You‟ve found the job or course that you want to apply for. Now it‟s time to market yourself successfully and maximise your chance of obtaining that all-important interview. This Information Leaflet gives a brief guide on how to put together great applications. For more detailed help, have a look at the Getting a Job section of our website, Research and target! Carefully tailoring your application to the organisations that you are applying to is far more likely to be successful than firing off many nearidentical applications. Research the organisation thoroughly, and use the information you gain. Demonstrate your understanding of the job, the employer and the sector in which it operates in your application, and allow your motivation and interest to come through. Research the organisation and sector at the Careers Service  Employer (red) Files and Career Briefings.  Oxford Careers Network – there may already be an Oxford graduate working for the employer, whose brains you can pick. Use the online database to get contact details and read what they have to say about their job, and perhaps contact them personally, Elsewhere  Employers‟ websites – read them!  Annual Reports – some are published on employer websites, some are held on file at the Careers Service, others you will need to request from the organisation itself.  The online LexisNexis news service is a useful way of researching companies and accessing recent press reports. Access via with Oxford Single Sign-on.  is a five-day international news archive, available free of charge. Useful if you are away from Oxford and cannot use LexisNexis. Searches 6,000 news services.  Attend presentations. Many recruiters visit Oxford in Michaelmas Term – don‟t just go and listen; talk to them afterwards. See the What‟s On section of our website for details; log in to the password-protected area of the website. Read the AGCAS Industry Insights, .

Work out what they are looking for … take stock of your skills and experience Analyse the vacancy information and other employer literature to discover the skills, competencies and experience required for the job. Make sure that your application contains evidence that you have these qualities (or at least the potential to acquire them!). A useful tactic is to list their requirements, and jot down which areas of your life provide evidence that you meet each requirement. Keep this to hand when you are completing your application, and make sure that you have everything covered.

The OXFORD Effect
There is no doubt that an Oxford education is appealing to many employers. They will assume that you are academically gifted, with excellent A-level scores. Don‟t forget also to highlight the other benefits your time at Oxford has given you: The tutorial system:  Ability to see both sides of an argument  Thinking on your feet  Explaining your views to others  Presenting information  Coping with pressure Personal study:  Time management  Research skills  Analytical and critical thinking  Identifying key points  Summarising/synthesising information  Structuring arguments Oxford also presents a wealth of opportunity to get involved in college societies and to take on positions of responsibility – all potentially application-enhancing.


Addresses – this needs to be clear, but can be compact. Give your term and vacation Education addresses.

Make your name stand out – you don’t need to write “curriculum vitae”.

One or two full sides, printed on to good quality paper.

Date of birth is now optional due to recent anti-age legislation. Any academic awards could go here. Put in grades or expected grades, if available. Add course detail, if relevant. There’s no need to list all those GCSE subjects and grades, unless specifically requested or really relevant. A good place to give evidence of the required competences. Others may come with your degree details or interests. Use bullet points, and emphasise your achievements/ responsibilities, not just the activity. Avoid just listing skills – let your description speak for itself. Give an indication of your level of skill, eg “working knowledge, basic, fluent”, etc.

Charlotte Brown
57 Worthington Road, Northampton, NN3 1KL 0794728562 Nationality: UK DOB: 24.01.84

Font – stick to one clear font throughout (eg Arial, Times New Roman); 11pt minimum for main text. Start with the most recent. Emphasise the most relevant aspects of your experience.


University of Oxford MEarthSci Earth Sciences Independent Fieldwork Project. Six weeks mapping an area of 15 sq kms in the Cantabrian Mountains, Northern Spain. Masters Project. Laboratory based. Northampton High School A levels: Geography A, Maths A, Physics A. GCSEs: 8 at A*, 2 at A, including Maths and English.

Work Experience
Summer 2006 Finance Department, Quest International, Ashford, Kent.  Processed invoices, analysed data and dealt with both customers and suppliers.  Researched and prepared response for the United Nations Claims Commission. Quest is currently pursuing a claim with regard to lost revenue due to the Iraqi conflict.  Updated Expenses Database, redesigned and tested new Expense Claim form. Gap Year placement with Shires Aggregates  Testing and sampling aggregates used in highways.  Liaised with site engineers to solve technical problems.


Other possible headings are Relevant Experience, Employment History, Positions of Responsibility. Use what suits you best. Referees – not “references”! Ask them first, and send them a copy of your application.

