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Six tips for writing brilliant job applications

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Published: 7 September 2020

A University of Sunderland in London student writing on a laptop

The first step to getting the job you want after university is the application. The Careers and Employability team at the University walk you through their top tips to help you stand out. 

“This isn’t an easy time to be looking for jobs. Speaking with employers, we’ve been hearing that lots of them are being sent hundreds of applications for each role. For a company, that sounds like it should be a good thing.

But many of the applications aren’t great quality and don’t actually fit the job description very well. That gives you an opportunity. If you put time and effort into your application, you have a good chance of standing out and getting the graduate job you want.

Follow these tips for success:

1) Quality over quantity

When you’re looking for a role think really carefully about which ones you want to apply for. Don’t just send out lots of applications that all look the same. 

2) Plan

Before writing anything read the job description, the personal specification and the application form very carefully. Think through what you want to say.

3) Connect yourself to the role

Your personal statement should link to the job. Show them that you’re the person they’re looking for and what you can bring to the role.

  • Focus on the skills that you’ll need in the job. Don’t waste time or space talking about experiences that won’t be helpful.
  • If this is your first job or if you’ve not worked for a while, you can talk about any volunteering you’ve done, part-time jobs you’ve had, internships or even involvement in one of the University’s amazing student societies.

4) Style

Be authentic when you’re writing about yourself. That means being honest with what you think. Don’t try to just make the employer happy if what you’re saying isn’t true.

Other things you can do include:

  • Avoid repeating words or phrases. Make sure you’re using adjectives (i.e. descriptive words like effective, determined or creative) and ‘action verbs’ (or positive ‘doing’ words like managed, organised or developed).
  • Be specific and precise - make every sentence count
  • Use examples to show off your skills
  • Re-read everything and make sure you use a spell-checker. Write your application out in Microsoft Word first then copy and paste it into the form.
  • If you’re asked to write 200 words try and get as close to that number as you can.

5)  Competency-based questions

You might be asked to give an example of a time you’ve done something specific. Normally it’ll be about using leadership skills, working in a team or dealing with something difficult. 

Try using the S.T.A.R system on your answers.

  • S – Situation: Explain where you were
  • T – Task: Describe the task or project you worked on and who you were working with.
  • A – Action: This should be the biggest part of your answer. What did you do? What skills did you use? Keep the original question in mind.
  • R – Result: What happened because of your actions? Was the project a success?

6) Answer all the questions

Never leave any part of the form blank and make sure you’re giving full answers to the questions they’re asking you.

For more advice check out:

  • Sunderland Futures
  • Target Jobs’ Graduate guide to job application forms 
  • Write a successful job application from Prospects”