Job applications for entry-level employees and mid-career workers typically emphasise different credentials, and these credentials are presented and discussed in different ways. This doesn’t usually surprise employers; in fact, they expect it. And a terrific, spot-on letter for a first-time job seeker will, and should, sound quite different to a letter for a position that requires three-to-five years of experience. Here are a few key tips for each.
- Emphasise your goals. Since you don’t have much of a professional history yet, it’s okay to focus on your goals instead of your accomplishments. Just make sure these goals are thoughtful, clearly expressed, and measured (as well as possible) against the needs of the company and the position.
- Succinctly list your most important accomplishments. Don’t go on and on, but do emphasise that you’ve had a few victories to your credit…because at this point, a list of victories isn’t something employers will expect, and it isn’t something most applicants will have.
- Never exaggerate. Of course you know better than to lie on a job application, but at the entry-level, even the smallest exaggerations are highly transparent—more transparent than young job seekers may realize. At this early stage in the process, experienced employers can easily identify claims that seem unrealistic.
- Make sure your first sentence is age-appropriate. Don’t redundantly introduce yourself (as in, “My name is…and I’m looking for work as a…) This is fine for a new grad who’s never applied for a job before, but for mid-level workers, this kind of naiveté isn’t becoming.
- Summarise your job history with two compelling sentences (three at the most), not a laundry list. Don’t just repeat your CV or recite an exhaustive list of positions you’ve held. Just explain your storyline quickly and move on.
- Focus on what you have to offer, not just on what you’ve done. Of course you’ve had plenty of victories at this stage, but what do these victories say about your readiness for this specific position?