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Applying for Jobs- 5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Chances

Updated on January 29, 2015

Job hunting is tough

If you’re trying to find a job, in these difficult economic times, it can be a tough road. For most jobs advertised thousands of applicants will apply- all equally as qualified and as eager as each other. A lot of big companies need to narrow down the application pool before they even start to read the content, this process is known as ‘first sift’ .

An employment agency undertaking the ‘first sift’ aren’t even reading the content of your application, they aren’t the people who are going to make the decision whether you have the right qualifications or experience, instead their job is to assess each application on the basics: appearance, attention to detail, whether the fields look like they have been filled in correctly- and any discrepancies can send even the best application on a one way ticket to a confidential waste bin.

Below are five useful hints to help improve your chances of getting past the ‘first sift’ pile and making your application count, from someone whose first job was working in exactly the kind of department that conducted 'first sift' on job applications.

5. Always read the instructions.

It seems obvious but it is surprising how many people lose out by making simple mistakes.

If the application instructions say to email your application don’t send it by post. Some email applications require you to send forms in specific formats e.g. .doc, .pdf etcetera- always make sure to follow these rules or the likelihood is your application will be sent straight to the bin.

Equally don’t send a C.V. if the job asks for a completed application form, and make sure you pay attention to the requirements of the application form; something as simple as writing in the wrong colour ink can be the difference between your application being considered at all.

photo credit: Keith Williamson via photopin cc
photo credit: Keith Williamson via photopin cc | Source

4. Complete Everything!

Never send incomplete documents through. During the “first sift” process people will not be reading your answers, they will simply be looking to make sure all the boxes are ticked and no mandatory boxes are left empty.

3. Beef Up Your Answers.

If you are applying for the same/similar type of jobs you may already have a standard application response saved- this is always good to have because it does save you from writing the same details over and over, but it is always best to use this as a template and make changes for each application. Read the job description carefully making sure that you respond to all the “essential” requirements and any “desirable” ones you also fit, giving examples where possible, that link to your previous experience.

Example 1: I possess good written and communication skills.

Example 2: I possess good written and communication skills which I have developed during my time in college, in which I produced regular essays and gave verbal presentations to my colleagues.

The second example isn’t brilliant; it would be better to expand on communication skills separately and discuss experiences of working in groups or with different people along with oral presentation skills, but it already makes the candidate a better option than example 1, whose reply is simply regurgitating the job description.

A lot of people who are otherwise good at filling in application forms often forget to apply the same logic to their C.V. One method would be to have an “ultimate” C.V. on file- one which not only includes your education and employment history, but includes several points under each job detailing your duties and skills, even if this means the C.V. is several pages too long.

Then, when you apply for a job, take into account the job description and ensure that what you include on the C.V. you send highlights particularly the attributes they are looking for.

So, for example, if your previous work was in a bakery and prior to that you were in school, but are applying for an receptionist/administrative post a potential employer won’t care whether your duties included “checking the oven temperature throughout the day to maintain health and safety standards” particularly, but they may be interested if your duties at the bakery included “dealing with members of the public and maintaining good customer service standards,” or “monitoring stock control and ensuring sufficient stock levels were maintained”.

Equally, if you are applying for a job in a bakery serving customers, a potential employer won’t be as interested in whether your typing speed is 65 words per minute or whether, during your education, you developed good written communication skills- they will be interested in your ability to work as a team (for example in group projects or as part as an extracurricular activity) your ability to multi-task, and your understanding of the need for hygienic conditions.

photo credit: yxejamir via photopin cc
photo credit: yxejamir via photopin cc | Source

2. Turn weaknesses around

Don’t be put off if you do not possess all of the ‘essential’ criteria in some cases- for example, if a job description states you must be familiar with specific software (for example, Microsoft Access) comment that you are familiar with other software – including any bespoke or unusual software (e.g. video editing software, database software from previous jobs) and that you are quick to learn and pick up new skills.

photo credit: Pleuntje via photopin cc
photo credit: Pleuntje via photopin cc | Source

1. Keep a record of every application you have sent

Either a photocopy or an electronic copy, along with details of what the job entailed and who you sent it to. Quite often some companies may call you for an interview several months after you originally applied, and if you are applying for a lot of posts ,being able to look back at the job description and what you have written will help you prepare for what questions they may ask you at interview.

Keep It Up!

Most of all, though, keep trying! It is so hard to keep going and applying for jobs and easy to get disheartened, feeling as though you aren't getting anywhere, particularly if you haven't heard anything back from companies, but all job applications require an element of luck, along with a solid application form, and you have to keep making your chances possible. Good luck!


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    • owlish profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Cheshire

      Thank you for your comment- it is so true, the worst part of my first job was having to throw out application forms where it was clear that the person had terrific qualifications but they'd failed to fill in the forms properly.

    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      4 years ago from Ireland

      Great advice here if you plan to apply for jobs. Your application form is the first thing a prospective employer sees so it is important to get right.


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