Practising your job applications- how do you do it?

By Charlotte Read

In an ideal world, if you had the relevant experience, you could send a job application listing all your experience, with no prior practice of making job applications, and be accepted into a job. Unfortunately, a lot of job applications require more nuance. They like candidates who can show a reflective writing style, or demonstrate good communication in their applications, or be able to show a real enthusiasm in the job role.

Achieving these in job applications requires practice. However, knowing where to start when practising job applications is difficult. If you have never applied for a job in your life, it’s a completely alien territory and so easy to feel clueless.

So where do you start? Why would you practise? Let’s dig in.

Why Practise?

Say that you’ve started dancing lessons, or started learning how to play an instrument, or picked up a sport. You can’t just do it once and then go on to perform, expecting yourself to be an expert. You have to practise. The same applies to practising your job applications and interviews.

When you come to start making applications for jobs, whether you are seeking out part-time work to support you while doing your degree, applying for placements, or even applying for graduate roles, you won’t be perfect at it right away. But there are many opportunities around York, as well as actions you can take on your own, to make a start on practising how to do job applications.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

Make a start!

The best way to start practising is to try it out in the first place. One step to help you start is to think about what would entice you to apply for the job role in the first place. Thinking about your own values is a good way to understand your motivations for applying for that job. For example, you could want a fast-paced job with a high starting wage and a company that offers hybrid working. Or you could want to work with that particular company because it’s a good fit with your morals. By thinking about what you like about that particular job role, it can help you when tailoring your CV or writing a cover letter, or planning for the best interview.

Another step to help you start is to look around for resources and templates to help you format parts of the job application like your CV and cover letter. Making sure it is formatted well in a neat and readable manner will give you a great starting point to just start trying out making job applications. There are also some great Careers Resources to help you make a start with whatever part of the job application that you’re struggling with.

A final tip is to make sure to reflect on yourself when writing your job applications. What have you got to offer? What experiences have you had that can be talked about in a cover letter, or an interview? It doesn’t have to be academic experiences, or even work experience. For example, if you’ve organised a match for a college sport, you can talk about your organisational skills, or how you communicated with others in order to bring them to your match. Make sure to talk about why you’re a good fit for the job by demonstrating your skills through reflective writing.

So now you can make a start! But how can you improve?

Get feedback

Careers and Placements offer many opportunities to get feedback in preparation for applying for jobs. One such opportunity is the York Award. It is available for both final year and penultimate year undergraduate students and postgraduate students. The York Award has a focus on practising reflective writing, it especially allows you to reflect on what you have done at York and how you have developed because of it. If you need more practice reflecting on yourself with some personalised feedback at the end on how to reflect more effectively for a job application, the York Award is the opportunity to do it!

Another opportunity for more immediate feedback is CareerSet, Handshake and the Careers Consultants. You can upload your CV or covering letter to CareerSet for initial feedback on how to improve it, as many times as you like. You can get further advice on improving a CV, or a cover letter, by uploading it to Handshake and messaging the Careers Information Team on Handshake to get feedback. The Careers Consultants can also assist with mock interviews and plan next steps if you’re unsure of your career directions.

By making a start and getting some feedback, you are a step closer to mastering your job applications!