Applying to jobs: a comprehensive step-by-step guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 September 2022

Published 31 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The job application process can be a difficult one, so understanding how to best apply for jobs is highly beneficial. From finding the optimum way to display your skills to explaining how you are the right fit for the role in question, there is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into applying for jobs. Job applications are an employer's first encounter with you, which makes getting your application right very important. In this article, we explain the process for applying to jobs, besides some tips and best practices.

Applying to jobs: how to

When applying to jobs, you'll likely complete an application with a series of documents and information. A job application typically consists of a CV, a cover letter and any additional paperwork or steps requested by your potential employer. Below is a simple list of steps you can follow to ensure that your job application is complete:

1. Update your CV

When you apply for different jobs, you may find it beneficial to update and tailor your CV. This allows you to highlight the skills that are most relevant to the position and company in question. Compare your list of skills, qualifications and experiences with the requirements listed in the job advertisement. This can help you determine if there's something else you ought to include.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

2. Include a cover letter

Cover letters important topic for anyone applying for a job. There are still reasons why a cover letter could improve your chances of getting the job even if the job advertisement didn't specifically request one. For instance, a cover letter is an excellent way to align your previous successes with the needs of your potential employer. A cover letter allows you to go beyond your work history to show your accomplishments. Potential employers could greatly benefit from finding a candidate with values and experiences that align with their own and those of the organisation.

Some employers ready all the cover letters they receive, whereas others may not. Give yourself a better opportunity to succeed by submitting a cover letter with every application, unless you're specifically instructed not to do so. This shows that you're receptive to the needs of your potential employer and serious about the opportunity.

Related: Q&A: Should You Include a Cover Letter?

3. Take your time with the application

Job applications are often time-consuming, meticulous and occasionally repetitive. Instead of aiming for a large number of applications, put in the effort to make the ones that you do apply for as considered and professional as possible. Wherever possible, utilise tailored responses in your applications to show that you are keen on this role in particular.

Another good idea is to seek the help of a friend or family member to go over the application with you. If they have experience applying for jobs, especially in your sector, they may be able to offer you valuable tips and advice.

4. Be positive and try to sell yourself

Try to get into the mindset of a recruiter and understand their priorities. When they go through applications, they're looking for the most suitable candidate for the role and for the company itself. Try to assume a recruiter's point of view and determine what you'd look for in an ideal candidate. Make a note of some examples and try to include them in your application to reflect on how you are an ideal candidate for the role. Think about your previous professional experiences and past successes to show your aptitude.

There are lots of ways that you can inject positivity into your application, from using positive phrasing to focusing on the positive impacts that your work has had on companies in the past. Always focus on the most positive aspects of your employment history. If you're struggling, it can help to reflect on the progress you've made and what you've learned. This can help to boost your self-confidence, which can then make your application more compelling.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV

5. Avoid confusing jargon

The world of business involves many buzzwords and plentiful jargon, and the recruitment sector can be very similar in that regard. For job candidates, jargon can cause apprehension and have them doubting how they might respond to a question on the application. To deal with this, make sure that you double-check any terms or phrases that are new to you. Once you're more comfortable with these industry phrases, use them in your application. This demonstrates that you understand the language and terminology the employer uses, as well as your competence and ability to communicate effectively.

6. Include the relevant details

There is a balance between too little and too much information when filling out a job application. You are looking to impress the recruiter, rather than provide them with all available information. Therefore, you ought to aim to mention the most relevant skills and experiences only.

If you're struggling to cut back on the amount of content, refer to the job advert. Here, you can gain insights into what they're looking for in an ideal candidate, so you can use this as a guide regarding the key points and skills to mention. Anything that doesn't align with the advertisement can be removed or only mentioned briefly. When you've completed the application, read it again and decide if it's too long or short.

7. Refine your application before sending it

Once you've completed the application process, it can be tempting to send it immediately and wait for a response. However, it's usually best to take the time to go over the application again to check for formatting, spelling and grammatical errors. This allows you to catch any mistakes you might have missed. You can also use this final revision to refine what you are talking about in the application. This can include ensuring that you're being confident and that the information listed is relevant to the position you're applying for.

There are lots of ways that you can review and proofread the final draft of your application, such as:

  • Use positive action verbs such as 'delivered', 'achieved' and 'transformed' liberally. This appeals to the recruiter and makes you appear confident, professional and positive.

  • Make use of descriptor words such as 'effective', 'innovative' and 'consistent'. This can help make your skills stand out to recruiters.

  • Reduce reliance on filler words or other redundant language. Recruiters have a lot of content to read through, so make their jobs easier and stand out from the crowd by keeping your answers concise.

  • Be sure to use real-world examples that are relevant to the role. Use this strategy in particular when giving examples of your past experiences and accomplishments.

  • Highlight your enthusiasm for this specific role. Tailor the application so that it's clearly original and written for that specific role.

  • Receive a second opinion from a friend or colleague by having them read your application. An additional perspective can help identify weaknesses and oversights in the application.

Completing a job application is your opportunity to show why you're the right person for the job in question. With the right framework, you can ensure that the job application that you submit showcases your attributes to the best of your abilities. That way, employers receive a well-informed overview of your suitability for the position.

Related: How To Complete a Job Application Form

What to remember when applying to jobs

A job application is a condensed, targeted version of your life story, so it can be difficult to know what to include and what to leave out. Job applications function as preliminary checks, offering employers an objective look at your previous experience and work history. It also includes a reflection of who you are as an individual, including any hobbies or personal interests that you have.

Because of the nature of job applications, it is vital that you stick to the facts and provide information that is accurate and gives a comprehensive overview of your work history. Always ensure that any claims you make in your CV or cover letter are honest and can be verified. This may include ensuring that you have copies or originals of any letters of recommendation, qualifications, educational certificates or other proofs of achievement.


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