and has an impact on our lives beyond the hours we spend at our desk or on the shop floor. Deciding where to work should take consideration.

Searching and applying for vacancies has changed significantly over the last 20 years. The instant nature of the internet has made the whole process so fast and furious; as job seekers, we need only to apply with a click of a button. Competition for roles can be fierce, and due to numbers, some hirers may say they will not be able to respond to all applicants. Whether this is right or wrong, it can be demotivating to you the job seeker and does not necessarily help you to improve your job search.

Employers use job and person specifications to help them to define a job and the attributes and skills of a candidate before the recruitment process begins. This process allows them to target their advertising and to compare the diverse range of applications they receive in terms of skills and fit with the role.  You can do this by developing your own essential and desirable criteria. This preparation will save you time, focus your search and help you to express your interest during the application process.

Planning your search:

Define your own essential and desirable criteria. Everyone’s circumstances are different, we all have our own personal motivations, ideals, and goals. 

  • Essential criteria are your deal breakers, limit these to the reasons you would turn down a role.
  • Desirable criteria make the role more attractive but are not essential to your application, these should be a bonus.

Clarify these at the start of your job search and weigh roles against them before applying. Adverts can be posted in all manner of detail, so you may not get every answer before having to decide whether to apply. Using this technique will help you to build a stronger picture of your preferences and help to cut through the marketing, allowing you to focus on the role essentials. You may also have a handy check list of questions to ask at later stages in the process.

What are the main objectives for your job search? Setting job search goals will help you to think about why you are looking for work and what you want to achieve from employment, whether that is to start or progress your career in a certain direction, to change industry or to earn or learn. This may seem obvious, but this can vary significantly depending on where you are in your career journey and your personal circumstances. Keep it simple and narrow down to about three goals. If you are currently out of work, you may have an immediate need which is more pressing than your long-term goals. Treat them separately and create a list for each.

Work environment: Are there any aspects of the working environment, organisation structure or facilities that are essential for you? Do you have a preference over the size of the team? Whether the company has onsite-parking, canteen, or other facilities? Ability to work from home?

Employers: You may have set ideals about an employer you would like to work for or not to work for! You may also consider type of employer here. i.e Private/public sector, agency, management consultancy.

Minimum salary requirement: Set this as something you would be happy to earn for the skills/tasks you provide and to cover your lifestyle. Check its realistic by looking around online at several similar job roles and ensure what you are asking for is achievable.

Hours: Whether you are looking for a full time or part time role, do not forget to consider the hours of work. Full-time in the UK can vary hugely from 35 to 48-hour contracts. What are your commitments you would like or need to keep outside work?  Do shift patterns affect your ability to commute?

Location: Think about your daily commute in terms of travel time as well as distance. If using public transport are there any business locations, you know are very accessible or difficult for you? Would consider relocation – where to? How practical is this for you? What time frame/support might you need?

Make the best impression by:

1: Researching the job and company first.

Job adverts will usually give you a good understanding of the job and some detail about the company. Does the company have a profile with us? If so, watch the short videos or read the overviews. Take two minutes to look at the website, make sure you have a clear idea of what they do. Click on the about us section, look at the core values – do they fit with you? Do you know anyone who works (worked) for the organisation? Get their view of the company. Checking out review websites for employers can be insightful but unless there are several reviews which are consistently poor do not let it put you off entirely – try to be objective.

2: Tailor your CV to the application criteria

You may be applying for several different roles or exploring career options, that is fine but make sure your CV stacks up when you apply. Avoid sending CVs out with clear statements of interest in roles or aspects of business not relevant to the organisation or role. This is a red flag for motivation, and you can avoid this by saving more than one version of your CV for different career options, you can upload as many CVs and cover letters to your Ethical Jobseeker account as you like – just remember to call them something useful like CV Sales or CV Customer Service– so you remember what they are for!

It may take just a few minutes to adjust your personal statement or to highlight skills at the top of your CV which you possess that meet the role specification, but it is very much worth it.

3: Write a concise cover letter

Provide a cover letter with your application. Always tweak the cover letter to each job role. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your match and motivations for the role but keep it brief, it is not a letter of application so signpost employers to relevant information in your CV rather than repeating it. You could show your interest in the company by referencing an interesting fact from the website. We have a cover letter template available in our career advice section.

4: Final Checks before applying

Before sending in your application – quality check it and ask yourself these simple questions which recruiters will want to know.

  • Do you meet the essential criteria of the role set out in the advertisement?
  • Does the role meet your essential search requirements?
  • Does your application demonstrate your motivation for this post?
  • Is the application of good quality?

If your answer is NO to any of the above and you still wish to apply – now is the time to address those questions.  For example:

  • You do not have a requested qualification. Highlight the experience or qualifications you have which you believe mitigate this. It will depend on whether the employer can be flexible of this or if it is a legal requirement.
  • Location is not currently commutable: If you are willing to relocate, put this on your application but also think about how you will do this so you can satisfy the recruiter at the next stage in the process.
  • Motivation: Use your cover letter to tell the employers why this post is of interest to you and signpost elements of your CV. You can draw upon education, work or extra-curricular experiences.
  • Quality Check: Look for spelling, grammar layout mistakes. Check if you have used a template that you have tailored it correctly – do not send it with wrong company name  - believe us it happens!

Once you have planned your job search and have worked out what is really important to you, you are all set to apply for roles. Keep a list of the jobs you have applied for and don't be afraid to follow up on those Dream Jobs that don't get back to you or where your application is declined. Learn all you can from your job search and sometimes employers may have useful advice or tips to improve your chances next time.

Above all, try to remember that finding a job fast is easy, finding a good job that mutually benefits both parties may take time. Ask questions as well as answer them and consider your options. Good Luck!