Writing a good job application is an essential skill; you can have loads of experience and an excellent academic record, but if you don’t know how to tailor those things to a specific job application, you may find you don’t get the job.

The more job applications you do, the easier you will find them. So even when facing lots of rejection, stay motivated and keep going. It will pay off.

5 Top tips for job applications

  1. Have a short and relevant CV and cover letter. Sometimes an employer will ask you to fill out a separate job application and provide them with a CV and cover letter. If this is the case, you want to keep your CV and cover letter as brief and direct as possible. Remember, you will have the opportunity to expand on your experience on the application. Cover letters should be directly related to the persona specification and shouldn’t be page and pages long.
  2. STAR method. The STAR method is a popular technique used to answer job applications or interview questions related to past experiences. It stands for Situation. Task. Action. Result. So, you outline the situation you think will highlight the particular skill the employer is looking for, such as leadership. You then describe the task and the actions you took. And finally, you must show the result and the outcome of your actions.
  3. Take your time. Applying for a job can be a lengthy process, give it the time that it needs. If you rush an application in an hour, you will not give yourself the best shot at getting the job. Set aside a few days, or evenings to really think about your answers, and write them up as clearly and precisely as possible.
  4. Refer to previous job applications. Every time you apply for a job, you answer questions about your skills and experience that may be relevant to future applications, so it’s important to save everything you write. While you must tailor an application to the specific job, it doesn’t mean you can use example answers you have already written. For example, a question such as “Tell us about a time when you showed excellent communication skills” is a very common application question. There is no point writing out a new answer every time you apply for a job.
  5. Read every question carefully. When we are anxious or stressed, it can be easy to make mistakes and misread a question. Try to be calm as you approach each question, and read it through in full a few times. If there are sub-questions, try to incorporate your thoughts into one strong answer.

Disclosing personal information about protective characteristics

It’s important to remember that it is illegal for an employer to ask you to disclose personal information on a job application. You are under no obligation to tell them anything about your protected characteristics such as age, disability, pregnancy, religion or faith, marriage, race, sex, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The only time you may be asked about these groups is on an equal opportunities form. These forms are confidential, and there is no obligation to answer any of the questions. These forms are used for internal monitoring to assess the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion efforts. They may ask you to give information on your gender and sexuality, ethnicity, disability and religion. Companies can then use this information to track people applying for their jobs and work out how to expand this group.

For more help and advice, visit our guide to interviews and getting a reference.