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Applying for a Position

Selection committees scan job applications, and the CV if it is asked for, to select a short list of candidates for interview. It is the content that is important. Readers are annoyed at superficial attempts to gain attention by using brightly coloured paper, employing highly decorated formats, and including a photograph of yourself. Such applications are usually the first to hit the rubbish bin.

It is wise to assume that your prospective employers will perform an internet search on your name. So be mindful that anything you post online, including within social media, should present you in a positive light. Ensure that any material that is available on the web supports the material contained in your application.

The position statement

The position statement indicates what the job involves, the skills and abilities that are required, daily duties and hours of work, and participation in rosters. Read this material carefully because it will indicate the importance of the selection criteria and the context for the application of your skills and attributes. The first page of your application must clearly indicate any specific requirements, e.g. formal qualifications, medical registration, driver's licence etc.

Selection criteria

Most employers ask applicants to address certain selection criteria. These criteria will indicate the required skills, experience, qualifications and attributes. You may not need to address selection criteria early in your career, but you should nevertheless attempt to do so. It is a useful skill.

Have a structured response for each of the selection criteria. Start with a brief paragraph that outlines how you meet the criterion. Spend time pondering the keywords in each criterion. Then provide specific examples using the CAR model (Context / Action / Result). If possible, either quantify the outcome or indicate if it was compliant with external standards. Finally, indicate any issues related to the transferability of these skills to the new position.

Know the difference between terms such as ‘ability to’ (having the skills), ‘knowledge of’ (familiar with from experience), and ‘understanding’ (full comprehension). Your response must indicate an understanding of these terms. Use of the phrase ‘demonstrated ability’ means that you need to convince them that you have the abilities by citing several important examples. Be concise and try to limit each response to between 250 and 300 words. Mimic the language used in the position statement.

Referees

You will probably be asked to provide the names of several referees. You need the best possible advocates, so choose them with care. You need their agreement before listing them as a referee – if you are uncertain, ask them if they will support your application. The selection committee may not contact the referees until they have selected a preferred candidate, or are trying to decide between two candidates.

It is a good idea to provide them with a copy of the advertisement, position description, and your CV, so that they can provide the most relevant responses to questions.

Provide the selection committee with each referee's name, address, email address, fax number, preferred telephone number, and information on the nature of your working relationship.

The cover letter

List the position title and reference number at the start of your cover letter. Provide a brief overview of the experience, skills, and attributes that make you suitable for the position. Clearly list all of your contact details.

The application

Follow instructions to the letter. The information in your application will determine whether or not you are short-listed for an interview. Your application should contain:
● a cover letter,
● your response to the selection criteria, and
● your CV.
Aim for consistency in style and format. Do a final check for spelling, punctuation, grammar and typing errors. Show your application to others for advice. Make sure that your application arrives before the closing date.

Additional information

Online resources:

Understanding the selection critera (Seek)

Junior doctor sample cover letter (Career FAQs)

Writing a winning cover letter (The Doctor Job)

Effective cover letter writing (Tuft University School of Medicine)

Books:

The Perfect Cover Letter by Richard H. Beatty

Winning Cover Letters by Robin Ryan

Cover Letters by Taunee S. Besson

Cover Letters for Dummies by Joyce Lain Kennedy

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