Positions of responsibility
2005-2006 President of the Oxford Geology Society, Geolsoc.  Led a committee responsible for organising seminars, speakers and social events.  Responsible for budget allocation.

Additional skills
Languages: IT Skills: French, good written and spoken; Spanish, basic knowledge. Proficient at MS Office applications and internet use.

Interests & activities
Travelling: Music: During my gap year I travelled extensively in the Far East. My degree has given me opportunities for travel in Europe. Lead alto sax player and founding member of Mertz Swing Band  play at local venues, weddings and other social events.  European Tour 2004.

Dr Jo Bloggs, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3PR. Tel. 01865 2771234 Dr Ellie Phant, Quest International, Ashford, Kent AF4 2RH Tel. 01234 546831

Your unique document – there are no rules about the headings you must use. Choose headings
that best display your relevant experience and skills to the potential employer. Here are some ideas … Describing your experience: Other possible headings: (can include paid, unpaid, work with student societies … ): Education Work experience Qualifications Employment history Scholarships, Awards Relevant experience Publications, Presentations Positions of responsibility Conferences/courses attended Teaching/research/publishing/media/legal, etc, experience Interests & activities Other experience Additional skills Voluntary work Languages, IT

CVs – International
International students applying in the UK Non-UK qualifications If your educational system is different from that of the UK (1st,2nd,3rd-class degrees, A-levels and GCSEs), you will need to help an employer understand what your qualifications mean. The British Council Office in your home country (access via may be able to help, and the NARIC ( can provide formal equivalence documentation.
Boston University, USA BA in Political Science Grade Point Average (GPA) 3.75 out of max 4.0 680 on GMAT (top 5%) International Baccalaureate Diploma Total Points: 41 (out of 42) Higher: Maths (6), Ancient Greek (7), German (7) Standard: English Lit (7), Physics (7), Economics (7) Technische Universität Berlin Mathematics (equivalent to BA level) “Diplomvorprüfung” Final results: Very good (1.3)




CVs – Postgraduates
The advice given in this Information Leaflet is relevant to postgraduates as well as undergraduates. However, presenting two (or more) degrees in a way that maximises the impact of your experience while addressing any concerns that a potential employer may have can be challenging. For some roles (eg academia) a higher degree is virtually essential. You may need to include further sections (eg publications, conferences attended, research proposals). For other sectors you must adapt your CV to meet with the interests of the employer, drawing on the extensive transferable skills you will have gained from your extra study. Have a look at the excellent Vitae website for more advice for doctoral researchers and research staff on presenting your skills and achievements on a CV, Employer-friendly transferable skills typically developed by DPhil students: project management goal-setting prioritisation time management data management recording and presenting information self-reliance creativity and innovation self-discipline self-motivation teamwork instructing, training report writing presenting networking Demonstrating ‘commercial awareness’
Include any experience of budget management, fundraising, work outside of academia (from organising department/college events or society treasurer positions to bar work). Emphasise any involvement in grant proposals, budgeting for equipment/fieldwork/resources, etc. Talk the talk – research the market that the employer operates in, who their customers/ clients/competitors are and any recent initiatives they have been involved in, so that you can talk their language. Think about joining societies with a business focus (eg OU Entrepreneurs). Look out for business courses, eg at the Said Business School or through community education.

Work Permit status Employers find it useful to know about your eligibility to work in the UK. Give them your nationality, and if you already have the right to work in the UK, then say so. Nationality: French & US dual nationality (with right to work throughout the EEA) Nationality: Canadian (eligible to work in UK under TWES scheme) Nationality: Indian & British (by marriage) Nationality: Chinese (work permit required) Applications outside the UK Styles of CV vary greatly from country to country. Consult The Global Resume Guide (Mary Anne Thompson, Wiley & Sons, 2000), available for reference at the Careers Service, or the country-specific information at (Jobs and work > Explore working and studying abroad). For more information about styles across Europe, see the career planning area of There are often changes to the rules affecting international students and recent graduates wishing to work in the UK. It is recommended that you check with UKCISA: The UK Council for

