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How to Apply for Jobs in the UK

Applying for Jobs in the United Kingdom

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When you apply for a UK job, always check the job advert for the correct way to apply. The usual two ways are with a completed application form (which you'll need to request from the company) or with a CV, and applications are still often posted, not emailed.

It is not usual to send copies of your qualifications, reference letters, or a photo with the initial application, but do check the job advert carefully. These documents will be needed if you get an interview so keep them in a folder ready to present.

As ever, ensure you meet the deadline for applications and check you meet all of the job criteria. Tailor your CV and covering letter to show how you tick all the boxes and are therefore the best person for the job.

What's a CV?

CV is short for Curriculum Vitae and is not completely different to a resume in that it's a summary about you. Try to keep it to 1 page or 2 pages at most. Keep it brief and well laid out to help the HR team check your criteria. White space is good on the page so don't write too much.

If possible, you should tailor your CV for each job application and the best place to do this is in the 'Personal Profile' at the top.

These are the points to include in a standard CV:

  • Name - larger font than rest of text, normally centered at the top.
  • Contact Details - address, tels, email, normally centered under your name.
  • Personal Profile - Short paragraph about you. Write in the first person (I am…) and use suitable adjectives (I am hard-working, etc). Don't waffle as no-one will read it and then might miss the good stuff about you.
  • Employment History - Most recent at the top. Include company name, job title, brief description of duties, dates. Consider if you need to just list the years for your jobs or the months and years. Of course, if there's a gap you will be asked about this at the interview so be prepared.
  • Education and Qualifications - List most recent studies first and include back to High School qualifications.
  • Training/Courses - List appropriate extra training you've undertaken that didn't mean a qualification, 1 day Customer Service course.
  • Skills - Optional section but can include a bullet list of skills such as languages, IT knowledge, driving license, etc.
  • References - Optional section but if you have space include the name and contact details of two people willing to give you a reference. References are usually needed for job applications but it's not crucial to add the details to your CV.

You may note it's not necessary to include your date of birth, citizenship, marital status but you can include these, if you so desire.

UK Paper Size

Note, standard letter paper in the UK is A4 so print your covering letter and CV on this size paper.

Covering Letter

Always include a typed covering letter with your application and keep it short and simple. You need three main paragraphs:

  • A reason for writing - "I would like to apply for the position of..."
  • A short paragraph about you. Tell them why you're the best person for the job.
  • Your hopes for the future.
End with a short and polite conclusion. "I look forward to hearing from you" can suffice.

How to Present Your Application

It can be tempting to send your application in a large plastic folder, thinking this will mean you will get noticed. This probably won't be the case as your application is likely to get separated from the rest of the pile and not make it back. If you would like to use a wallet then choose a plastic A4 size presentation wallet with a clear front cover. This way the HR team won't get annoyed having to open a fancy binder or take papers out of a zipper bag. When I worked in an office, the first thing I would do with applications and submissions was to remove all fancy 'extras' and staple the papers together.

Follow Up/Responses

Don't be disheartened to hear you are unlikely to receive a response for your all your job applications. Actually you are unlikely to receive a response unless they want you for an interview. This is simply because of the huge amount of applications and the extra work and expense this would cause. I have known larger companies to use a standard postcard acknowledgement to let you know your application has been received and to inform you if you don't hear from them in the next 3 weeks then you have been unsuccessful.

HR Departments do not want a follow up call from every applicant for every vacancy or they would never get off the phone. Really, don't call them after a week to ask if your letter got there. Ensure it gets there yourself by either hand-delivering the application or sending by Recorded Delivery (needs to be signed for). But saying this, if you are confident you are the right person for the job and it's been a month since the closing date (which you obviously met) then do give them a call. Be clear, polite and don't waste their time.

Conclusion

It takes time to get through the selection process and to start the job, even if you are selected, so always plan ahead. Employers expect candidates to need to give notice before leaving their current job so it can be months from when you first saw the advert until your first day at your new job. Remember, it's easier to look for a new job while you're already working so don't rush these things. Find the right job for you.

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