Illustration of a brain inside a head

15 Apr 2018

The art of writing a job application

Most of us have felt the pain of getting the ‘you have not been selected’ email, and at times it can feel like the selection process is completely random. What makes your job application stand out? Read on.

Snook is a small but dynamic team, and we’re incredibly lucky that we have so many people wanting to join us. Do you know that on average we get 15 to 30 unsolicited applications per month? Furthermore some of our job callouts have prompted up to 200 people to compete for one job. Over the past year, Linn has read over 500 job applications, and let’s just say that she’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Reflecting and learning from this, she has some pointers on what makes or breaks your application.

Linn - Snook associate and reader of many, many job applications.

If you’re interested in us, we’ll be interested in you

Everyone likes to hear nice things about themselves, and it’s the same for organisations. We admit it, we’re shallow. When we read an application that doesn’t even mention us by name, we are likely more critical because it tends to mean that you don’t really know who we are or what we do. Add in a sentence or two on why you want to work for us: Did you like a project we did? Did you hear one of our designers speak at a conference? Have you been following our blog? We want to know so that we can understand more about your interests and what you can contribute if we get you on board.

Ban buzzwords, embrace examples

We get a lot of general applications when we advertise a position, and we know why. After putting a lot of effort into applications and not getting the positive results you’re looking for, you will understandably hit a breaking point. Why should you spend time on an application only to be rejected? Well, because it will be a better application and sending a general application will likely waste both your time and ours.

Make sure your cover letter and CV reflect the job requirements, give us examples of how you fulfil the criteria. Anyone can claim that they’re flexible, a hard worker, and great at working in a team – but we’re much more likely to believe you if you add in an example of when you’ve shown that skill. If you’re applying for a creative job we also want to hear about your projects: What did you make, break, or create? What difference did you make? Like most people, we love a good story.

Don’t say you have great attention to detail

…because inevitably, there will be a spelling or punctuation mistake nearby, even if what you’re saying is true. It’s just how the universe works. Generally, spelling and punctuation is something many of us have become lazy with because we assume the technology takes care of it. Your wrong. No wait… you’re wrong. We know you’ve heard it before, but you should print your application and read through it, preferably out loud. Also, have a friend or family member look over it for you. It will help you find the little mistakes that you’re blind to after having slaved over the application for hours.

Look at our lovely team - who wouldn't want to join them?!

We love waffle, but not in an application

A well-known rule of thumb is to keep your cover letter to one A4 page and your CV to a maximum of two. We know you have more to say and we would love to hear it, but if you ever have to look over 200 applications, you’ll understand why being concise is key. Emphasise the most relevant skills and experiences you have for the position you are applying for so we can instantly see why you’re the right person for the job.

Furthermore, if you waffle in your application, we’ll doubt that you have the ability to be clear and concise in your day-to-day work. But remember, being concise does not mean you can’t be creative. It doesn’t need to be written in Times New Roman even though the length is traditional.

Please, please, please attach your documents

If we get 200 applications, we don’t have time to ask you for what we think might be missing. Triple-check that you remembered to attach the required documents. Send it afterwards if you notice something missing. And most importantly, attach your portfolio when you apply for a creative job so we can learn about and see your work.

Another key tip is to transform your documents to PDFs before sending them. Using formats such as word and pages means that we might see it differently than you intended, for example with one line of text on an additional page when you specifically wrote it to fit on one page. Transforming it to a PDF keeps it all from moving around.

Finally, make it easy for us to learn about you and your work. Asking us to go your website should only be the case if that’s where we can see your portfolio. We want to learn about you but sometimes we simply don’t have as much time for it as we’d like to so if you attach your CV and cover letter as PDFs that is extremely helpful.

What’s your favourite cake?

Shh, don’t tell anyone: sometimes we add in something slightly obscure in our job advertisements just to be able to tell whether you’ve read them. Of course, we won’t count you out if you don’t refer to them, but you will get extra brownie points.

It’s not you, it’s the circumstances

Did you read through this thinking: but I do all those things, why do I still not get selected? Honestly, there’s a talented bunch of people out there and we would love to hire all of you if we could. Sometimes who gets selected in the end is simply down to luck: what skills we need at the time, how many people apply, and most importantly, who else applies. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, when yes, you would be great for the job, but someone else will be perfect.

Don’t Stop Believin’

Keep an eye out for jobs on our website and newsletter, send an occasional unsolicited application, and come chat with us at events we’re at. We might not be able to offer you anything now, but if we like your work we’ll probably remember you when the skills you can offer are needed. And remember, we need people with any type of background, not just service designers by trade.

Thank you for taking the time to apply with us – we might just be working together in the future.

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