Have you ever wondered how long recruiters spend looking at your job application? Or if they really do look at your social media? Watch this video from SEEK to find out what recruiters really think about job seekers, so you can learn about common pitfalls:
What do employers want from you?
Employer’s requirements will vary, so it is important to read and understand what information and documents you will need to supply. When applying for work, one size does not fit all. Some of the most common requirements are:
- Cover letter (one page) and resume – although this may sound like an easy option, it means you must provide all of your information in a concise format whilst covering the essential requirements of the role, and demonstrating how you can meet those requirements.
- Cover letter (maximum two pages) addressing the key capabilities of the role and outlining your motivation and your resume – you will need to ensure you provide examples of how your skills, knowledge and attributes meet the role requirements, as well as demonstrating your motivation for joining the organisation in a cover letter format.
- Cover letter, resume, academic transcript, separate document addressing selection criteria, answering specific questions, or providing a pitch – this process is often used by government departments and large organisations and allows candidates to expand on information in their cover letter and resume by providing clear examples of how their skills and experience will assist them to be successful in the role.
Tip: Read the job advert carefully and follow the instructions for the word count, documents required, etc. You need to be clear about what is expected and provide those documents in the format requested every time. If the job advertisement isn’t specific about the application requirements, you should contact the employer to clarify.
Writing a job application
Developing a competitive written application is the first step in securing an interview. Successful job seekers know how to create an application that is tailored to the position and can clearly demonstrate the skills, knowledge and abilities relevant to the role. Communication skills are rated highly by employers and your first communication with them – your job application – is your chance to demonstrate your skills and impress.
Many organisations use online applications in their recruitment processes to help them to manage the large number of candidates. Here are some tips to help you with online applications:
- Applicants usually need to set up an account on the employer’s website.
- Some online processes require candidates to complete the application in one session, while others allow you to save your application and return to it later.
- Check if you can preview the application format before you begin. This will help you to gather all the relevant information you need. For example you will need to develop a resume targeted to the specific job requirements with details of your education, including your work integrated learning, internship, capstone projects, research projects, previous employment and extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering experience, involvement in projects, online platforms (e.g. GitHub).
- Prepare relevant examples of your skills, abilities and experience that relates to the role and demonstrates you are a competitive candidate.
- Target your responses to this role and this employer – do not cut and paste from previous applications. You need to meet the employer’s specific expectations and requirements.
- Research the role and organisation and be ready to incorporate this into your responses. You can also view their social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook for information on their latest projects and staff development.
- Draft answers for possible questions into Word documents. This will allow you to edit and spellcheck before pasting into the online form.
- Check word limits and try to be close to the limit (but not over). You want to give a full answer and not undersell yourself. Answer all the questions, even optional ones.
- There could be questions similar to:
- Tell us why you chose your discipline/field of study
- Tell us what you can bring to our organisation
Tip: Research the organisation to determine their culture, values and priorities. This will help you align your responses and shine in the application process.
Writing job applications for robots to read
Employers may use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and you need to learn how to prepare your application to outsmart the robots. ATS software is used to screen online applications and only those matching predetermined keywords and phrases will progress to the next stage of recruitment where a human will read the application.
Tip: Employers make keyword statements in their job advertisements about the kind of candidate they are looking for. Review the job advertisement to find the phrases and words the employer has used to describe the essential traits they are looking for. The bold words in the example below are the keywords:
‘We require excellent written and verbal communication skills with the ability to earn trust and credibility. Outstanding organisational abilities with an aptitude for planning ahead and prioritising effectively.’
Beat the robots:
- Research the employer’s website, the role description, and job advert to familiarise yourself with possible keywords. Use this language throughout your application – in your cover letter, resume and written responses. Make sure you include all the skills and requirements for the job – the higher the number of keywords, the better your chance of progressing, but take care not to over-do it. Some ATS software can assess the context of keywords and phrases, so your application must still make sense.
- Text not graphics – the ATS will be looking for matches for keywords. The software does not read text in tables, photos, Clipart, graphics, colours, or fancy fonts. The use of these results in your application looking blank or unreadable.
