Compiling the ‘Perfect’ Job Application

When you apply for a job, your aim should always be to present a ‘perfect’ job application. What this means is that your application should get the immediate attention of your prospective employer by reflecting your credentials, skills and experience; it should put you ahead of other candidates applying for the same job. There are, essentially, three parts to compiling the perfect job application.

Part 1 – Deliver what the prospective employer wants.

Before you go any further, you must know whether you prospective employer wants a Curriculum Vitae (‘C.V.’) or a Résumé.

In a C.V., you will provide a complete list of data about yourself. The C.V. is more commonly used in the United Kingdom and for seeking positions in educational institutions. A standard C.V. might contain some of the following information:

  • A personal profile. This is factual information such as your name, address, telephone number and email. Today, because of anti-discrimination laws, employers are reluctant to ask for a person’s gender; nevertheless, when you give this information willingly, prospective employers appreciate it.
  • A reverse chronological list of your work experience. You should account for your entire career history. This means describing your contribution towards the concept and planning of projects you undertook. It also includes the roles you played and what you achieved in your previous jobs.
  • A reverse chronological list of your education and training. Include all your academic qualifications, professional licenses, certification and memberships; in addition, list down any awards, bursaries or scholarships you may have received.
  • A reverse chronological list of any relevant material you may have published.
  • A list of hobbies and interests. Though optional, include only ones that are relevant. For example, when applying for a job as a translator, the fact that you like to travel to practice your language skills will be relevant. The fact that you like to knit, however, won’t be of interest.

A Résumé is more commonly used in the United States and Canada. A Résumé has a ‘free-from organised style used for seeking employment in the private sector’. What this means is that you may begin with a statement about a personal goal; this will be followed by a list of your most significant accomplishments. A Résumé tends to be targeted for a specific prospective employer and it may not represent your complete history. Naturally, a Résumé tends to be much shorter in length than a C.V..

An easy way to ensure that you are on the right track, when preparing your Résumé, is to ask the following question: “Would my prospective employer be looking for this kind of qualification or skill?” Your answer should show your prospective employer that your qualifications, skills and background information make you the best person for the job.

Whether or not you are preparing a C.V. or Résumé, there is one universal truth: you must be honest. Do not create false credentials or skills that you cannot back up when asked to do so.

Nowadays, it is now quite common for prospective employers to accept applications for jobs electronically. Though the basic points highlighted above remain, you may need to modify a few details of your job application when applying via the internet. For instance, your prospective employer may insist that you submit your form in a specific file format such as Microsoft Word, PDF or even HTML. Take note that when using the latter two formats, your contact details may be made available to a lot of people. As such, the email address you provide may expose you to the threat of receiving spam.

Part 2 – Compiling your portfolio

This part includes presenting samples of your previous work to your prospective employer. It is especially important in jobs which require ‘creative input’ such as writing, computer programming, fashion and design. These samples allow a prospective employer to analyse and determine whether your skills and talents are what he or she is looking for. Keep the following tips in mind when preparing your portfolio:

  • Submit samples of your best work. If you cannot decide which work is your best, then submit your favourite samples. Always provide a minimum of three samples for your prospective employer to look at.
  • If you are applying for a job in a rival company, you may be prohibited from including work that you have done for your present company. In such a situation, create something new that you think you would like to expand on in your new place of employment.
  • Do not submit irrelevant samples. For instance, do not send copies of poems you’ve written if you’re seeking a job in a fashion house.

Part 3 – Prepare a proper cover letter

A cover letter is never longer than a single page. It is an introduction to who you are, why you are applying for the job and why you think you’re the best person for the job. Here are a few tips to help you write an effective cover letter:

  • Use formal, white paper.
  • Use normal font such as Times New Roman (size 12) or Arial (size 10).
  • Highlight your most relevant qualification or experience for this job and invite the prospective employer to look at your C.V. or Résumé.
  • Be direct, precise and concise.

If you have done all of the above, you will know that you have done your very best to apply for the job. At the very least, when you receive that telephone call offering you the job or calling you for an interview, you will have that inner confidence knowing that you have compiled a ‘perfect’ job application. With a little bit of luck, the job you seek will be yours in no time at all.

This article was first published on

Aneeta Sundararaj can be contacted by sending an email to

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