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5 Seemingly Small Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Job Applications

04 May 2021
Reading Time: 3 minutes

5 Seemingly Small Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Job Applications

So far, we’ve covered putting together a winning resume, navigating the confusing terrain of a cover letter, and talked success points for making a great impression at your interview. While these are the ‘Big Three’ as it were of getting ahead with your job search, you’re also likely to come across the need to fill in online application forms or work through an application process.

We know it all seems pretty straightforward – how hard can filling in an online form be, right? We’re with you, but we also know from experience that while it seems easy peasy, there are a few tiny things to be conscious of that can often make the difference between scoring an interview or receiving one of those awful rejection emails.

Getting the Application Right

Below are five mistakes that may seem small but make a big difference when trying to secure your next dream job opportunity:

1. Not following the application instructions to the letter.

When the application instructions tell you to address each point in the selection criteria, make sure you address every single point listed in the selection criteria. If it asks you to do this in no more than two sides of A4 – make sure you stick to two sides of A4! If it asks you to write 200 words in response to selection criteria – stick to the word limit!

Not following the instructions exactly as they advise is one of the surest ways to get your application in the bin, regardless of how perfect you might be for the role. Make sure you read through everything in full and note the essential details. Print the job description if you need to and highlight key information.

2. Using a generic cover letter

There’s nothing wrong with having a well-drafted cover letter ready to go; however, there is something wrong with using this draft for every job you apply to without aligning it with the specific role and company.

Refer back to the job description, person specification and make sure you do some research on the company, both on their website and in the local media. See what information you can find, use this to demonstrate your interest in them and how you’re a good match. This is important when you’re applying via online job portals which often generate a generic opening paragraph to send over with your CV. Do NOT use these! Make sure you edit it and tailor it to match the job and your specific skills/experience.

3. Mismatched information across your employment documents

Putting together a comprehensive application takes time. When you’re staring at the same information for a while, it’s easy to lose track and cut corners. One of the things that’s off-putting for employers is when they see inconsistencies across your employment documents.

Mismatched job titles, work dates, qualifications are all red flags – it might not be deliberate, but this lack of attention to detail will get your application straight in the bin. Make sure you spend some time ensuring that your representation of your career is not only accurate but consistent.

4. Only talking about how the job will benefit you.

This applies to both your cover letter and your overall application. It’s easy to talk about how a job will benefit you, but the employer is most interested in how you’re going to help their business and add value to their existing team.

When crafting your application, keep the emphasis on what you will bring to the organisation. Why does the employer need your specific skills and experience? How are you going to add value to their existing team? Incorporate the company research you’ve done and use this to detail why you’re the one they’re looking for.

5. Spelling and grammar!

It is so important to ensure you check your spelling and grammar. Make sure when you’re writing an application to a deadline, you give yourself 1 or 2 days buffer and set those days aside specifically for editing, proofreading, and checking your application with the fine-tooth comb of a grammar nerd!

You can use software such as Grammarly to help with this – but keep in mind Grammarly doesn’t necessarily pick up on every error or misspelling you may have made. Ask a trusted friend to proofread for you and read your application out loud (the best way to pick up on any missing commas!). An application that hasn’t been proofread sticks out like a sore thumb and will go straight in the reject pile.

Developing applications takes time, and it’s a skill you’ll also build the more you do them. We’re sharing these small mistakes because they’re the ones we see time and again – and they’re totally avoidable!

The most important thing when it comes to getting your complete application together is not to fear making mistakes hold you back. Get stuck in, and keep moving forward!

Interested in finding the right career for you and your new application knowledge?

Try our Career Quiz to see where you should get started!


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