- Simple, clean font and uncluttered format – this will increase the chance that the ATS will be able to read your application.
- Full words – do not use abbreviations, jargon or slang.
- Tailor your career objective/profile/summary to include keywords.
- Answer questions fully – some online questions will only allow a yes or no answer, but where there is a text box, try to answer with a well thought out response that includes some keywords.
- Check for errors – the ATS may not be able to work out what you are saying if the spelling is incorrect.
Tip: Use the ‘Ctrl+F’ function in Microsoft Word to count the number of times you have used a particular word in your application.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 1.
The golden rule of applying for jobs is to follow the employer’s application instructions. If the application states that you must provide a cover letter, then it is essential that you do this. If there are no instructions provided, sending a cover letter is recommended. Your cover letter is a great promotional opportunity and is often the first thing employers will read, so it needs to create a positive first impression. Your cover letter is a demonstration of your written communications skills, so if it is written poorly your resume may not be read. Your letter needs to sell your skills and suitability for the position to convince the employer to read the rest of your application and offer you an interview.
The cover letter is also an important indicator of whether you understand the business of the organisation and can make a valuable contribution, have thoroughly read the job description, and are genuinely interested in the job. Employers will probably spend less than 30 seconds reading your cover letter, so you need to provide a compelling document, which highlights your suitability for the position and organisation to ensure your application progresses to the next stage.
- Write a new cover letter for every position. It needs to be tailored to the role and organisation to sound genuine. Employers expect the letter to speak to them and their needs and requirements. It is very obvious to recruiters when an applicant has ‘cut and pasted’ text with the only change being the person it is addressed to/company name. These applications are the first to be dismissed.
- Resist the temptation to use an online template. Some templates are not suitable for the Australian job market and many students find them difficult to edit.
- Assess the job advertisement and position description. This is critical. Highlight the key words in these documents. You now have a list of items to address in your cover letter. Giving clear examples of how you meet these requirements will put you in a competitive position.
- Use the organisation’s specific name repeatedly throughout the letter, instead of always referring to them as ‘your organisation’.
Tip: Statements as simple as ‘we are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated person to work in a cooperative team environment. The position offers variety and will require the successful applicant to develop and implement a range of communication strategies’ are sometimes hiding the complex requirements of the position. As part of your application, you will need to address each of these areas, giving an employer evidence of where you have previously demonstrated these skills and qualities.
Skills and experience
It is very important in any job application that you directly refer to the skills and experiences required for the job – this could be the difference between making it to the interview stage or receiving a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email. It is not advisable to say, ‘although I don’t have any experience in…’or ‘my skills in … are limited’, because this is negative and does not sell/market you to the employer. If you do not possess all the skills required, you will need to provide evidence of the skills you do have and be able to explain how they could be transferred to the role.
Example: If the employer is looking for someone with experience in using Canva software (graphic design) and you have never used it, you could say: ‘I am proficient in the use of Adobe Illustrator and have used this to create logos, charts and diagrams. My skills in creating digital and printed images will enable me to quickly learn how to use Canva, and I would welcome the opportunity to undertake any training required.’
If you cannot think of anything that remotely meets the requirements, ask your friends or a trusted colleague, as they may be able to help you think of an example of where you may have met that requirement. If you are missing a critical technical skill and have never heard of that skill before, check that you are applying for the right job! NEVER tell lies in an application as this will ALWAYS surface at a later stage.
Format and presentation
- Choose a professional, business-style format and font for your cover letter. Be consistent and use the same font style and size in both your cover letter and resume. Either Arial or Calibri in font size 10 or 11 are good choices.
- Ensure your contact details are current and your email address is professional.
- Make sure you remain within word or page limits. Normally cover letters are only one page, however, some applications require you to address the selection criteria/key requirements or to discuss your motivation for applying in the letter. Often these applications require a one-or-two-page cover letter. Always follow the employer’s instructions. (The different styles of written responses are covered in Topic 4 of this module).
