Job hunting 1-0-1 vol. 1 – How to fix your application!

This post is also available in: Finnish Swedish

Even if you are not currently looking for a job, right now is actually a great time to update your papers related to job hunting and to think about your personal skills. Sitting down to think about it in peace and in detail even once will help you realise new things about yourself much better than when you are under pressure to meet an application deadline.

1. Create a “super CV”
It is definitely advisable to create and keep up-to-date a so-called super CV in which you record all of your education, work experience and other knowhow, such as language, communications and IT skills. However, this super CV is by no means the version you will be sending to the company you are applying to along with your cover letter; instead, you can pick and choose from it the relevant information for each position you are applying for. A good place to list the skills you have gained more thoroughly is, for example, LinkedIn.

Nor is the CV you send along with your cover letter merely a list of positions of trust or jobs you have held. In connection with these, it is worth describing in a bit more detail the duties you were responsible for, your areas of responsibility, significant accomplishments and things you have learned.

If you have not gained that much work experience yet, you can bring up in your CV experiences from a hobby or a position of trust that are relevant to the position and might be useful in the work specifically from the point of view of the skills you have gained from them.

A CV sent to a work place does not have to contain details about your age, gender or family. If you want to add a photo of yourself, make sure it is an appropriate, clear and recent facial photo; in other words, forget about party selfies or bikini shots of you holding a beer.

2. Put your skills into words
Begin your work on the cover letter by carefully reading through the job advertisement and try to think about what kinds of skills and person the open position truly calls for. After this, you should think about what motivates you to apply for this particular position and organisation, what kinds of skills you could offer and how you could express these in the application. The same applies for sending out speculative job applications.

Do not content with only using adjectives to describe yourself but try to demonstrate your suitability for the position with illustrative examples. Give examples of how you personally would handle the work on offer if you were hired. Remember to use concise general language in your cover letter. Also keep in mind that an application with personality always stands out more than ones containing clichés like “I am conscientious and hard-working.”
If describing your own skills feels difficult, do not be afraid to ask for feedback and descriptions from fellow students or colleagues who know you.

3. Always customise your cover letter and CV!
“A job application is like a love letter,” remarked a recruitment professional years ago. Why so? Because a job application is practically your only way of letting a particular organisation know why you would be the perfect match for them or a specific position.

You would probably not send the same love letter to multiple persons and only change the recipient’s name, so why would you do that with a job application? In addition, both a love letter and a job application must be written from the heart. Be honest and do not exaggerate your skills, for example, as lies will catch up with you.

If you are only in the early stages of your professional career and have not yet gained a lot of experience and skills, it is definitely advisable to put particular effort on your cover letter instead of your CV.

4. Check your spelling and ask for feedback
Proofread your application documents before sending them off. An application full of spelling mistakes gives a careless image of the applicant and is more likely to eliminate you from the considered candidates. In any case, it is advisable to have a friend, for example, read through your application and give their comments on both the language and the content.

5. Read the instructions and act accordingly
Nearly without exception, job advertisements mention the last day for applying, the instructions for handing in the application and the ways to get in contact. It is also possible that the position calls for an application that is completely different to the instructions I have given here. Always act according to the instructions given in the job advertisement.

Some companies start processing the applications as soon as they start arriving, so it is worth acting in good time. Applying after the deadline has passed gives a bad impression of your time management.

6. Other tips
Always send your application documents in pdf format, and do not bother to send anything other than the documents that are asked for. There is time to display your work certificates at the interview. Use an easily-readable font and sufficiently short sentences in all documents. Remember the rules of thumb for the length of application documents: a cover letter on one page (A4) and a CV on two, so do not ramble!

Tips for looking for work are also available on the websites of several trade unions and on field-specific blogs. For example, on the website of Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland, i.e. TEK, you can find the “Career Guide for Teekkaris” containing great tips to support your job hunting.

Anything lacking in my article? Share your own tips in the comments!

Johanna Pietiläinen
AYY Administrative and HR Manager

What about after preparing a good application? A second blog text to be published this week deals with succeeding in a job interview. Stay tuned!

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