How to increase your chances of being shortlisted

Applying for a jobIt can be hard to get the right balance between volume and targeting when you’re applying for jobs. One approach is to send in light-touch applications for a large number of roles, in the hope that this will increase your chances of getting a positive response. The alternative is to be more targeted, putting in fewer applications but spending more time on each, so that what you submit is of a higher quality.

Here at Timewise Jobs we’d agree that the second approach is best. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that sending out scattergun applications, without taking the time to target them to the role and company you’re applying to, is basically a waste of time.

Targeting applications takes time – but it’s worth doing

This view is shared by a number of the companies who advertise on Timewise Jobs, who have told us how frustrating it is to receive applications that appear to have been pulled together at speed, with very little thought. They’ve also noted that they’re less likely to look favourably on applications which haven’t followed the instructions set out in the advert or job spec.

And while we understand that creating targeted applications can be really time consuming, we also believe it’s time well spent. With this in mind, here are three things you can do to give your application a better chance of cutting through:

Make sure you include everything (or more than) you’re asked for

It’s surprising how many candidates don’t include a cover letter with their application, even if it has specifically been requested. Yes, your CV is important, but most employers will use both to support the shortlisting process.

In fact, even if they don’t ask for a cover letter, we’d suggest including one anyway, as it will help you demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Use your cover letter to sell yourself

Some of the cover letters we’ve seen do little more than state that the candidate is interested in the role and refer the recipient to their CV. That’s a huge missed opportunity. Instead, it should act as a supporting statement to your application, explaining why you are applying for the role, and setting out how your experience and skills match the requirements.

Here’s one potential structure that could help you write a brilliant cover letter; another simple approach is to write a sentence covering each bullet point in the person spec, topped and tailed with intro and end paragraphs which highlight your interest in the role and the organisation.

Don’t get side-tracked by unnecessary details

Faced with large numbers of applications, employers want to be able make quick decisions about who to include in the ‘yes’ pile. So don’t spend time talking about why you want to work flexibly, or go into details about your likes and dislikes or hobbies, and don’t write an essay. A concise summary, no more than one side of A4, is likely to have more impact.

Of course, all this takes time; but it also shows that you’re really interested in the role on the table, and can’t help but improve your chances. First impressions count, and a targeted application is the best way to create a good one.

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