Review the following example of a business-style Cover Letter to understand standard requirements for this type of document.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 2.
Your first contact with an employer may be via email. The language you use will demonstrate your written communication skills, therefore you must take care with your wording so you can create a great first impression. While your email does not need to be in cover letter format, it does need to be professional and not resemble a text message to a friend.
If a cover letter is requested, make this a separate document and attach it with the rest of the documents. If it is not requested and you are sending an email to attach your resume, your email does not need to be in cover letter format but it is more than just an brief email.
Tip: Make sure the subject line is relevant and the message is clear to the reader. It doesn’t matter how good your cover letter or resume are if your email isn’t opened.
For the purpose of job hunting you will need a professional email address and voicemail. Take care when creating your email signature – it needs to include your full name as opposed to just your first name. Consider using your JCU email address on your job applications as it provides a professional email address, and you can use it after you graduate. JCU graduates have access to saved emails and SkyDrive files for life.
Example Email Signature
4th Year Bachelor of Social Work student
James Cook University
LinkedIn profile:[customise and embed your LinkedIn URL]
Expressions of Interest (EOI) and speculative applications
Many opportunities are not advertised, and so it can be worthwhile to send a speculative cover letter or email to an employer you wish to work for. Speculative applications need to be sufficiently interesting so the prospective employer will want to meet you or contact you even though they may not currently be recruiting. Approaching employers in this way also shows initiative and motivation. You need to explain the purpose of your speculative letter and express an interest in working for the organisation, and you need to clearly state the type of work you are interested in. Are you seeking graduate or casual work, paid or voluntary opportunities? It is important to get this message across quickly at the beginning of your letter.
Spamming multiple employers will decrease your chances of a reply. Employers expect an email to be directed to them personally. A little extra effort could be the deciding factor in the selection process; employers have said they can ‘feel’ the interest of an applicant through the language they use in emails and letters, so ensure your wording is professional, sincere, and passionate and demonstrate the connection between your career goals and the business.
Find a contact
You are more likely to be considered if you direct your application to a named person at an organisation. To find a key contact:
- Head to the website of an organisation you want to target. Try to find a contact list or team list to locate a relevant contact.
- Look for news about the organisation and current projects they are involved in – you will find them in the general and industry specific press and newsletters, LinkedIn interest groups etc. You may be able to identify the name of the project leader etc. who would be worth contacting and the content of the project that you might want to help working on.
- Cold call by phoning the HR Department of the organisation you are targeting and explain who you are, your year level at JCU and field of study, and your interest in their organisation. Ask for a key contact’s name, email address, and direct phone number. It is a good idea to develop a short script and practice it before you make the call, so that you give a good first impression.
- Network with alumni – JCU alumni can be a great source for contacts and referrals. Head to the JCU Alumni LinkedIn page and start researching.
- Network with students – make connections with fellow students who have similar interests to you; they may have contacts in your industry area.
- Use social media – many organisations have a social media presence, which you can use to find contacts.
Tailor your speculative cover letter or email
Your opening paragraph needs to introduce you, explain why you are writing, and how your education and experience could bring value to the organisation. Make it clear what type of opportunity you are seeking: graduate or casual work, paid or voluntary. It is important to get this message across early, so that employers know exactly why you are contacting them. Finally, follow-up with a phone call a few days after.
Example of an Expression of Interest email
Dear Mrs Smith
Start with the reason you are writing:
I am writing to explore [e.g., employment opportunities/vacation work] with [Company]. I have been referred by Ms Jean White from [where] who suggested you might be recruiting for [opportunity]. You will see from the attached resume that I am at currently [details of what you are doing , e.g., final year Science student]. I am extremely keen to [comment on why you are interested in this organisation/industry].
Match what you can offer with what you think they are looking for (add other skills and abilities that will be of interest):
I have read from your [website/recruitment information] that your organisation employs graduates who have [types of education/skills and abilities]. As indicated on my resume, I [add sentence supporting how you would be able to meet their requirements and fit the culture of the organisation].