Covering Letters
A CV should always be accompanied by a covering letter; this might form the text of your email, if you are sending your CV as an email attachment. The letter is usually the first thing that a recruiter will read, and a poor letter is likely to send your application whizzing on to the reject pile! Make your letter complement your CV – use it to highlight your relevant strengths. Set it out like a business letter 14 Bay Tree Road Don‟t exceed one side in length Write to a named person and keep a copy The opening paragraph Explain why you are writing Say where you saw the advert Introduce yourself Why this job/organisation? Explain why you are interested Tailor it carefully Demonstrate some knowledge of the organisation Avoid repeating text from their publicity information Why you? Use this paragraph to explain why you are well suited to the post Refer to relevant skills, experience and knowledge Don‟t just repeat your CV Give evidence for your claims Tailor it! The ending Reiterate your desire to join them Add a “look forward to hearing from you”-type statement Don‟t forget to sign it! Get it checked! Ask a friend to read it through, and if English is not your first language, ask a native English speaker to check your grammar. The Duty Adviser at the Careers Service can give you feedback on the content and structure of your CV, and advise on how best to target particular sectors.
Birmingham B23 6TY Ms Gill Cooper OxiAID Carstairs Street London W12 6YG Dear Ms Cooper I wish to apply for the post of Fundraising Officer, which I saw advertised on the Oxford University Careers Service website. I am in my final year at Oxford University, studying Mathematics. I have a long-standing interest in charity work, and believe that I have the qualities and experience required to be a successful fundraiser. My enthusiasm for pursuing a career in this area stems from my interest in working with disadvantaged young people, and my desire to make full use of my skills in motivating people to make a difference. OxiAID has established its credentials working in some of the most challenging areas of social aid, and the government funding recently awarded to the organisation is recognition of the success of its philosophy. After my experiences with Jacari, I am attracted by the opportunity to help other young people and to develop my fundraising skills in such an environment. Motivating people to work with me towards a common, worthwhile goal is something that I find hugely enjoyable and rewarding. As Marketing and Publicity Officer for the College Ball last year I was extremely pleased that we had more applicants for tickets than ever before. I believe that the marketing pack that I put together for potential sponsors played its part in attracting record levels of sponsorship. One of the most rewarding aspects of being at Oxford has been the work I have done with Jacari. During my time on the committee the number of volunteers involved in the project has increased by 50%, and I have enjoyed both the challenge of raising the profile of the society and my work with young people themselves. One of the aspects of voluntary work that particularly appeals to me is the spirit of teamwork that often accompanies it. This spirit has also been apparent on the working holidays that I have been on with the National Trust and English Heritage. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you, and look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely Joseph Williams

10 November 2006

Success is more likely if you can bring in the name of your referrer, eg "Mr/Ms Y has suggested my getting in touch with you", because your contact will want to continue to be seen well by his/her old friend or important business contact, Y.
“I am writing to enquire if you have any fundraising vacancies in your company, for which I could be considered. I have a long-standing interest in charity work, and believe that I have the qualities and experience required to be successful in this area.” “Stuart Exmouth of Buckell & Ballard suggested that I write to you. Having completed the second year of my course at Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, I am interested in training as a chartered surveyor, when I graduate in 200-. I would like, if possible, to pay a brief visit to your firm during the summer to find out more about the work and to obtain your advice.”

Speculative applications
You want to work in a particular sector, but no jobs are advertised? A common approach is to put together a speculative application (usually CV and covering letter), carefully tailored to the organisation(s) you are interested in. Follow the guidelines about CVs and covering letters given in this handout, and modify the first paragraph to reflect the speculative nature of your enquiry.

