9 Essential Tips for Writing Job Applications

writing job applications

9 Essential Tips for Writing Job Applications

Writing job applications is never easy. You have to talk yourself up, find relevant ways to describe your experience and make sure you meet all the application criteria.  

It’s nerve racking trying to structure and tweak everything in your application to make sure you answer the big question… 

‘Why should we hire you?’

You essentially need to write a persuasion piece that hooks your audience in, and you might be surprised to know that you don’t have very long to impress them.  

According to a study by The Ladders, 6 seconds is the average time recruiters spend reviewing an individual resume.  

If you can make it past that first hurdle, here are nine tips to help you write a job application that gets you an interview!

The Job Ad  

The job ad is going to give you all the information you need to write a stellar application for a job. Go through the job ad with a fine tooth comb, print it out if you need to and highlight key points in the ad.  

Make sure you meet the criteria and you’ve had the kind of experience they are looking for. If you’re applying for a job that is one or two levels up from where you are, make sure you can do about 70 – 80% of the tasks listed and have a plan for how you can address the other tasks.  

Find any instructions in the job ad and follow them to the letter. If they tell you not to apply through any other platform than their website, do that. Hiring Managers will place very specific instructions inside job adverts to see who can follow instructions. They use this tactic to quickly reduce the number of applications they have to review. This may not be obvious to you immediately, that’s why it is important to analyse the ad in detail. 

The job advertisement below asks you to upload your resume and covering letter in a single document. While this may not seem important, it is! 

writing job applicationsReview the key selection criteria 

Government positions, universities and large institutions are famous for their in-depth selection criteria. However, most jobs will have less specific or intense selection criteria requirements.  

Whatever the selection criteria are, it’s very important when writing out your job application to focus on that key selection criteria. Provide examples of your skills and experience that address each point. Demonstrate your experience with each point you cover, provide examples and outcomes.  

Copy that key selection criteria into a separate word document and write a short statement around 60 – 120 words for each.  

Use the SAO Approach  

  • Situation – where and when you did something  
  • Action – what you did and how you did it  
  • Outcome – what was the result of your actions  

Tailor your cover letter 

With this information about the key selection criteria get ready to write a brilliant cover letter. Your cover letter should be changed for each job. Remember you want to get their attention in the first 6 seconds.  

To do this you need to write a stand-out opening paragraph, tell them which job you’re applying for and give a brief summary of why you’re perfect for the role.  

Find the name of the person reading this cover letter and address it to them directly if you can. It will help personalise your application and shows you went the extra mile.  

Follow this structure to write your cover letter.

  • Greeting
  • Opening paragraph – outlines why you’re applying for the job, relevant experience, maybe an accomplishment.
  • Body paragraphs – address and answer key selection criteria
  • Interest in the company – tell them why you want to work for this company specifically.
  • Closing paragraph – summarise why you are the perfect candidate 

Make sure your references are ready 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make writing job applications is submitting old referee details or not informing your referees that you are using them!  

The worst thing that can happen is that you get through to the referee review stage, the Hiring Manager makes a call, and the person doesn’t remember you or anything you did! You want the people on your resume to further your application, not hinder it. 

Review your references now and call them to make sure they are still ok to be your reference. Send them the job ad and application so they know how to best talk you up for this role.

Optimise your resume and cover letter 

These days a lot of the guess work is taken out the recruitment process for the HR department by algorithms. But to be placed at the top of the pile so a human being will actually see your application you need to optimise your resume and cover letter.  

Go through the job ad and look for keywords and skills they mention. Often you have this experience already, but it’s written slightly differently. For example your resume could say ‘online marketing’ but the job ad says ‘digital marketing’. These are the same thing just worded slightly differently.  

Edit and tweak your resume to include the keywords and skills that are in the job ad. This will give you a better chance of climbing to the top of their HR system’s algorithms. Make sure your resume is in a format that can be read by algorithms such as word or PDF and add a link to your LinkedIn too!

Use first person language 

When writing your resume, covering letter and selection criteria responses, make sure you are writing in the first person. 

First person language is: I, me, we, my, mine and us 

Why? Because the application is focused on you, your achievements and why you would best fit the role. You want the Hiring Manager to imagine YOU in the role, not a third person you seem to be writing about.  

First-person language is personal, and you can link yourself to everything in the application.

Review and edit 

One of the most basic mistakes you can make when writing a job application is to forget to review and edit your writing. A missing word, a sentence fragment or a spelling error can make you look sloppy and like you didn’t care enough to read-through your work.  

Make sure to always review and edit your applications so you can be assured you are presenting the most professional version of yourself. 

Do damage control – online presence 

In this day and age, you are going to be vetted in online spaces. Make sure your social media presence doesn’t hold you back from getting that job.  

Go through your personal social media and make sure you’ve got a presentable and professional profile picture, that your public content is not offensive, and you don’t have any embarrassing photos out there. You can even just make your profile private so people can’t look through all your posts and content.  

Get your LinkedIn up to scratch! When going for jobs it’s important that your LinkedIn looks professional, and you have all relevant work history on there. Add a professional headshot and ask a few old colleagues for recommendations. Every little bit helps. 


Make sure that you hold the right qualifications for the job. Sometimes the only thing between you and the next great job is a piece of paper. This can be frustrating if you worked your way up and you know you have the skills but don’t have the qualifications.  

If you’ve got that experience, then you get that piece of paper with Recognition of Prior Learning.  If you don’t have much time before your application is due, RPL can be very quick and easy if you have all the evidence available. Asset College can turn RPL applications around within a few weeks if you have everything we need. 

Start with a Free Skills Assessment today and our assessor will get back to you ASAP with your eligibility for the qualification you have applied for!

Final Thoughts  

Job searching can be stressful, but the right job might be just around the corner!  

If you’re interested in knowing more about finalising your skills and experience with an RPL qualification for your next career pursuit, you can check out the RPL process here or contact us if you have any questions.

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