Prepare a job application

We'll help you understand all the components that make your job application stand out from the crowd.

Applying for jobs is much easier when you’re familiar with the process and on top of what’s involved for you. Knowing what to expect will help you prepare your application and get employed faster.

Research the organisation

Employers view evidence of research as a reflection of your interest in the role. Research also helps you decide if you’re a good fit for the company and that your values and professional interests match.

You can use your research to:

  • show your knowledge of the employer in your job application
  • know what answers they’ll be looking for at interviews
  • help you interact with the organisation during the application process.

Have a look at the organisation’s website, social media, annual reports, advertising, publications or coverage in the media. If it’s a large organisation, you may also be able to find information online about the area or team you’ll work in.

Look out for:

  • the organisation’s values, missions and goals
  • history, size, financial position, plans and directions
  • products, services, client demographics and competitors
  • topical matters like key initiatives or senior staff members.

You could also find out about the organisation’s expectations (dress codes, work hours, work standards or behaviours) or how they manage and recognise performance.

Review jobs before starting an application

Read through all documents to understand the role and identify key things you’ll need to say in your application. Assess how successful you can be in different positions by reviewing your skillset, career path, and the goals and values you share with the employers. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with the contact people if you need to find out more about the positions.

Once you’re confident you’d like to work in the role and for the employer, and that you fit the criteria, you’re ready to start your application.

Prepare your application

Include everything the employer is asking for in your application. This will show you understand what’s required for the job and can follow set tasks. Many employers will disregard your application if you haven’t addressed all the selection criteria.

You’ll most likely need to include:

  • a cover letter
  • your resume or curriculum vitae with references
  • statement addressing the selection criteria
  • all copies of documents or transcripts set out in the job advertisement.

In some cases, an employer may ask for a portfolio of work or will screen applicants using a job selection test.

Think about the employer

At each stage of the process, employers are looking at how to cut down on the number of applications they need to review so they have a small pool of quality candidates to choose from. They may have received hundreds of applications for one job and only have a small amount of time to select candidates and interview a handful of people.

Make it easy for employers to shortlist you by addressing all the criteria they’ve set out and submit all the documents and forms they ask for in the job advertisements. Use the advertisement to think about how the selection panel will compare you to other candidates based on your skills, knowledge and experiences.

Steps after applying

Depending on the company you're applying to work for, the timelines to hear back about your application can vary. It may take a couple of weeks to hear if you've got an interview, and sometimes the hiring process can be delayed for reasons that have nothing to do with your suitability for the role. For example, there may be multiple people who need to sign off to approve new hires, staff may be on leave, or other projects may be requiring urgent attention.

You may be able to speed up the process by sending thank-you emails after you hear back from employers. Be proactive when you hear from an employer and ask if there's anything more you can provide, or check what you need to do next.

Keep looking and accept good offers

Keep your nerves under control by having an eye on more opportunities, networking and applying for other jobs. If you get an offer for your dream job or in a role competitive for your field, take it!

Your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is a personal marketing tool to sell yourself to potential employers. A resume is a concise record of your skills, education, employment history and experience.

Two or three pages is more than enough for a graduate, but pay attention to the specific requirements of your industry. For each job you apply for, adapt your resume to highlight the skills and experience required.

Read up and search for examples

Review the job advertisement before you start adapting your resume. Look for key skills and experiences that you need to focus on and demonstrate in your resume.

Also do an online search for sample resumes in your field, such as “graduate accountant resume”. Samples will help you get a feel for what employers will be looking for in your resume. However, be mindful of different resume formats from other countries.

Sections to include

These are some of the common sections to put in your resume:

  • your contact details
  • career objective or professional statement about your skills
  • your qualifications, education and training
  • employment history in reverse chronological order with your most recent job first
  • key duties and achievements for recent jobs
  • extracurricular activities, such as volunteering or your interests, to further demonstrate required skills like problem solving, critical thinking, communication or leadership
  • two or more referees.

You can change this to suit your needs and the resume expectations for your industry.

What not to have

Don’t include these items in your resume:

  • personal details, such as your date of birth, family details, cultural background, disability or political affiliation
  • skills, experiences or achievements not relevant to the job
  • fancy fonts, colours or large headings
  • images, unless this is accepted practice for your industry.

Get the structure and format right

Employers may have hundreds of applicants for one job and will want to scan your resume in less than 20 seconds.

Make it as easy as possible for them to find what they’re looking for and shortlist you by:

  • writing your sentences as short, effective statements
  • proof reading your resume and only keeping essential information.

Do a final check

Your resume will be a display of your written communication skills. So always do a final proofread of your resume before you submit it with your application. Fix any typos or spelling and grammar errors. Also make sure your resume is easy to understand – if in doubt, ask someone to read it for you.

A well-written cover with a job application gives a potential employer a quick overview of your skills and your experiences relevant to the position. You’ll need to write a new cover letter for every job you apply for, tailoring the cover letter for the organisation. Treat the letter as a pitch for an interview, focusing on how you meet the needs of the employer and why you want to work for them.

What to include

Your cover letter should include:

  • your name, email and preferred phone number at the top of the letter
  • the name and job title of the contact person on the advertised position
  • the name of the organisation
  • the title of the job you’re applying for and any reference numbers
  • a short summary of why you’re qualified to do the job
  • a statement about why you would like to work for the organisation.

Keep format and length in check

Structure your cover letter like a professional letter. Keep it well formatted and less than a page long.

If you’re applying for job that only asks for a resume and cover letter, address how you meet the criteria in a maximum two-page cover letter.

Pay attention to language and style

Make sure your letter:

  • shows enthusiasm for the job in your own professional language
  • uses the same language you would use if you were talking with the employer
  • has clear and concise sentences
  • is in the same easy-to-read font and point size as your resume
  • is free of typos and has correct spelling and grammar.

Clear statements addressing each of the selection criteria will show employers you understand the job you're applying for and meet their needs. Employers use selection criteria to compare applications on the same key measures. A well-structured statement against the selection criteria will make it easy for employers to see that you tick all the boxes and make it more likely you will be shortlisted.

How to answer

You’ll need to answer each of the essential criteria as separate statements. It is not critical to meet the desirable criteria but you stand a better chance of getting an interview if you do.

Structuring your statements

Research the organisation before writing your responses. Start a new document separate to your cover letter and resume. Insert headings for each of the criteria in the order they appear in the job advertisement and write your responses under each heading. Insert a footer in the document with your name and page numbers.

Approaching your responses

Begin every response with a clear and positive statement about how you meet that criterion. Then follow the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) approach to give evidence of how you have applied the required skill or quality.

Situation: talk about a specific example of a positive or challenging situation to show your ability to address the criteria. The position description will give you an idea of appropriate situations, such as working as a member of a team, liaising with clients or meeting short deadlines

Task: describe the tasks involved in this situation or how you identified the necessary tasks. You can combine the situation and task into one sentence.

Action: mention how you took action to meet the condition in the selection criteria. Discuss the action you took and not the action by a team. If you are using a team example, make sure it is clear what role you played.

Result: summarise how your action led to an outcome of the situation and how others responded as a result. You can include your reflection on the outcome and feedback from supervisors, customers, work colleagues or others. You may also want to talk about what you learned from the experience and how you can improve in the future.

Checklist to get your responses ready

  • read each of the criteria to understand what they’re asking you
  • describe your related or transferable skills if you can’t meet one of the criteria (don't just skip it)
  • choose recent examples to show your ability to meet the criteria
  • avoid negative language and never speak ill of a former employer
  • use bullet points to list skills and examples to make it easier for the Selection Panel to read.

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