Writing job applications
Employers may receive hundreds of applications for a job, so it's vital to make sure that the letter or e-mail you send with your CV/résumé creates the right impression. It's your opportunity to say why you want the job, and to present yourself as a candidate for the post in a way that impresses a prospective employer and makes you stand out as a prospective employee.
Before you start:
- Read the advert closely so that you can tailor your application to the requirements of the job
- Research the organization: this will show prospective employers that you really are interested in them.
Composing the letter or email
- Keep it brief. You don’t need to give a lot of detail. What you are aiming for is a clear and concise explanation of your suitability for the job.
- Begin your letter or email ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms xxxx’ if you know the person’s name, or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ if you don’t know their name.
- Avoid inappropriate language such as slang or technical jargon.
- Use brief, informative sentences and short paragraphs.
- Check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation carefully. Some employers routinely discard job applications that contain such mistakes.
The usual order of a job application letter or email is:
- The position applied for: give the title of the job as a heading, or refer to it in the first sentence of your letter, using the reference code if there is one. This will ensure that your application goes directly to the right person in the organization. You should also mention where you saw the job advert or where you heard about the vacancy. If you heard about it through someone already working for the company, mention their name and position.
- Your current situation: if you’re working, briefly outline your current job. Pick up on the job requirements outlined in the advert and focus on any of your current skills or responsibilities that correspond to those requested. For example,
if the advert states that management skills are essential, then state briefly what management experience you have. If you’re still studying, focus on the relevant aspects or modules of your course.
- Your reasons for wanting the job: be clear and positive about why you want the job. You might feel that you are ready for greater challenges, more responsibility, or a change of direction, for example. Outline the qualities and skills that you believe you can bring to the job or organization.
- Closing paragraph: in the final paragraph you could say when you’d be available to start work, or suggest that the company keep your CV/résumé on file if they decide you’re not suitable for the current job.
- Signature: if you are sending a letter rather than an email, always remember to sign it and to type your name underneath your signature.
Sample job applications
Here are two examples of covering letters, for Sara Green’s and Charles Morton’s CVs/résumés.
Speculative job applications
If you know that you want to work for a particular company or organization but you haven’t seen an advert for a suitable vacancy, you could submit a speculative application. This should consist of your CV/résumé, tailored to the type of job you’re interested in, together with a covering letter of application. Keep your letter short and positive: say why you are particularly interested in working for the organization in question and outline what skills, qualifications, and personal qualities you have to offer.
If possible, address your application letter (or email) to the person in the organization who is in charge of recruiting new staff. You could find this out by phoning the organization directly or consulting its website. If you are applying by letter, rather than email, you could enclose a stamped addressed envelope to increase your chances of a response.
Sample speculative job application
Here’s an example of a speculative letter of application.
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