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How to apply for a job: From the perfect CV to the ultimate interview

by Lareese Craig Published on 16 January 2014

Landing your dream job isn't something that happens overnight, it takes a whole lot paperwork and prep beforehand and that's where a lot of candidates come unstuck. We got talking to Lucy Birchenough, Recruitment Manager from Net-A-Porter, to find out the A-Z on job applications. From writing the perfect CV to nailing the interview and mastering the follow up, here's how to apply for a job the right way!

When the rejection emails start filling up your inbox the reality of the job-seeking market can leave you feeling disheartened and generally a bit down in the dumps.

Writing, tweaking and (in many cases) rewriting your whole CV is hardly an appealing task but with a few how-to tips, you'll be landing interviews in no time.

From getting the hang of the cover letter dos and don'ts to perfecting your hand shake, there's so many layers when it comes to applying for a job. Thankfully with a little help from Lucy, you'll be every employers dream.

Here's her top tips on how to avoid the common pitfalls and give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding in your application.

Streamline your CV

There's nothing worse than blitzing out a CV and sending a round robin to every employer on your work wish list, they'll spot that mistake a mile off. Tweaking your generic CV is the most important step in ensuring your application is successful from the get-go. Remember first impressions count even if they're on paper.

Lucy's top tip? "Keep your CV to a maximum of two pages. Employers are put off by overly lengthy CVs – make sure that it is succinct, with any relevant extracurricular activities or transferable skills easy to find. In addition, there shouldn’t be any gaps in your CV that are unaccounted for; if you’ve taken six months off to go travelling, that’s fine – just tell us about your experiences and what you’ve learnt. What transferable skills did your summer job leave you with?"

Listing every last qualification is also a major no no, your potential boss receives hundreds of CVs a day so don't make things harder for them. Condense your academic results and clean up any wordy phrasing for a clear and cohesive resume.

Avoid silly mistakes

Typos and spelling boo boos are pretty much unforgivable when applying for a job as it implies a lack of time and care, not exactly employee-of-the-month kinda stuff.

Avoid sloppy spelling mistakes by recruiting a trusty proof reader, dad will do nicely! Lucy adds, "Spelling or grammar mistakes are almost guaranteed to land you in the 'no' pile with most employers. A simple spellcheck can prevent your application being dismissed for avoidable errors. Ask someone to read your application for you as a fresh pair of eyes will help pick out what you might have missed."

Tailor your application

It's difficult to know how much personality is too much but when it comes to your writing a little originality goes a long way.

Always try to address your application to someone specific, find out who heads up that department and refer to them by name, that way they can see you've already made the effort to suss out who does what. They are your potential colleagues after all, you want to impress them.

For Lucy there's nothing worse than a generic resume with little or no reference to the specific job role. She says, "Although it might seem like an easy way to save time, employers are inundated with submissions and a little originality can help you stand out from the crowd.

"Tailor each application accordingly, adding detail about what you could bring to the company with your relevant knowledge and skills. Also, definitely mention it if you have met any of the recruitment team at events. This helps to show that you are serious about the role and employers will appreciate the extra effort."

Review your online profile

Having an online presence can make or break your career and whilst social media can bode well for showing off your hobbies and passions in life, it can also name and shame your bad habits.

Uni shenanigans, inappropriate language and nudity - it's all got to be vetoed well before you click the send button if you want to be a serious candidate for the job.

"Make sure that employers are seeing the best side of you, no matter which of your online profiles they choose to explore. Believe me, they won’t just check your LinkedIn page to find out about you," Lucy says.

"​Ensure that any images or information you wouldn’t want a future employer to see are removed or kept private. If your Twitter postings demonstrate that you are engaged with the type of work you want to be involved in, this will also help your application."

No one wants to be pulled up on a head-down-the-toilet picture now do they?

Over-prepare for interviews and assessment days

There's no such thing as too much prep, of course you want your interview to flow naturally but nothing settles your nerves more than role play and a notepad - that way you can anticipate the competence questions from every angle. Maybe rope your mum or flatmates in for this one.

"It’s natural to be nervous on these occasions so if you’ve thoroughly swotted up on the company, its values and its products this will help keep you calm under pressure. When it comes to talking about yourself, plan some key examples from your course or extracurricular experience demonstrating your key skills, which you can draw on within the interview.", says Lucy.

​Research is a great way of confirming why you want to work for the company, recognising key areas of improvement and why this is the career for you.

Lucy adds, "Make sure you read and re-read the job description and what the organisation is looking for. If there is anything you don’t understand then try to research it. You can also ask the names of those who will interview you and look them up on LinkedIn to give you some useful insight on what they might ask."

Don’t give up!

Staying positive after months and months of applications can be challenging but the right role is out there. It might all seem like a huge waste of time but every rejection letter and interview is helping to carve you into the dream candidate.

Getting nowhere fast? How about digging around for alternative options which are not always as well-publicised as some of the big corporations. Lucy suggests doing some online research and contacting your dream companies directly, even if they aren’t advertising.

There you have it, the six steps to success!

And here's a chance to put all of the above into practise. The Net-A-Porter group are looking for cutting-edge talent to join their software engineering graduate scheme right now so get applying people!

How did you take your first step on the employment ladder? Tweet us your tips @sofeminineUK

by Lareese Craig

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