Indicate your interest in THIS organisation:
[add sentence demonstrating your understanding of their business, some ideas about how you could contribute, what past experiences/skills you could bring]
I strongly believe in your approach to [major achievement/mission/goal] and this area of [development/innovation] is something I would like to pursue.
I look forward to further discussing my interest in (state the opportunity) and can be contacted at any time on [Phone number].
Your resume is essentially your best marketing tool. Think of your resume as a promotional document where you can showcase your education, training, skills and experience in a way that tells the employer what you can bring to their organisation. A quality, concise and targeted resume can be the difference between getting an interview or ending up on the ‘no’ pile. A resume is not a list of everything you have ever done – keep it targeted and relevant to the position and the employer.
Tip: Don’t underestimate the value of ‘non degree-related employment’. You will have gained valuable skills – the key is to explain how these skills can be transferred to the role you are applying for. For example your part-time job at a fast food outlet is likely to be relevant to most jobs due to the work ethic, customer service, communication, teamwork and OH&S skills you developed.
Tip: The terms resume and CV are often used interchangeably in Australia, but it is important to know the difference:
- A resume is a summary document that most employers will request. Resumes need to be concise and targeted to the position.
- A Curriculum Vitae or CV is a more comprehensive document and used where a role requires extensive professional experience.
LinkedIn versus resume
In this digital age, you may think having a LinkedIn profile means that a resume will not be required and that employers will trawl through your profile to determine if you have what it takes to do the job. This is not the case. While LinkedIn has many benefits, it only gives a broad view of your career to date. The idea of a great resume is to make it tailored to a role and organisation. This means you can really focus on the relevant parts of your education and experience and relate them to the specific role. Successful job seekers will ensure their LinkedIn and their resume are both quality marketing tools. Some recruiters use LinkedIn to identify and headhunt candidates, but the majority of jobs will still require a resume as part of the application process.
LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool and your general, online professional presence, whereas your resume is a detailed document that is continually tailored for each job application.
When deciding what to include in your resume, ask yourself this question: is this adding value to my application for this particular role? If the answer is no, then leave it out. While there are lots of templates and resume builders available, it is often better to start with a nice clean page and take it from there. Some resume builders and templates are not suitable for the Australian job market as they are based on American employers’ requirements. Remember: this is YOUR resume – use your own education, skills, experience and abilities and don’t copy examples.
Start with your contact information – name, phone number and email address. Make sure you use a professional email address – your JCU one would be ideal. You can also add a link to your LinkedIn profile in this section. Your name and contact details are only required at the top of the first page. You don’t need to use extra words such as Resume or Curriculum Vitae. You do not need to add any other personal information (date of birth, photo, marital/parental status and health).
Review the following example of a Graduate Resume to understand standard requirements for this type of document.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 3.
- Review the Discipline-Specific Resume Examples for your course on the JCU Careers and Employability website.
- Thoroughly research the organisation’s application procedure to determine what is required.
- Tailor your resume to the job description/organisation’s requirements for the position.
- Emphasise achievements to demonstrate your capacity.
- Be clear, concise and truthful.
- Check word count/page requirements as identified by the employer. Graduate resumes are expected to be 3 – 4 pages.
- Use a simple, professional layout with consistent formatting.
- Use bullet points to list your relevant experience and employment history, and associated responsibilities and achievements.
- List experiences in reverse chronological order under each heading.
- Consider using numbers to quantify/qualify statements, responsibilities and achievements i.e. trained XX number of staff, managed 5 patients per day.
- Check and check again for spelling and grammatical errors.
Successful Written Communication
The completion of a written task is often a key component in the job application process. Employers will ask you to provide written evidence to prove that you possess the qualifications, skills, knowledge, experience and attributes to successfully perform the job and fit within the organisation. Application requirements may include one of the following written tasks:
- Selection criteria
- Short response or statement
- Supporting statement or extended cover letter
Preparing a written response
Invest time in your preparation to ensure you produce a strong application.
Step 1: Research
The first task in your preparation is to understand the organisation and the requirements and duties of the job to create a targeted written response. Research gives insights into an organisation’s culture, values, aims, business priorities, and achievements. Thorough research will increase your chances of meeting the employers’ expectations.
