Common application mistakes

…. A Guide from the ruthless recruiter

Don’t make it easy for me to put you in the reject pile, if you are going to apply for a job put the effort in to do it well or don’t waste my time!

Do – include your personal details. Even if your application is wonderful, it’s no good if they can’t contact you.

Do – make sure that you refer to the correct job role at the correct organisation. The reader will be instantly put off if they think you can’t be bothered to get the basics right.

Put enough stamps on to pay for the postage! Letters that don’t have sufficient postage on them are kept at the sorting office. An employer is unlikely to pay for the postage plus the admin charge to get it redelivered.

Check your spelling. It’s just careless and is especially inappropriate if the job calls for written skills and attention to detail.

In a personal statement, cover letter or that big empty space on an application form – make sure you state why you are interested in that job and organisation. Try to show some enthusiasm and understanding of the role.

Don’t just list your previous duties – talk about the skills you used while performing them.

Follow instructions! Don’t send a CV and expect the reader to read through it if you have been asked to send an application form.

Don’t ramble on about your lab skills if the job is in admin! You are likely to go direct to the reject pile. It not only doesn’t show your relevant skills, it shows no motivation or care.

Make sure each paragraph has a point. What are you trying to show and what is the evidence? You would be amazed how many people can fill a page of A4 with no useful information.

Watch your language! Think about the job you are going for and use appropriate language, keep in concise and to the point. Using 6 words when one will do simply tires the reader and they may miss valuable information. Likewise there is no need to swallow the thesaurus – use plain professional English.

Don’t write your whole application in bold or italics; it’s really annoying to read. Funky fonts don’t translate well in all applications and may not print out the way you expect. You want to be sure the reader can actually read your application.

Oh yes, and don’t use colour – it doesn’t work on black and white printers and photocopiers!

Handwriting vs typed applications. Follow the instructions – it’s rare but if you are asked specifically to hand write an application, do so. In many cases though an electronic form will be offered. If there is no way to edit the application form on your PC then handwriting is acceptable. However, it is fine if you need to write a long personal statement to type this and add it as an extra sheet. (Handwriting is quite tiring to read!)

Don’t make assumptions. Just because you have done similar work in the past, don’t assume that you will automatically be selected. All too often the relevant experience is there on the application and the applicant makes no reference to it or the relevant skills it gave them. The reader is not going to do the work for you and infer that you might have the skills and motivation to do the job; you have to tell them using good clear examples.

Just because you have a PhD and the job calls for lower qualifications don’t assume that you are obviously far more qualified and should be given the job. If the skills don’t match you won’t be considered.

Conversely if you don’t quite make the grade for the job description but are really keen, have done your homework and have transferable skills you may still be considered.

So before you start that next application, pause a moment to consider. Are you prepared to put the effort in to do a great application? If not then you’re giving that job to someone else.



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