If the thought of going to work each day makes you long to curl up in bed with the flu, or you have no job to go to and your bank balance is dwindling at an alarming speed, it is tempting to fire off applications to every position within travelling distance, whether you are qualified or not.


In the current economy most positions have several applicants, and hiring managers are quick to set aside applications that are sloppily presented, and those where the applicant does not meet the criteria. You do not want people in the Personnel Department to recognize your name and automatically discard your application because they have already seen it in relation to so many other positions for which you were totally unqualified.

Before you even start to read job advertisements it is good to start with an inventory of your own skills, interests and qualifications from which you can put together a profile of yourself called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your initial list should be as comprehensive as possible and can include all your educational achievements, any courses you may have done, your current responsibilities at home and work, the skills demanded by your hobbies and other interests, and anything that you are especially passionate about. From this list you can compile your profile for the USP.

Once you have your list, and the USP it is time to start looking at available jobs. You need to consider how far you are willing to travel to work, and whether you are willing to relocate so that you can narrow the geographic location of positions you apply to. Read the descriptions more carefully than the job titles because now that you have a comprehensive list of your current skills and responsibilities you may find that these are used in positions you hadn't previously considered. For example, if you have been involved in retail sales you may find a position in business sales for which you are qualified even though you hadn't thought of that before.

I hate to be depressing, but I want to remind you again that in the current economic climate the employer has plenty of choice, don't waste your time or theirs applying for jobs that you are not qualified to do.

As you go through the available positions and read the descriptions, consider them in these three categories:-

  1. Jobs that you are over-qualified for (too senior);
  2. Jobs that you are almost qualified for (ie. They have listed five key areas and you match perfectly in four of them, but the last is a stretch);
  3. Jobs that you match perfectly.

Hopefully there will be some in each category, if there aren't any then take a walk, play with your kids, and consider upgrading your skills if it keeps happening. If you have found some choose the top three to five (depending on how much time you have available) and get to work on putting together the most professional application you are capable of for each one.

You will want to do some research into the company you are applying to from their website or other resources so that you can address your application to a specific person if possible, and so that you can get a feel for their style of management. This will help you to target your cover letter to their needs, and decide what aspects to emphasize. Sometimes you will see the same position readvertised at intervals - these are generally not a good bet, so if you have applied once, don't bother again unless there are no other suitable positions. Usually these positions are either waiting on the economy to improve, or put out by companies which are being reorganized and actually have internal candidates whom they are considering. It may be worth calling to ask about the position if you really feel that you are qualified, but don't waste your time on another application unless you are encouraged to do so.

An excellent application will take between six to eight hours to compile assuming that you already have your USP compiled to help you. You will need to do some research into the company, carefully consider the skills and other criteria they are asking for, tweaking your Resume to better reflect your suitability, and carefully composing your Cover Letter as well as providing any other documentation that is requested. Once you believe that everything is ready you should check for errors, and then check again very carefully. I cannot tell you how many poorly presented, error-filled applications have ended up in the trash without a second look. Most companies are not interested in employees who cannot even be bothered completing their applications carefully.

It is better to submit fewer applications that are carefully targeted and perfectly presented, than to scatter them far and wide in the hope that sheer quantity will lead to a job offer. If you do not meet the criteria, you are unlikely to be called for an interview and will have wasted your own time with the application.