Now I am no expert in this, but I have experience from my own applications, recruiting people to my team and helpful tips other people have given me.
The aim of your job application is to get you an interview, at which point you'll have the opportunity to bloom in the eyes of the panel. You want to make it impossible for them to not give you an interview.
- Read the job description thoroughly. It sounds basic but it is really important to understand what the organisation is looking for. If you're in the fortunate position of already having a job, you can select carefully those you apply for. Don't waste your time if you're not a close enough match to the person specification, but instead save the job description and periodically check back that you are developing that skill or experience set in your current role.
- Give yourself enough time to do it. To write an application properly you need about 4-5 hours and it's best if you spread them over several days as you'll see different ways to improve it each time you read it.
- Type your application. It makes it easier to read and sets a good impression. Most companies won't mark down for handwritten applications but you want to make it as easy as possible to read about all the great qualities you have.
- Provide all the information that you're asked for, in the way the organisation wants it provided (e.g. chronological order or block capitals).
- In the free form section or supporting information bit, you have the opportunity to really shine. Most of the time, everyone on the short list will have the essential criteria, so you can use this section to take your application from good to awesome. Refer back to the job description, repeat each element in your application and then write one or two really strong, relevant examples of how you meet that. Experience from your personal life is fine if you haven't got work experience but make sure it's relevant.
- Use sub-headings to highlight different aspects such as Experience, Skills or Special Knowledge. Use bolding to highlight the key words that you're demonstrating from the job description.
- Find out the organisation's mission, vision and values (usually on their website). This can be incorporated into a strong opening and closing paragraph, explaining how you can help the organisation achieve those goals.
- Spell check it and ask someone to read it through for you.
- Don't be disheartened if you don't get short listed - it's a very competitive market out there so it doesn't necessarily mean you didn't apply well. Try to keep your spirits up and good luck!