5 tips to get your job application past first base

I was asked yesterday, “What are you looking for in a job applicant.” My answer was surprisingly simple. “Someone who can spell, punctuate and use grammar correctly.” That is my number one way of weeding out job applications when I’m looking for new staff.

Here’s my 5 tips to get your job application past first base:

Have Perfect Spelling and Grammar

I require my staff to communicate clearly and succinctly to clients and other staff. We write words that will be seen on drawings, in reports, emails, letters and sms. We do this in a fast pace environment where our clients expect an answer in minutes, hours or days depending on the situation. If you can’t get the spelling and grammar correct in a cover letter and resume that you have countless hours to create then you’re not going to fit into our organisation.

Get your spelling and grammar perfect.

  • Read and reread your cover letter and resume.
  • Get a friend to check spelling and grammar.
  • Watch out for autocorrect. Is every word the correct word?
  • Keep sentences succinct. Don’t overuse big words.

Always Prepare a Job-Specific Cover Letter

The job boards make it easy to send off a resume to every job listing with a couple of clicks. No need to check the requirements of the job, location or skills required right?


To get past first base with your job application you need to tailor your application to the job. I still adjust my resume for every job so that it better suits the project I am quoting. A cover letter is an easy way to make a good first impression, show that you are serious about your application and tailor your application to the specific job you are applying for.

Weeding out job applicants that don’t even bother sending a job specific cover letter is my number two way of reducing the pile of applications in front of me.

  • Add a cover letter to every job application that you send out.
  • Make the cover letter specific to the job.
  • For bonus points, find out the name of the person screening the resumes and address the cover letter to them.

Answer This One Important Question

“How does hiring YOU help the business meet its goals?”

A bushes that writes an advertisement for an employee, pays to list it on the job boards and then screens and reads the job applications that come in is looking for something. They need a person to fill a role to meet their own requirements.

If that business is a company, maybe they are hiring to help make them more money, free up their time, improve customer service or make their business safer. If that busines is a not for profit, they might be hiring to fill a skill gap or to help more people.

  • Identify how hiring you will help the advertiser. Express that one simple idea in your cover letter in a sentence.
  • Explain how your skills fit the job profile.
  • Promote your relevant experience and how it will help the advertiser meet their goals.

Keep your Resume Succint

Too many cover letters and resumes are too long. A good cover letter is specific, succinct and easy to read. A good resume highlights your relevant experience, skills and personal attributes.

The cover letter should be no longer than one page.

A resume should be no longer than two pages.

  • Edit, massage and delete anything that does not fit. Keep the wording easy to read by using a clear font (I can’t go past the Arial font).
  • Use headings in a resume to set out sections for personal details, qualifications, experience, life goals and referral information.

Find One Way to Stand Out from the Crowd

Include just one thing in your resume or cover letter to help you stand out. Make it relevant to the job and personal.

If you’re applying for a job where your appearance is special and relevant include a photo of your face.

If you’re applying for a job as a drafter, include one or two plans you have prepared.

If you’re applying for a job in a bank, include one relevant qualification certificate at the. back of your resume PDF.

If you’re applying for a job as an engineer, attach one extra page to your resume PDF with a hand written note explaining why this item was important to you. It could be a site photo, a title page from a report, or an interesting article from the web.

My 5 Tips for Your Job Application

These are my 5 tips to help your next job application get you past first base. Good luck. Comment with your experiences and successes. Do you agree with my ideas?

Matt Cornell

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