Useful tips for job seekers

Application forms

Your first and possibly only opportunity to make an impression - so get it right!
  • Take care with your application form - the way you complete it may make the difference between an interview and an instant rejection - write neatly and think before you write!
  • Complete the form in full - even if a section seems irrelevant to the particular job you are applying for write in n/a so the employer can see that you have read it and not just missed it out
  • Give as much detail as possible - if a form leaves a quarter page for your personal statement on "why you want this job" fill it up with carefully written text. Blank space may suggest you are not as interested as you should be.
  • Give more than one address or telephone number if you may be at another location during the application process. Give dates at each address so that employers can select the right contact details.
  • Leave no time gaps in your education or employment records - employers should not get the impression that you have anything to hide!
  • Be accurate and honest - describe previous jobs or educational courses accurately - a good interviewer will soon expose you if stretch the truth too far
  • State your most recent experience first unless specifically asked otherwise. Employers are most interested in what you can offer today!
  • Do not write "see CV" on your application form - employers are asking you to complete an application form specifically to prescribe the concise information that they want. If you do send a CV in with the form it may go straight in the bin!
  • Take a copy - employers may quiz you on a specific statement or detail. Have a quick read through your copy on the day of your interview.
  • Add a covering letter. This is your chance to personalise your application and add any details that may not be covered on the application form. Add any extra info that you think they should know such as any limitations on your availability for interview.


Some jobs insist on a CV rather than an application form. Also essential for writing to a company on spec. In either case your CV is the doorway to an interview.
  • Introduce yourself as a person - employers want to know more than just your employment and educational history.
  • Adapt your CV to the job - stress different aspects according to the job spec rather than using a generic format for every application.
  • Personal details - give your full name, address (term time and home with dates if applicable), telephone number/s and date of birth.
  • Education - Highlight your academic achievements - but be selective, don't bother including the failures - highlight the areas that you have done well in!
  • Personal interests - Here is your chance to provide personality to your CV. Provide details on something interesting and unique about you - don't use generic terms like "socialising and reading". This section may prove to be a great icebreaker for your interviewer.
  • Work experience - Be accurate in terms of employment history - don't leave any gaps. Be selective about the jobs that you highlight - some will be more relevant than others!
  • Skills & abilities - Provide a full account of your personal and functional skills, highlighting those that are most relevant to the job that you are applying for.
  • Referees - Choose your referees carefully for the job that you are applying for. Never use friends or relatives. Select a member of your academic staff at University or College who knows you well for a character reference. Choose an employer reference from your most recent work experience if possible - make sure they are willing before you put their name down - better to call them first!
  • Be concise - keep it to two sides of A4 max
  • Be professional - type it neatly, take care with the layout, spell check it and ask someone to read it before you send it anywhere.


The part that few people enjoy - but the most important!
  • Look good - first impressions will be made from your appearance if you like it or not. Dress tidily and use your judgement on what to wear - whatever it is it should "fit" the culture of the organisation that you are seeking to join. If you're not sure you can always ring and ask what the interview dress code is.
  • Look tidy - Hair should be neat, clothes straight and perfume less than overpowering! Think about your footwear - if you're going to wear a suit don't give the game away by wearing your trainers!
  • Be yourself - Honesty is the best policy so don't be tempted to adopt a persona for the day - most interviewers will see through that.
  • Be positive - Shake hands firmly, look the interviewer in the eye and give detailed answers to questions. Make sure you listen carefully to what they say. Think before you speak if you are unsure about a question - an interviewer will see that as good judgement - it's not a race!
  • Prepare for typical questions - Make sure you know what you will say if they ask you why this job instead of others? What are your strengths or weaknesses? Why should they employ you?
  • Don't assume they have read your application - You may get asked questions that you already covered on your application form - don't get annoyed - just answer the question ensuring that you say exactly what it says on your application form
  • Do your homework - check out the company brochure or web site before your interview. Read the job description thoroughly - they may ask you a specific question on this during interview.
  • Prepare a few questions - if you only have one it may well be covered by the opening statements - ask a "genuine" question that is not covering something already detailed in pre-interview literature. Maybe some aspect of the job that you would like to know, further general information about the company or even a question on what you might expect to gain from the employment.
  • Ask when you will hear a result unless they do not cover that in their closing statement. Don't hold back from contacting an employer once this deadline has passed - it shows enthusiasm!
  • Be on time - aim to get there at least 15 minutes before you are due to arrive. Give yourself a chance to relax before the interview starts. Don't get uptight if your interview starts late - it's not your fault!

Starting your job

  • Job Offers - it's great to get a job offer but make sure it's the right one for you! Employers may offer you the job informally over the phone or with a formal letter. There is no requirement for a written contract at job offer stage. Either way the most important thing is to make sure you have a clear understanding that the job is right for you?
  • Key points - make sure you are clear on hours of work, days of work, rates of pay and place of work. If you do not get a straight answer on these points ask the employer to put them in writing.
  • Your first day - make sure you know where and when to report and who to ask for. A good employer will introduce you to somebody who will show you around and complete an "induction" process before you start work.
  • Ask questions if the induction does not cover any of these points: lunch breaks, fire procedures, toilets, first aid, sickness reporting procedure and line management structures (i.e. who do you report to?)
  • Ask for feedback. The only way that you will get confidence in your job is to get positive feedback from the team that you work with. Your line manager should let you know if they are happy with your performance - but if they don't you must ask them for feedback yourself!

Ask for a reference. Future potential employers may want to write to your employer for a reference. Ask your line manager what the company procedure is - sometimes all references need to be addressed to the Personnel department. Also ask your line manager or a more senior boss to give you a written reference that you can take with you (these say "To Whom It May Concern" at the top)
Keep notes on your employment. For future applications you will need accurate start and finish dates.
Check your tax. If you are a student in full-time education during the whole of the tax year (i.e. up to next April) you can fill in a P38(S) tax exemption form so that you only pay national insurance and not income tax. This form should be supplied by your employer. Ask them for one if they don't issue one well before payday!

Ask about coming back. If you are finishing a temp job that you have enjoyed, make it clear that you are interested in coming back before you leave. You may get some tips on how to avoid going through a re-application process - you may even get promoted next season!