​Job-hunting for young people - 5: An encouraging secret about job applications

Nicola Morgan continues her advice to young people and their adults, on the topic of job-hunting and work experience

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Most of them are of a very low standard and in quite obvious ways! I know a young person who, in her first job, had to read the job applications of some new applicants and she was amazed at the standard of most of them. Now, this girl is slightly dyslexic herself and didn’t have A grades in her final exams, but she said that if she’d realised how so many job applications are full of really obvious problems she wouldn’t have been so worried about not getting a job.

Why is this encouraging?

Because it’s easier than you think to shine above them. There are some quite simple steps to make sure your application stands out for the right reasons.

What do I mean by “low standard”? Am I being mean here? No. I'm enormously sympathetic to people whose weaknesses include writing - it's not about that. I'm talking about some things that everyone can avoid, with a little bit of guidance and care. I’m talking about people

  • not answering the questions
  • not giving the information requested
  • having lots of crossings-out, finger-prints, smudges, different coloured inks
  • not taking any time to think about what they want to say
  • signing letters with things like “Cheers” or starting with “Hi, there”

Here are my simple guidelines to filling in an application form for any job:

  1. Before you do anything, make sure you have a spare copy of the form in case you make a mistake. If you make a mistake, you need to start again. It has to look perfect at first glance.
  2. Read the job description and instructions lots of times.
  3. Write all your answers in rough first – ideally on a computer so you can redraft as many times as you need to – and don’t put them on the form until you’ve got them perfect.
  4. Read your answers aloud and show them to someone else before you do your final draft. Everyone should do this – if I’m applying for something, I would get my husband to read it first, even though I’m a professional writer. You need to it sound exactly right to someone else. Ask yourself:
    • How does this make me sound? Have I expressed exactly what I want to?
    • Have I answered all the questions on the application form?
    • Do I sound as though I really want this job?
  5. If you aren’t confident about expressing yourself in writing, always ask for help to check and comment on what you're writing. This is not cheating – it’s learning and developing. Not everyone is equally skilled with written words but this should not prevent you having an equally good chance at many jobs. If your parents aren’t the best people to help, ask a librarian. (Of course, if the job involves writing and writing is a real weakness for you, I'm not suggesting you disguise the fact that it's your weakness or that you ask someone else to choose the words for you. That would be wrong and wouldn't help you in the end. I'm suggesting that you use someone as a second pair of eyes.)

Tomorrow, I’m writing more about what makes a great letter or application

Nicola Morgan

Author and speaker about adolescence, -

Nicola Morgan is a multi-award-winning author for and about teenagers and an renowned speaker at conferences and schools around the world. Her classic book on the teenage brain, BLAME MY BRAIN – THE TEENAGE BRAIN REVEALED, was followed by THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO STRESS and THE TEENAGE GUIDE TO FRIENDS and innovative multimedia teaching resources on the brain and mental health, BRAIN STICKS™, STRESS WELL FOR SCHOOLS and EXAM ATTACK. Her next books are POSITIVELY TEENAGE (May) and LIFE ONLINE (June). She writes articles at www.nicolamorgan.com