Research the organisation:
- Google the organisation
- Check its website
- Follow social media channels, especially Facebook and LinkedIn pages
- Use your network to find out more about the organisation
- Talk to staff working within the organisation
Research the position:
- Read the job advertisement and position description closely
- It is a good idea to call the Contact Person – ensure you make a good impression and have something relevant to ask
- Talk to your contacts who may work in a similar role elsewhere
Step 2: Assess and act
It is essential that you read the job advertisement and all supporting documentation before you commence writing, so that you are clear about what is required. A useful approach is to highlight keywords in the job advertisement and supporting documentation provided. Often applicants are directed to the Position or Role Description, which provides information on:
- the employer – their values , purpose, vision
- the key duties and responsibilities of the position
- what the employer is requiring or looking for, often referred to as the selection criteria
- how to apply
Tip: Take time to think about what the employer is really looking for. What are they asking you to focus on? Is it your skills and experiences or is it your motivation? How can you match their expectations?
It is important first to analyse exactly what is being asked for in the criteria listed. For example: Demonstrated problem-solving ability, critical and analytical skills, relevant to your discipline/s. In your response, it is important to ensure that you analyse and address each part of the criterion:
- Demonstrated – Demonstrate means you provide example/s of situations from the past, which clearly show you have effectively applied the skills that are being asked for.
- Problem-solving ability, critical and analytical skills – Your example/s must clearly show the steps you have taken and how you problem-solve and critically analyse.
- Relevant to your discipline/s – The final part indicates that the example/s you provide must be clearly linked to your discipline area/field of study.
In analysing selection criteria, think about the vocabulary that is used, particularly the level requested. The following terms are commonly used in selection criteria:
- Knowledge of – A basic understanding
- Sound knowledge of – A good working knowledge, specific application
- Thorough knowledge of – A comprehensive grasp of information and application
- Demonstrated ability – Provide specific examples of performing the function
- Ability to rapidly acquire – Prove you have the capacity to learn
Step 3: Evidence
The employer will be looking for evidence that you are the ideal candidate. Your written application needs to demonstrate your breadth of experience and promote your knowledge, skills and attributes. Your goal is to gain attention and impress.
Brainstorming all your experiences will assist you in identifying the most impressive and relevant evidence to provide:
- Highlight the specific skills, experiences, knowledge or attributes you are being asked to respond to (keywords).
- Reflect on where and when you have developed or demonstrated the required skills, experience, knowledge or attribute. Consider all your life experiences, including university study, relevant work experience (placements, fieldwork), other work, community activities, travel.
- If you have kept your resume and LinkedIn up to date or have maintained a journal or ePortfolio, now is the time to review these documents to identify relevant experiences.
- Review your subject descriptions and learning outcomes to identify skills and knowledge gained within your academic studies that are relevant to the position
- Review your placement, project, practicum, fieldwork and other assessment items to identify knowledge, experience, skills and attributes gained. Review all reports to identify evidence of your achievements.
- Write examples of how you have met the employer’s expectations from each of the experiences identified.
- Select the strongest evidence. Concise, focused examples of how you meet the position requirements are critical to standing out and being short-listed for interview.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 4.
Step 4: Concise responses
Follow the application instructions regarding word count and format (see Topic 1). When writing your response, your key aims are to:
- Demonstrate capability by providing evidence of how you meet the required knowledge, skills, experience and attributes
- Provide specific details of your actions
- Include an indicator of success or an outcome.
Here are three tips from GradAustralia to help you to make your message stick:
- Keep it short – Short words, short sentences and short paragraphs help readability. Cut your word count in half, and then make another cut.
- Cut the padding – Use the most straightforward words you can find. Banish long clauses, repetition and any other waffle. Buzzwords and clichés are so overused that you can only gain by cutting them out. However, do include language specific to the company and industry you are targeting.
