Top tips for job applications
Writing job applications is an art. It can take many years to hone the perfect job application, and also to truly understand who you are as a person and as a potential employee, including your strengths and skills, personality, working style, and x factor. Practice does make perfect! Keep these top tips in mind:
Know yourself. What are your key skills, attributes and strengths? If you don’t know, consider talking to family, friends, lecturers or employers who know you well. Or there are online assessment tools out there that you may wish to complete, which report on top strengths according to answers to questions. Once you know yourself, you will be able to really show your authentic self on your application.
Do not pad out or embellish your application. This seems obvious, but if you pad out your CV, you will be caught out one way or another. This doesn’t help you. If it is a clerkship or graduate position you are applying for, this is the time when you won’t have much experience and that is OK – this is your chance to obtain experience. Honesty is fundamental for anyone, and particularly for lawyers.
Always include a tailored cover letter – this is your chance to really explain who you are and why you are suited to the position, to paint a picture of what you can bring to your future employer, and to preview what is in your CV. Remember that it is not all about you either – employers will want to see that you are genuinely interested in them, and will want to know what you can do to help their organisation.
Prepare a personal/professional brand statement for your cover letter – i.e. in a paragraph or two, tell your professional story. Sum up your specific experiences, goals, strengths, achievements and purpose, as well as an x factor if you can (e.g. side hustle, interesting hobby).
Were specific skills or experience required for the job? Address these in your cover letter, and also weave those requirements throughout your CV – not just at the start.
If you know the person you are addressing your cover letter to, don’t say “Dear Sir/Madam” – use their name (and spell it correctly).
It can be obvious with some applications that you’ve copied different text into a previously prepared cover letter (e.g. the font looks different) – please ensure your documents are consistent and have been checked over.
Do not send Word documents – always send a PDF or non-editable document.
When explaining your previous work experience, explain what you’ve learned and what skills you’ve gained, in an engaging way. Don’t just list what you’ve done in brief dot points. Also, if your work experience was for a short period of time, explain why (e.g. it was a temporary 3-month project or internship).
Pay attention to the order of your CV – e.g. relevant experience at the front and interests at the back. Use reverse chronological order in your CV – i.e. most recent experience first.
Be careful with spelling, grammar and formatting (especially if you say that you have high attention to detail).
Make your CV look presentable and clean.
Attach your official academic transcript and explain it in your application – e.g. best subjects, GPA.
Once you think you are finished your application, print it out and read it aloud. Then ask someone else to read it. You’ll be surprised what you and others pick up – typos, errors, repetition, formatting issues, even skills or strengths that are missing. Fix these, print it out again, and repeat until there are no errors left!
Back up your application with a great LinkedIn profile – with an up to date picture, relevant experience (which matches your CV), and a great bio or ‘brand statement’. Employers do look at LinkedIn!
If you don’t get a particular job, don’t stress – just keep trying! If there is an ability to get some feedback, ask for it and listen to the feedback. You may just be able to take it on board and improve next time.