Applying for a job almost always involves:
- a written or online application (including cover letter, résumé and sometimes further documentation)
- an interview.
The process might also include:
- psychometric or ability testing
- a phone interview
- group assessment
- an informal meeting
- a task or presentation.
Your application is your crucial first chance to show potential employers that you have the skills, knowledge and ability they need. They will use it to decide whether to consider you for the job.
If your application lets you down, you probably won’t get any further in the recruitment process - no matter how perfect you are for the role.
- Include a cover letter, regardless of whether they ask for one.
- If sending electronically, use the job title or reference number in the email subject and, in the body, briefly state your name and what is attached.
- Follow application instructions exactly.
- Send electronic applications in a format that can be universally opened.
- Keep track of your applications with a list.
- Sending a generic application to several employers.
- Making false claims about your skills or qualifications.
- Attaching documents that were not requested - including academic transcripts.
Here are a few hints and tips to keep in mind when you are required to submit an online application.
- Research the organisation. What skills are they seeking? Do you meet the selection criteria? What has been happening in the organisation?
- Start your application early - it can take time. Check if you are able to partly complete the application and save it or whether it must be completed in one sitting (and plan accordingly). If you can, save regularly!
- Complete responses offline then cut and paste - use the spell check!
- Ask someone else to read your responses and to give you feedback from an employer's point of view - you can submit your answers to email@example.com for an online review
- Save a copy of each application you submit, and make a note of any contact you have with the organisation in relation to your application.
Phone to confirm your application has been received and save the record of acknowledgement of your application just in case there is a problem.
Visit CareerHub, then go to 'More in the Careers toolkit.' VU students have free access to the Résumé Builder to assist with preparing a résumé, step by step.
Cover letters vary according to the type of application required - but never provide more than one A4 page. If asked to address selection criteria:
- do so in a separate ‘Response to selection criteria’ document
- make your cover letter brief
- highlight a few key points about yourself - save the detail for the selection criteria document
- outline your interest in the position.
When there are no formal selection criteria:
- provide more evidence of your skills and experience in your cover letter
- read the advertisement and/or position description carefully to determine what skills and experience are required
- if necessary, call the company for more information and/or ask for a position description.
Many employers will ask you to address specific selection criteria in detail. You are then rated on how closely you meet each of the criteria compared to other applicants.
Jobs in all levels of government, educational institutions, professional associations and the welfare sector use selection criteria and it is becoming common in other sectors.
To address selection criteria:
- provide specific examples for each to demonstrate how you meet them
- present the information in a separate document
- common titles are 'Evidence in Support of the Selection Criteria' and 'Responses to Selection Criteria'.
Common selection criteria
Examples of common criteria include:
- well-developed communication skills
- teamwork skills
- commitment to the delivery of quality customer service
- flexibility and a willingness to adapt to change
- enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
An interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and to convince the employer why you’re the best candidate for the job. To succeed at this stage, get ready by:
- answering mock interview questions
- researching the organisation and the role
- preparing a few of your own questions to ask the employer.
Remember, the interview is a two-way process - your best chance to see if this is really the right job for you.
Some employers screen potential candidates by phone to decide whether to meet in person.
Phone interviews are typically up to 25 minutes long. You may be advised in advance of a phone interview, so make sure you are in an environment where you will not be interrupted.
Possible interview questions
Motivational fit identifies someone who wants to do the job, as opposed to someone who is able to do it. Examples:
- Why are you interested in this job?
- What are the most satisfying aspects of work to date? What is the least satisfying?
- Why are you looking to move on from your current role?
- What are your short-term/long term career goals?
Cultural fit looks to see if a person's style, values and beliefs align with those of the workplace, which helps to predict a better chance of job success and satisfaction. Examples:
- What is your ideal job?
- In your opinion, what makes a good leader?
- What is your preferred working style?
- Describe the work environment in which you will most effectively be able to contribute.
General conversation tips
- Make sure that you have found out as much information as possible about the company and the role.
- Prepare notes to refer to during the interview.
- If you are not able to understand a question clearly, ask the interviewer to repeat it.
- The interview should end on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to speak with them.
Some organisations will ask job applicants to undertake Psychometric Testing.
Their aim is to gain objective information about a candidate’s aptitude and suitability for the job, such as whether or not you:
- have the minimum level of ability needed in areas such as literacy and numeracy
- will fit in with the role, team or organisation.
Common psychometric tests
- Verbal reasoning - assesses critical evaluation of written information.
- Numerical reasoning - assesses ability to analyse numerical data.
- Abstract reasoning - often uses diagram sequences.
- Occupational personality/motivations/values-based questionnaires - assesses personality type and features.
Try out these practice tests to help you prepare:
Employers often use Assessment centres to assess several applicants at once. Common activities may include:
- work-typical exercises
- group discussions (may form part of a group interview)
- case studies
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