Some Dos and Don’ts of Job Applications

I have been invited to sit on the selection panel to secure a replacement for my previous role. There has been an external recruitment freeze at my organisation for the past two years so only internal candidates were being considered. The position is focused around the management of certain compliance and operational initiatives across 3000 outlets nationally.  All up, seven people applied, from various professional backgrounds. I’m by no means a recruitment professional and I’m sure that the insights of such a person would be far more valuable than mine, as they deal with this everyday. However, these are my observations during the resume reading and shortlisting process.

phdfindajobAddress the selection criteria

There was a candidate who I had selected as being a front runner. He had an MBA, amongst various other qualifications and possessed extensive experience in franchising, business development and management. His cover letter and resume was articulate and well formatted. I was surprised when during the shortlisting meeting, he was immediately cut. The application had asked applicants to address a list of key competencies and because this applicant had not done so, the rest of the selection panel considered it fair that he was excluded, in favour of the others who had. To them, it showed that perhaps he was not serious about the role and had just submitted his standard application documents at a whim.

Don’t submit the wrong application

An applicant had submitted two applications by mistake, one for the actual role, and the other for a completely different role. Whilst the cover letters were addressed to different employers and referred to different roles, the body of the cover letter was exactly the same. Not a good look. This person has already made a possibly irreparable negative impression and we hadn’t even met him.

Go back to basics

Given that this role paid a base salary of around AU $94,000.00, I expected a much higher standard of presentation for the applications. There were resumes that were over 6 pages long, extending back in detail over 20 years of work experience. Appropriate formatting and font choices were lacking, though they are vital to presenting a professional image, after all, the successful applicant would be required to draft external communications. As a general rule, the font, font size, bullets, indentations and paragraph spacing should be consistent throughout the whole document. There shouldn’t be a lot of blank space, however the sections should not run together without any distinction. I also noticed that the majority of cover letters left a space for the applicant’s signature, however were submitted without one. I imagine this is because applications are now submitted online, however an electronic signature, or taking the effort to print the letter, sign it and scan it, would present much better. I have previously written about resume writing in this blog post.

Don’t lie in your application

One applicant had claimed to oversee a major project of work last year. Unfortunately for her, a member of the selection panel was actually a colleague who had worked on that project. During the shortlisting process, he pointed out the discrepancy. To make matters worse, she had also claimed a few achievements in which I had been directly involved in, and therefore knew first hand that a) the achievements had not actually manifested or b) she had not been involved in the outcomes. Even if you are applying for an external role, I strongly recommend against embellishing too much in your application. After all, the employer may still quiz your references on the validity of your claims.

Be prepared for the call

When it came to contacting the applicants to invite them for interview, my Manager called and emailed them early in the day. He intentionally noted which applicants were at work before 9.00 am to actually take his call, and if not, how long applicants took to return his call. When my Manager emailed the applicant who had lied in her application, her inbox was full. In addition, she didn’t return the call until the end of the day. It was not a good look. If you have submitted an application, it’s important to make sure that you check your email, your voice mail message is appropriate (although it always should be!) and that you return the call as soon as possible.

In related news, I’m still working 2 days a week in my old role. I had written previously about how my Manager would not release me to take a promotion, back in February, and surprise surprise, I still have not been fully released. Due to this, I feel that I haven’t been able to settle in and make the impact that I wanted to make in my new role. Luckily, management in my new team have been quite understanding. I am now one week in to the MBA course and overall, am enjoying myself and learning a lot. More on that later. Have a lovely Easter break.

That Career Girl



  1. Wow, a lot of great tips. Many people don’t realize that their first impression, whether by an application or in person, will be their only chance to make an impression. Good luck in finding a replacement so you can move forward!

  2. Always great to see your prospective on ‘corporate’ life and the dedication showed. Its rare these days. I wonder if your companies ’employment freeze’ is stopping any other departments from running more effectively and whether the $$$ saved on employment is actually greater than $$$ lost from not being more productive with employees juggling dual roles.

    1. Hello, thanks for your comment 🙂 I think the external recruitment freeze is quite admirable as it forces managers to consider the many employees that need to be redeployed as the organisation continues to change its business model. My juggling of the dual roles is quite rare and is more due to my Manager’s choices rather than the external recruitment freeze. He could have definitely engaged staff that have become ‘surplus to requirements’ to fill an immediate need, however he has made the choice not to do so in search of a permanent candidate, at the expense of me being able to move on, and also at the expense of an employee that could have received some development.

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