Applying for a job

Quick links

Our top tips!

  • Do your research
    Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the job you are applying for, the employer and the requirements. As well as making you seem engaged  and enthusiastic, it will help you to work out whether the opportunity is a good fit for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help
    If you’re a student you can speak with teachers or careers advisers for guidance when applying to jobs.  Friends or family may be able to review your application and give you suggestions or tips. You can also talk to our mentors,  who can listen to your issues and give you advice.
  • Stay positive and believe in yourself
    Getting jobs can be competitive so be confident and don’t be afraid to sell yourself, demonstrate your passion and showcase what you have to offer. If you get rejected from a job, think about what you have learned from the process and how you can improve your chances of success going forward.

So you're thinking of applying for a job...

Everyone will need to apply for a job at some point in their life, and there is no general rule for when you will do so for the first time.

If you decide to work in a part-time job alongside your studies, you could go through the process while you are still in school. If you don’t work during your studies, you might not apply for your first job until you have finished your A Levels or university degree.

Whatever stage you are at when you are applying for jobs, the process can be daunting and confusing, not only because there are so many types of jobs and companies to consider, but also because each of these will have a different application process. Some of these have many different requirements, such as online forms, questionnaires, tests, written responses, and interviews. Since you are unlikely to be offered every job you apply for, this can result in a lot of time spent on applying to different jobs.

The information on this page will provide you with an overview of the different stages of application processes and how you can best prepare yourself for each. By taking the time to understand the company and role that you are applying for, as well as reflecting on your own strengths and preferences, you will significantly increase your chances of being successful in the process.

If you are confused about any aspect of the process or don’t know where to start, you can contact our mentors. 

What should I do before applying?

Gather together all the details you’ll need such as academic and employment history, any achievements and contact details for references.
Study the job description which will explain the role and responsibilities, as well as the skills required to do the job. The employer may divide these into ‘essential’ (skills and knowledge you must have) and ‘desirable’ criteria. You can refer to these when completing the application.
Before you start to apply for a job, make sure you take some time to understand the role and the organisation. You’ll make a great first impression if you can demonstrate you’ve taken the time to understand the aims of the company and what they do. This will also allow you to tailor your CV and application form accordingly.
Remember, this is just as much about whether the job is right for you. Make sure you’ve had a look at the terms and working arrangements to assess whether they are suitable for you.
Finally, how you need to apply will depend on the method and type of application. Read through the instructions carefully including any deadlines for submission.
If you’re confused or need more information before completing the application, it’s okay to contact the employer. You can also ask your friends and family for guidance on the process.

Will the employer need personal information?

Regardless of the format of the process, you should only be required to provide information that is needed to support your application. The employer should clearly state whether they require any personal information from you: for example, they may indicate that you should include contact details in a particular part of the application form.
You should not be obliged to provide personal details such as age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. You may be asked for this information in a separate equal opportunities form for the purposes of monitoring the company’s commitment to equality and diversity. It should not be seen or used by those involved in any stage of the selection process.
It is worth bearing in mind that you may have the option to leave some of the answers blank if you would rather not disclose the information they are asking for. In either case, you can feel reassured that this information will not be used in the recruitment process and will have no bearing on the outcome of your application.
If you’re not sure about what information you should be providing for a job application, you can ask a family member, friend or teacher to take a look, or speak to our mentors about it.

How do I apply?

Methods for making applications differ for each employer, but the most common are:

Online applications: Many employers now use online applications, which are often completed on the company website. Most of the time, you will be asked to create a profile and save your application as you go, so you won’t need to complete it in one sitting.
You will usually be asked to list your education and employment history, followed by a series of questions to assess whether you are suitable for the role. It can be easier to write your answers in a program such as Microsoft Word first rather than directly into the browser.

CV: Some employers may ask for a CV, which provides an overview of your qualifications, work experience, achievements and skills. You should tailor your CV in line with the organisation and role so that it is highlights your suitability for the job.

Cover letter or personal statement: You should always include a covering letter unless told not to do so by the employer. Often, employers will explicitly request that you provide one.
Putting together a cover letter can be a daunting task, but it can be broken down into sections.

  • You should begin by introducing yourself and outlining the job you are applying for.
  • Next, set out the relevant skills you have and why you’re right for the job. This is a chance to demonstrate that you have done your research by cross-referencing the company aims and values.
  • End by referring the reader to your CV or application and providing your contact details.

It is important to make sure your cover letter does not just repeat what is written in your CV.

What should I remember to do?

Don't lie in your application

There can be serious consequences for lying or exaggerating the information you provide in your application. It can also make you look dishonest and unprofessional. It will not reflect well on you and should absolutely be avoided.

Proof read your application

Ensure there are no typos, spelling errors or grammatical mistakes before you submit your application. Use spellcheck to help with this, and get someone else to read through your application before submitting if you can.

Ask questions if you need to

If you need more information on the role or the requirements of the application process, you should contact the employer. They should be happy to answer any questions about what is expected of you and clarify any requirements they have.

Keep track of your applications

 Keep a record of all the jobs that you’ve applied for. This is useful as evidence of your application, but will also help to remind you of what you said if you are invited to the next stage. If not, it can be useful for completing future applications.

How can I respond to rejection?

If a job application doesn’t work out or if you are rejected at any stage, it can knock your confidence. No matter how many applications you make and how far you get in each application process, try not to be disheartened. Remember that securing a job can be very difficult and many other applicants will be in the same situation. It may be that this job just wasn’t the right fit for you.

Respond politely to the employer to thank them for their time, and be sure to request feedback if you are able to do so. Feedback is invaluable in helping you to identify which areas of the application process you should focus on in your future applications. It also helps to increase your confidence, which will help you to showcase your potential the next time you apply to a job.

It is also a good idea for you to take time to reflect on the process and consider how you can use what you have learned when you apply to other jobs in the future. If there was a particular part of the process that you found challenging, you can think of ways to do better the next time. Additionally, your interactions with the employer may have shown you whether it might be the kind of company you want to work for, or  the type of job you would like to pursue. This might help you to decide which jobs to apply for going forward.

I think I might need some help... what do I do?

If you are thinking about applying for jobs and you don’t know where to start, or you think that you need a little extra support then there are plenty of people that you can talk to!

You can also talk to the people who you might want to include as references to see what they think you might want to include. 

Get support!
If you think need support, reach out and talk to someone. There will always be someone who can help you out.
Speak to us

All of our mentors have had to apply for a job in some context or another, and they may be able to give you some valuable feedback and information from their own experiences that might help you out. Reach out if you need any support from our mentors!

Speak to a teacher

Your teachers at school are always on hand to help out with things like this. If you are struggling with any aspect of the application process, see whether they can help.

Speak to a careers advisor

Most schools and colleges have a careers advisor available, but if they don’t you might be able to access one through your local council. Their job is to help you out with things like this.