- Verbs are your friends – When you are writing about work experience, verbs – words that say what you have done – are critical. Put verbs near the beginning of the sentence. And make sure your verbs have punch: the easiest way to draw attention is to use active voice, for example: “Our team produced a new product” is snappier than “a new product was produced by our team”.
Step 5: Proofread and edit
Check your written responses to ensure they address the expectations of the employer and the requirements of the position. Ensure that your responses are error-free. Written communication skills are highly valued by all employers, and your written responses will provide evidence to employers of your skill levels in this area. An application with spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors creates a very poor impression.
- Read and re-read your responses a day after you write them – it is easy to miss mistakes when you are tired
- Run a spell check, but don’t rely on this entirely
- Ask a friend or colleague to check your application for spelling, punctuation and layout, and to ensure you have addressed the requirements of the position
- Book an appointment with the JCU Careers and Employability Team at your campus for feedback. External students can email their applications to email@example.com for feedback.
For many years, employers, particularly government departments, have used the written response to a list of selection criteria as a key component in the recruitment process. The quality of each response forms the basis for selection panels to shortlist applicants for an interview. Subsequent interview questions are based on the selection criteria listed. While this approach is not as prevalent in today’s recruitment practices, it is still used by a number of employers and requires skill in knowing how to best respond.
Responding to selection criteria in this format is a way for employers to ensure fairness and objectivity in selecting the best applicants to shortlist. It is also a way for you to indicate and evidence your level and range of specific skills plus the knowledge and experience deemed necessary by the employer to successfully undertake the duties of the job. By providing statements on how you meet each criterion, an employer can gain some insight into you as a person, your capabilities, and how you may fit into a particular organisation.
Traditionally, selection criteria are split into mandatory or essential (criteria that you must be able to address in order to be eligible for the role), and desirable (criteria that an employer would prefer you possess). If you are asked to respond to each criteria, then it is essential that you do so – skipping an essential criterion or merging two or more criteria into one response can result in an automatic fail for your application.
Examples of mandatory or essential criteria:
- Degree qualification in xxxxxxx or a related field
- Demonstrated analytical and solution focused problem-solving skills
- Demonstrated well developed written and oral communication skills, including interpersonal and negotiation skills with the ability to develop and maintain collaborative working relationships with various stakeholders
- Demonstrated organisational and time management skills and the ability to prioritise tasks to meet deadlines and achieve outcomes with a focus on process and business improvement.
Examples of desirable criteria
- Experience in contract management systems in an Australian Tertiary Education environment
- Understanding of health professional education and training and its connections with the health service system in Australia
If you are required to provide a separate response to each selection criteria listed, then it is essential that you write EACH criterion as a heading in bold font and then provide the response in normal font below. Always follow response word limits. If a word count is not provided, seek clarification from the employer.
Writing your response
- Address all the criteria
- Write responses with the duties of the position in mind and use relevant and robust examples. Use strong practical evidence that link your experience directly to the requirements of the position.
- Give clear, succinct and specific examples of work and/or life experience that support (prove) your claims, avoid being too general or vague
- Focus on outcomes that you have achieved and match these to the selection criteria
- Mention how you would gain a skill or experience, if you do not currently have all of the skills or experience required
- Use action words (verbs) and an active voice to describe your experiences, for example:
- I managed the change process
- I implemented the plan
- I coordinated the responses for the team
- Be results-orientated and carefully address the level of skill being asked for. It is important to be convincing about your success to create an overall positive impression. Provide examples that quantify your contribution or outcome, for example:
- Number of recommendations adopted
- Implementation of new system
- Simplified a process
- Gained positive feedback
- Critical problem solved
- Assessment mark achieved
One way to write strong responses is to use the STARL model, also discussed in Contemporary Interview Processes module. This model will help you frame your response in a clear, concise, evidence based format.
SITUATION – Where these experiences occurred and what was the context.
TASK – What was required of you? This could be a technical performance, project, dealing with a problem.
ACTION – What action did you take to deliver the task, resolve a problem, or present a case?
RESULT – What was the outcome and how did your actions affect this positive result?
LEARNING – What did you learn from this process and how could you apply this to other tasks?
