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How to write a job application

Below VisualCV’s resident job hunter and CEO, James Clift will show you step by step exactly how to write a job application. This guide is not just suitable to a particular industry or application but any position you would like to apply for.

It will cover these three key areas:

  1. How to get into the head of an employer
  2. How to position yourself for the job
  3. How to prepare a winning CV or resume and cover letter

90% of job applicants follow none of the advice this post conveys — Keep reading if you want to move into the top 10%.

What does the employer want?

You know what job you want. Now stop thinking about yourself.

Employers don’t care about you. They care about their problems, and how this new hire will solve them. This is why they are posting a job.

The only question that matters is:

Who does the company want to hire?

The company has in mind the ideal candidate. You need to become that person.

Pick a job that you really want, and do the following to figure out exactly what a company is looking for.

First: Study the job description.

The job description will tell you at minimum the skills and experience necessary for the job. Dig deeper, and look for what they are really looking for. Decide what problems the company is trying to solve, and write down their #1 problem.

Second: Extensively research the company.

Your biggest advantage is information, and almost everything you need to know about a company can be found online. Write down answers to the following questions:

  • What does the company do?
  • Why do they exist?
  • Who are the key people at the company?
  • What are those people like?
  • What recent milestones has the company surpassed?
  • What is their culture like?
  • What kind of people do they typically hire?
  • How am I connected to the company?
  • Do I know anyone who works there?

Now that you have the information — let’s turn it into a story.

Third: Describe their ideal hire

Write a paragraph that describes the exact person this company wants to hire. Include the following:

  • The problems the company wants to solve
  • The skills and experience they’re looking for
  • The personality of the ideal candidate

This is the person you need to become in order to get the job. Here’s an example:

A company that builds time tracking software for government organizations is struggling with acquiring new customers — they’re growing slowly via Word of mouth, but want to start using content marketing and search engine optimization to increase their client base. They have been around for 10 years and have a strong sales team, but have no experience with these new user acquisition methods.

Kyle is a creative marketer who graduated with a marketing degree from UCLA in 2011. He’s worked for three years in the digital agency world in LA, learning content marketing, SEO, and SEM.

Skills include Photoshop, indesign, and basic HTML. He’s written blog posts that have been published in popular publications like Mashable and the Huffington Post, and saved Fortune 500 companies over 50% on their Facebook Ad spend by optimizing for more targeted user demographics.

Kyle dresses in a classic navy business suit — but with bright socks and a colorful tie. He pays attention to the details and is a responsible (sometimes too serious) worker — but also has a lot of creative ideas and loves to contribute to overall business strategy.

It seems a bit silly, but trust me — this exercise is worth it. You are creating a customer persona which will be your blueprint for the remainder of the job application.

Becoming their ideal hire

Now that you have an idea who this company’s ideal hire is, you need to position yourself as that person.

Positioning is which relates to how marketers attempt to create a distinct impression in a customer’s mind. This impression happens instantly.

Your first impression is the difference between a new career or your resume being shredded. You never get a second chance at it. Here are the two things you need to make the best first impression. Create both of them for your selected job posting.

A completely original cover letter

This is where all your research comes in handy. You must write an original cover letter that shows you’re a skilled communicator who is passionate about the company. Adapt your generic cover letter completely to fit the companies’ needs and style.

A custom CV or resume

Most people send the same generic resume to every employer. This is a huge miss. Every employer has different needs that you need to fill. You need to think like a marketer — and send the recruiter to a custom landing page targeted to meeting their needs.

Include keywords from the job description in your targeted resume to make it really obvious you are a perfect fit for the job.

Initially, recruiters are simply pattern matching your resume to the job description. They’re looking for the fastest way to find the best fit for the job. If your application doesn’t match, they’ll take any excuse to eliminate a resume.

For more information on how to build your resume, VisualCV’s Ultimate Resume Guide is your answer.

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