Application forms – paper and online
There has been a dramatic shift towards online recruitment. Web-based forms usually have the same content as those on paper, and the following guidelines can be used for both. The questions on application forms can broadly be divided into two main types – those that seek straightforward factual information (name, qualifications, etc) and those that seek to analyse whether you have the appropriate qualities. The analytical questions are usually the trickier to answer successfully. Why do they ask such tricky questions? Employers will use analytical questions to find out whether: you have the personal qualities and skills required you understand yourself, and are able to look at yourself critically you are able to identify where you and the job or organisation are a good match Employers ask these questions for a reason – try to work out what it is in each case. Go back to the list of the competencies they are looking for, and read the questions with these in mind. Tackling tricky questions The old cliché that there are no right or wrong answers is true, but there are certainly good and poor answers. Use the following guidelines to ensure that your answers are as good as possible: Don‟t give generalised answers. Give specific examples and evidence. Answer the question that the recruiter has asked, not the question you„d like. Vary your use of examples, and draw them from different areas of your life. Use your most recent experiences and achievements where possible. Keep within any word limit given. When it’s completed … Get it checked – bring it along to a Duty Adviser at the Careers Service. Keep a copy. Examples Identify the qualities you possess which make you suitable for a career in … You must reassure the selector that you have given your choice of career careful thought and made a match between you and the job. Give details of your main extracurricular interests, what you have contributed and what you have got out of them Here you can give evidence of how you have used opportunities to develop relevant skills. Avoid just listing your interests, but provide evidence of your competence in areas such as teamwork, time management and so on. Give an example of when you set yourself a demanding goal and overcame obstacles to achieve it Concentrate on the process rather than a long description. Briefly describe the goal, then analyse the steps you took to reach it. If you can give a specific measure of your success, then do (eg increasing the membership of a society, raising money for charity). Provide evidence for skills you have developed as a result. Perfecting your paper application form Photocopy the form to draft your answers. Use black ink (unless instructed otherwise). Keep it neat and tidy – make sure lines of writing are horizontal. Use bullet points, concise sentences and action words, and check your spelling. Plan out the space. Writing that gets smaller and smaller to fit in your answer does not convey your brilliant organisational skills. Remember to sign it, and send the right form to the right employer! Tips for a frustration-free online experience Follow instructions carefully. If possible, download the form, and print off a paper copy on which to draft your answers. Save it frequently! Pay attention to the layout of your answers – many recruiters will print out a copy. Be extra-careful with spelling – if you rely on a spell-checker (UK not USA!), type answers into a Word document, and paste them on to the form. Check you‟ve provided a working email address, that you check regularly. Use a sensible username – bigpinkfluff@ might not convey the image you would like a prospective employer to have! Don‟t submit the form until you are happy with it (obviously).

Action words for applications
Descriptions of your activities are often more effective if they start with a verb in the past tense. Accomplished Achieved Administered Advised Advocated Analysed Arbitrated Assembled Assimilated Assisted Audited Authorised Balanced Briefed Budgeted Captained Clarified Classified Coached Communicated Completed Conducted Conserved Consolidated Consulted Convinced Co-ordinated Counselled Created Dealt Debated Decided Delegated Delivered Demonstrated Designed Determined Developed Devised Directed Discovered Disproved Distributed Drew up Earned Edited Elected Eliminated Employed Enabled Encouraged Engineered Enjoyed Ensured Established Evaluated Examined Expanded Explained Explored Facilitated Forecast Formulated Fostered Founded Functioned Gained Galvanised Gathered Generated Handled Heightened Highlighted Identified Implemented Improved Increased Initiated Instituted Instructed Interpreted Interviewed Invented Launched Lectured Located Maintained Managed Marketed Maximised Mediated Modifed Motivated Navigated Negotiated Obtained Operated Organised Oversaw Participated Performed Planned Prepared Presented Prevailed Prioritised Processed Produced Promoted Raised Ran Realised Received Recognised Recommended Reconciled Recruited Reduced Represented Researched Reviewed Revised Saved Scheduled Set up Simplified Solved Supervised Targeted Transformed Translated Wrote

Expanding your list of personal skills
Look through the list below in the light of study, work experience, activities and interests - you may find that you have acquired these skills without even realising it!
Advising individuals Arranging social events Calculating numerical data Chairing meetings Checking for accuracy Classifying records Coaching individuals Compiling figures Computer programming Constructing buildings Co-ordinating events Counselling people Customer correspondence Delegating responsibility Dispensing information Drafting reports Editing documents Handling complaints Inspecting Interpreting data Interviewing Maintaining records Managing staff Mediating between people Motivating others Operating equipment Organising people & work Persuading others Planning agendas Preparing charts/diagrams Promoting events Public speaking Raising funds Recording data Reviewing Selling products Setting up demonstrations Supervising staff/activities Teaching

Further resources
There are a great many resources available that cover the areas of CVs and applications. Resource Centre - take-away leaflets and sheets, reference files on all aspects of applications, reference books and videos. On the Careers Service website > Getting a Job > Applications > Types of Application The Graduate Prospects website –

The Careers Service also subscribes to the following websites, available from CareerConnect, the password-protected area of the website: WetFeet (access via Single Sign-on only) for company and industry profiles and career-related resources Going Global for worldwide job openings, internships, industry profiles and countryspecific career information EXODUS (access via Single Sign-on only) Careers Europe for European and international careers information
© Oxford University Careers Service October 2009
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