Job Applications: Top Ten Tips!

We’ve developed these tips after reading literally hundreds of job applications over the years.
This advice applies to getting a job here at MoDA, but it’s equally applicable to getting a job elsewhere.
Most big employers have a standard process so if you understand the rules of the game it might make it easier to play next time.

Application - glasses - pen

1.Read the Job Description and Person Specification carefully. These things are not just thrown together! We think about every word and every requirement so we can be as clear as possible about what we want the post holder to do.

2.Understand what the application process is. Lots of employers use online systems these days, as it makes it easier for the shortlisting team to compare candidates fairly.

EXAMPLE: Middlesex University uses an online application system.  Please don’t send a CV instead: we will not read it.

3. Job adverts often include the details of a person you can contact about the job. Please only email that person if you have a sensible question about the job (eg hours, location, responsibilities etc).

EXAMPLE: Please do NOT ask for guidance on whether you should apply if you have this or that qualification. All the information you need about what we want is in the Job Description and Person Specification.  We can’t answer questions about YOU; it is up to you to convince us in your application that you fit the bill.

4. The questions we ask in the application form are intended to help us decide whether you meet the criteria laid out in the Person Specification. So when you are answering those questions, please refer back to the Person Specification to see what kind of evidence we might be looking for.

EXAMPLE: You might find it useful to use the S-T-A-R model (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to tell us what you did and what the outcome was.

5. Please try to make your answers as relevant as possible TO THIS JOB. We don’t need to know about everything you have ever done.  Only tell us about things that demonstrate you are the right candidate for the position we have advertised.

EXAMPLE: does the Person Specification mention working with children? Do we ask for circus skills? If not we don’t need to hear about all the great work you have done with school groups or unicycles (unless you can convince us that this experience would help you do this job).


6. We want to be inclusive. We are totally signed up to the idea that the museums profession needs to attract people from more diverse backgrounds. This is why we ask for “museum studies qualification or equivalent” as we don’t want the lack of an MA to be a barrier to potentially great candidates. But we can only go by what you put on the form!

EXAMPLE: If you do not have a museum studies qualification you need to convince us that your other experience puts you on an equal footing with someone who does.  Please tell us why this is the case.

7. We want you to succeed in life – we are nice people, and we are sure you are too. But our motive in advertising a job is that we have some tasks that need doing, and we need to find the right person to do them.

EXAMPLE : we don’t want to hear about why this job would be great for you, we need to hear why you would be the right person for this job.

8. Be kind to the shortlisting team. We realise that writing job applications is hard work. But believe us, so is reading them! We often have dozens of applications to assess and we want to be fair to everyone. Keep your answers short and to the point and relevant to the Person Specification (have we mentioned that already?)

EXAMPLE if you tell us about one or two relevant things, great! If you do this and then go on to give three more examples which are not relevant to the job our eyes may start to glaze over…


9. We have to use a scoring system. This is to ensure that we assess all candidates fairly against the criteria we have laid out, and not according to other random criteria like your name or what school you went to. (We only score against the questions- the rest of the form is just there for information). So when we read your answers we are trying to decide whether you 1) don’t meet the criteria at all 2) partially meet them 3) fully meet them 4) exceed them. Then we add all the scores up and rank them in order. In other words, it may be the case that you have met all the criteria but someone else just has a little bit more than you.

10. However great you are, there is still only one job.  We’re sorry to disappoint people who don’t get shortlisted, or who are unsuccessful at the interview.  Hopefully these tips will mean you have better luck next time.


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