If there is an application process, you will usually be one of a number of people applying for the same opportunity. Whether you submit your application on paper or using an online process, they will all be received by someone who has to go through the pile of applications. There may be just a few, or there could be hundreds.

Your application won’t always be successful - that’s often simply down to how many other good applicants they had, rather than a reflection on you or your application

There are lots of different ways to apply for work. Usually, the bigger the company, or the more senior the role, the more complicated the appointment process will be.

How you apply for a job differs based on whether you’re responding to a role that has been advertised or submitting a speculative application. A speculative application involves applying for a job in an organisation without having seen one advertised. 

Responding to advertisements 

The advert should contain instructions regarding how to apply, or a website link to more information. Typically, you might be asked to:

  • Provide contact details so that they can post or email you an application form
  • Download an application form to complete and submit by post or hand in (a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume may not be needed. The company will usually say if it is not necessary)
  • Complete an online application form
  • Email or send the employer a copy of your CV to an email or postal address provided
  • Send copies of documents, for example of your qualifications

Sometimes employers expect you to do more than one of the above, for instance they may ask you to complete an application form AND attach your CV. If this occurs, it is probably best to assume that they may not review them together, so submit your CV as if you weren’t completing an application form and complete all parts of the application form as if you weren’t also attaching your CV!

You may also be asked to send a ‘covering letter’  with your CV. This gives you an extra opportunity to explain why you are interested in working for this company and in this role.

Make sure that you follow all the instructions which are given about applying for a role:

If they ask you to complete an application form – do so! Don’t send your CV instead and hope that they will read it

Key Steps  to complete the application process

Read carefully and follow the instructions that you are given and make sure that you include all the information, documents and other supporting activities that are requested.

Step 1Read the job description and person specification – make sure that you have everything they describe as ‘essential’

Step 2 – Tailor your CV (if requested) – with brief descriptions of tasks and roles that meet their description of what is required. Your CV is not always a written list of your skills and experience - you may be asked for a video of yourself or samples of your work. Be sure to follow the instructions you are given and provide the information in the requested format.

Step 3 – Write a Supporting Statement / Covering letter (if requested) – say how you meet the requirements of the post and your interest in the organisation. See the tips for writing a cover letter in the next section.

Step 4 – Complete the application form (if requested)

Step 4 – Check the instructions – Answer all questions. If they use reference numbers, quote them in your covering letter, if they want a photo, put one in and make sure you make a note of any deadline and get your application in before it!

Step 5 – Meet the deadline – make sure your application and all supporting information arrives before the deadline

Make sure you have included all the requested documents when you submit your application and ensure that you meet the required deadline!

Submitting a speculative application 

A speculative application is one where you apply to an organisation for a job even though they have not advertised one. This is something you might do if you really like an organisation or think they might really want to employ someone with your skills, knowledge and / or experience. This might involve posting them your CV and covering letter, but it might also mean visiting the company and speaking to someone in person. If they are the person in charge and they like you, they might just give you a job

Application processes can be very short or may take many stages and last months to progress through the necessary stages.