It is common to describe two or three separate examples in a STARL format in response to one criterion. In outlining your response, start with a general introductory paragraph that summarises your claims against that criteria. Then follow this with your specific STARL response as evidence of the claims you have made.
Criterion: High level of interpersonal skills, with a strong focus on oral and written communication
I have strong interpersonal skills, which are demonstrated by the positive relationships built through good communication with my clients and workmates in my previous employment. More recently, my university experience has further developed my written communication skills.
(Situation) An example that demonstrates my interpersonal skills, both oral and written, is in the research component of my study. My task was to present an oral overview of a written research proposal with the purpose of persuading my academic peers and examiners to approve my research project.
(Task) Firstly, I prepared a concise written proposal document for an examiner to scrutinise. My interpersonal skills assisted me in the production of this document; allowing me to discuss ideas for my project with a diverse group of my peers and academics and then receive feedback. The purpose of this complex document mandated that it be readable by any examiner with or without a detailed knowledge of the subject matter. To achieve this, technical terms were made clear using plain language, and concepts were developed logically with the assistance of diagrams. This written document achieved a high distinction grading.
(Action) Secondly, in preparation for the oral presentation of my proposal, I attended a night course in public speaking to sharpen my skills. This course allowed me to present my research proposal with clarity and confidence to a group. Importantly, it also refined my ability to discuss my somewhat complex research topic to laypeople.
(Result) The outcome of this written and oral presentation of my research proposal was that my research was approved and I gained valuable feedback that I can incorporate into future research proposals.
(Learning) I learned that strong interpersonal skills contributed to the effectiveness of communicating my research. I am confident that my interpersonal skills will contribute to my individual and team tasks, as I am an attentive listener and clear communicator. I believe that these interpersonal skills will be a valuable contribution to the specific tasks required in this position.
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 5.
Short response or statement
Many employers have moved away from the traditional selection criteria response format and are now requesting that applicants provide a short response or statement to specific questions or information. The response is often restricted within a text box with a strict word limit. In each of these examples, employers are giving you the chance to promote yourself, for example:
- What skills, knowledge and abilities could you bring to the organisation?
(Queensland Health 2020 Graduate Nursing Program)
- Your career objective, which covers a short explanation about your career goals
(Commonwealth Bank Graduate Program 2020)
Using stories to sell your skills is a highly effective technique. In a short space, you can tell a story that will make potential employers remember you favourably. Employers believe that the best predictor of future success is past success, so convey stories that vividly describe successes or experiences that you have learned and grown from. Try to be results-oriented and give evidence of a positive result or learning outcome. Reflect on your skills, knowledge, abilities, strengths, weaknesses and values and be confident that you can write about them authentically. Remain within the word limit but give a full response.
Supporting statement or extended cover letter
Employers may request a supporting statement in the form of a two-page response or extended version of a cover letter. Employers expect you to provide a well-crafted statement outlining your suitability for the role on offer. Your response needs to show that you have researched the role, understood the requirements and accountabilities, have the capacity to undertake the duties of the position, and positively contribute to the organisation. These formats can be difficult to construct as they are not clearly delineated like selection criteria responses.
To prepare a strong response, read the employer’s instructions, research the organisaton and role, decide what you have to offer, and draft a response:
- Your plan should be to capture your strongest and most relevant skills and experiences. Responses that are directly aligned to the job requirements of the position will score well.
- Start with an opening paragraph that states concisely why you are a good candidate; your education and skills should match the job advert.
- Next, outline several examples where you have developed or demonstrated the relevant skills. As a word or page limit will apply, you may need to combine several criteria and skills and provide an example to demonstrate that you meet them all. You may be able to highlight your communication, writing and teamwork skills all in one example.
- Finally, your closing statement could show how you can make a contribution to the goals of the organisation.
Tip: Remember to review your resume to check that it is tailored to the role and will support your statement or pitch.
A written pitch is an opportunity to promote your unique attributes in addition to explain how your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications make you the best person for the job.
