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The Horizon Career Centre is an initiative of the Australian Association of Social Workers to provide a forum for employment solutions and career resources.
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Job Application Tips
- Which job should I ask for?
- How do I write a fantastic resume?
- How do I address selection criteria?
- What should I put in a cover letter?
- How do I approach an interview?
Which job should I ask for?
It may be helpful to go through the processes outlined in the Plan Your Career document before you begin your job search. To create meaningful and purposeful career experiences, it's essential to know why you want those experiences. This document provides you with exercises so that you can reflect, clarify and clearly articulate who you are and what matters to you. Knowing these answers will help you to seek out jobs (and broader career experiences) that are right for you.
When you're ready to begin applying for positions, we recommend being mindful of two questions: "What do I want to contribute?" and "What do I want to learn?" These two questions will help you view and research advertised positions in a very different way. If the position would allow you to contribute that which you want to contribute, as well as learn that which you want to learn, fantastic! If it doesn't, do you really want the job?
What research should I do before I apply?
Now that you know why you want the position you've seen advertised, spend a little time getting as much information as possible about the role, the organisation and the team you would be working with. You can do this by looking at the organisation's website and reaching out to your colleagues or networks. Ask people whom you admire, trust and respect if they know anything about the organisation. In doing this you may hear that it's a great organisation with a wonderful reputation or a not so great organisation with a history of high staff turnover. Please be careful whom you listen to. Is their information current? It may have been an organisation or team in turmoil five years ago, but that doesn't mean it still is. After you've done your informal research and read the Application Package, contact the organisation directly. Most advertisements include the name of someone to call for further information. Questions you may like to ask during this call include:
  • How has the position come about?
    You really want to know, did the organisation just get new funding; has someone resigned; is there a locum in the position and will that person or another internal applicant be applying?

  • Could you tell me about the team?
    You really want to know who you would be working with, if you'd be supervising anyone, who'd be supervising you, and what the general team dynamics are.

  • Is Continuing Professional Development part of the organisation's culture? If so, could you tell me a little about that? For example, is there a recurrent budget for CPD and do staff engage in regular professional supervision?
    Some organisations have very clear policies and budgets for CPD and others don't. Some have no idea what professional supervision is. Know this BEFORE you apply!

  • What are the expectations of the role in the short and long term?
    You really want to know if the organisation is planning on expanding or shrinking and where does this role fit in those plans; is this position about creating something or maintaining something?
How do I write a fantastic resume?
At the most basic level, a resume is a tool to provide a prospective employer with the opportunity to learn about your educational and professional background and in doing so, make an assessment about whether or not you have the requirements to proceed to an interview. In reality, it is so much more than this. A resume provides you with the opportunity to introduce yourself, to convey something of who you are and how you personally approach your work. When you see a resume in this light, the process moves from one of trying to impress an employer, to becoming a way for you to communicate something of yourself and how you approach your work.

There are many great resources on the web with helpful tips on how to write a resume. Type 'resume writing tips' into an Internet search engine and see what you come up with! Some common points from online resources include:
  • Be clear and concise
  • Use a simple, consistent layout with bullet points and plenty of white space
  • Use positive 'action' words - Highlight your strengths
  • Tailor resume to the organisation - Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors
  • Keep it to a maximum of four pages - Use no less than 11 point font
How do I address selection criteria?
Selection criteria are used by most organisations as a means of identifying the best person for the job. Spending time really thinking about your answers is also great preparation for any interview that may follow, as it's likely that the selection criteria will be used as a format for the interview.

As with writing resumes, there are multiple resources online with advice on how to address selection criteria. If your potential employer is a government department, they may even have their own information on how to address selection criteria on the employment section of their website. A popular method to use as a guideline when addressing selection criteria is the Star Model, outlined briefly below.
Situation: provide a brief outline of the situation or setting
Task: outline what you did
Action: outline how you did it
Result: describe the outcomes
In summary, research the organisation, address all criteria thoroughly (roughly 250 words per criteria point), use specific examples of the work you have done, use positive, action orientated language and ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
What should I put in a cover letter?
A cover letter allows you to introduce yourself to your prospective employer and convey your sense of enthusiasm about the vacancy you are applying for. Ensure the letter is addressed to the correct person (avoid 'Dear Sir/Madam'). Begin with clearly stating the name of the position and where you saw it advertised. Include a sentence or two that sums up your interest in the position and why you feel you would be a suitable applicant. State what attachments the letter contains (CV, selection criteria etc) and include contact details and availability for interview. Finish the letter with a positive statement of your interest in further contact.
How do I approach an interview?
We're sure you've heard it before, but the best way to prepare for an interview is to think about it as your opportunity to interview the potential employer. We like to think of interviews as meetings. Imagine what a difference it would make if you went into a 'meeting' feeling in control and wanting to ascertain if you actually wanted the job, rather than being fearful and full of anxiety trying to impress the employer!

Confidence (not arrogance!) is crucial and the way to be confident is to know why (and why you wouldn't) want the position. It's an opportunity to share who you are but also learn more about the position, team and organisation. An interview allows you to confirm if your expectations will match the reality if you do get offered the job! This is your experience and your CHOICE.

Interviews come in many different formats, but we're sure you can guess the common sense tips that apply for all. Be on time, well presented, have a copy of your resume, application and supporting documentation ready, greet your potential employer and be courteous and professional at all times.

The biggest thing you can do to improve your chances of an interview going well is to prepare. Do some research on the organisation so that you are aware of their history, strategic plan, legislation they work under and challenges particular to their field. Search the website of the organisation and read up on the current staff, including their particular work focus or any publications they have written. Remember to be clear in your own mind on what you want to contribute as well as learn so you can ask questions to confirm if the job will provide you with such opportunities.

Have a final statement ready, so that you can end the interview confidently. Always thank the employer for the opportunity to interview. In reflecting on the interview, try and focus on the positive and learn from the moments you felt were less successful. If you get the job…congratulations! If not, you may feel it's appropriate to contact the person who conducted the interview and ask for feedback.

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