My name is Laura, and I have just spent the summer working for the Estates and Facilities team as part of the Aberdeen Internship programme. I was really excited about the internship that I applied for, so I tried as hard as I could to make my application the best it could be. In this blog post I intend to share some tips and strategies that I made use of in my application, and hopefully it will help you in writing applications too!
This application involved writing a CV and a cover letter, so that is what I will focus on, but I think that a similar approach could be taken regarding application forms and personal statements as well.
1. Use the job description and the person specification to your advantage
The job description and person specification are incredibly useful, as they tell you exactly what the employer is looking for. Your job is to match your CV and cover letter to them as closely as possible!
I recommend you start by taking bullet points of every skill and quality mentioned in the person specification and using these as headings. Underneath these, write any and all experience you have which is relevant to that skill. From there, you can refine these bullet points and turn them into something more elegant which emphasises how right you are for the role.
Tip: In some cases, the initial sift of applications is done automatically. Make sure to use the keywords from the person specification to maximise your chances of getting through to the next round!
2. Know your own skills and experiences
You can make use of more than just your experiences in work and studying. Extracurriculars can be a fantastic way to show that you have done something that is relevant and useful to the job, or that you’re a fun and interesting person that other people would want to work with!
You want to mention things that display your transferrable skills, i.e. skills which you will need in the position. For example, a job which involves a lot of interaction with clients or customers would benefit greatly from a candidate who has excellent communication skills.
If there is a person specification available, then you can use this to help you decide what to include in your application, but if not, read over the job description and try to think from the employer’s perspective – what would their ideal candidate look like?
You can also search online for skill lists if you’re not sure where to start.
Tip: if you create a document of all of the experiences you have had and the skills you gained, you can use this for any future applications as well!
3. Make use of available resources
There are plenty of resources available online for you to look at when you are writing a CV or a cover letter. I usually start by Googling “how to write a cover letter” – it really is as simple as that!
I also made use of the Careers and Employability Service’s mini courses on what to include in a cover letter as well as the virtual adviser service, where I submitted my cover letter and got some really useful feedback on things I had not considered before. There are also appointments available to go over an application with an adviser, but these can fill up so you would need to be organised and have it written in advance!
Even if you can’t make use of these, perhaps you can get a friend or a family member to look over your application.
4. Bear the employer in mind
It’s very easy to get caught up in worrying about yourself while writing an application, but try to think about the person who is reading your application. What are they looking for?
The recruiter might have hundreds of applications to look through. You can’t do much about that, but what you can do is make your CV look clean and clear, with information ordered from most to least important. If you want to draw attention to something in particular, make it stand out!
You want to be as concise as possible while still getting the information across clearly. Bullet points or short sentences are more readable than blocks of text. Ideally keep it to one page, as the longer the document is, the more you run the risk of waffling, and of the recruiter losing interest in your application.
Your cover letter should serve as a roadmap for the employer in reading your CV, highlighting the key information, and explicitly stating why the employer should care. Why is your experience relevant to them, and this job?
5. Leave time for revision
I always find application writing weird and awkward, trying to big yourself up since British culture tends to value modesty. For that reason, refining the application feels easier than writing something from scratch. Knowing you’re going to go back over it takes the pressure off the first draft of your application as well, as it means you don’t have to make the first version absolutely perfect.
If you are struggling to put words to something, you can always just leave a note of what you want to say (e.g. ‘communication skills – discuss year abroad, volunteering experience’) for future you to figure out! When you go back over it, you might even find that the difficult part isn’t actually that difficult to write after all