- In 500 words, tell us what interests you about the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) graduate program and what skills and experience you have that you think are important to contribute as an officer of DFAT. (DFAT Graduate Program 2020)
- Your Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) application will require you to submit a one page pitch (application response). We want to know why you want to work at PM&C, why you are interested in the role, what you can offer us, and how your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications are applicable to the role. (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2019)
- As with all written tasks, research is the best starting point.
- If you are applying for a graduate program, read all you can about the program, the organisation, and review the comments/videos of past participants to determine what is required for success in the role.
- You may find you have too much information to draw on, so you will need to be clear and concise to get your best points across within the word limit.
- Think about what interests you, as that will set you apart from other candidates.
- Start your response by summarising how you can contribute to the organisation; think about your qualities, skills, knowledge, and abilities as they apply to the role.
- Next, demonstrate these skills with evidence. Due to the word limit, you may need to use one or two examples to demonstrate several skills.
- Avoid repeating information verbatim in your resume. Aim to highlight any specific examples and achievements to support your application and demonstrate your ability to do the job.
- Finish your response by reiterating your motivation and interest in the opportunity.
- Australian Government Job Jumpstart (2019). Why you must use keywords in your job application. Retrieved from https://www.jobjumpstart.gov.au/article/why-you-must-use-keywords-your-job-application
- Australian Public Service Commission, (2019). Cracking the Code. Retrieved from https://www.apsc.gov.au/cracking-code
- Commonwealth Bank. Graduate Program 2020. Retrieved from https://www.commbank.com.au/about-us/careers/graduate-intern-programs.html
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Graduate Program 2020. Retrieved from https://dfat.gov.au/careers/dfat-aps-careers/graduate-program/Pages/graduate-program.aspx
- Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) (2019). Graduate Program 2020. Retrieved from https://www.pmc.gov.au/pmc/careers/graduate-careers
- Freedman, Kym (2019). GradAustralia. Creating a winning cover letter. Retrieved from https://gradaustralia.com.au/applications/creating-a-winning-cover-letter
- GradAustralia (2019). GenerationOne Indigenous Career Guide. Sydney: GradAustralia.
- GradAustralia (2019). Top 100 Graduate Employers. Sydney: GradAustralia.
- James Cook University, Ask Us. Can I use my student email account after I graduate? Retrieved from https://jcu.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/810/kw/jcu%20email
- Kelly, Gillian, Myfuture (2019) 15 questions to help write strong achievements. Retrieved from https://myfuture.edu.au/career-insight/details?id=15-questions-to-help-write-strong-achievements
- Myfuture (2019). A good cover letter is more important than you think. Retrieved from https://myfuture.edu.au/career-insight/details?id=a-good-cover-letter-is-more-important-than-you-think#/
- Myfuture (2019). What kinds of cover letters are there. Retrieved from https://myfuture.edu.au/career-insight/details?id=what-kinds-of-cover-letters-are-there#/
- Queensland Government (2019). Policy Futures graduate program. Retrieved from https://www.qld.gov.au/jobs/finding/graduates/opportunities/policy-futures
- Queensland Health. 2020 Graduate Nursing Program. Retrieved from https://www.health.qld.gov.au/employment/work-for-us/clinical/nursing-midwifery/graduate-campaigns
- Seek (2019). How to address key selection criteria. Retrieved from https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/article/how-to-address-key-selection-criteria
- Seek (2019). What recruiters really think about job seekers. [Video]. https://www.seek.com.au/career-advice/article/recruiters-reveal-what-they-really-think-about-job-seekers
- Skilling, Pamela (2019). Big Interview. Resume writing for Robots. Retrieved from https://www.jcu.edu.au/careers-and-employability/resources/big-interview
- Skilling, Pamela (2019). Big Interview. Writing Persuasive Cover Letters. Retrieved from https://www.jcu.edu.au/careers-and-employability/resources/big-interview
- Villiers, Ann (Dr), Myfuture (2019) 10 ways to reduce words in job applications. Retrieved from https://myfuture.edu.au/career-insight/details?id=10-ways-to-reduce-words-in-job-applications#/
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