In the second of our ‘How to’ series, we asked Sarah Peñaluna, Families Employment Advisor at Forces Employment Charity, for some tips on application forms and covering letters…

I need to complete an application form, what are the do’s and don’ts?

Do use an up-to-date version of your CV to help build your application.

Do write an offline draft first that you can use to check for errors before you submit online.

Don’t get halfway through an online application and then come back later. You run the risk of losing what you’ve already started.

Do try and answer every question and, if something is not applicable, say so, rather than leaving it blank.

Do answer as succinctly as possible.

Don’t give generic answers, as applicant tracking systems are used to shortlist applications, so tailoring the relevant skills and qualities, key phrases and words to your answers is imperative.

Don’t proofread it yourself, ask someone else to check it as well.

Don’t forget to keep a saved copy of your offline draft so you can refer back to it if you are invited for interview.

What should I include in my covering letter?

Covering letters should include detail of how your skill set aligns with the role, what you can bring to the team and why you want the position. It’s important that this is authentic, so always research the company and role before you write it. It can be useful to structure your cover letter in four parts:

1. The grab – This is your opening statement and your chance to grasp the reader’s attention.

2. The hook – Highlights your relevant experience, including results achieved.

3. Suitability for the role – Showcase your knowledge of the company by outlining:

  • why you’re suitable for the job;
  • what attracted you to the role;
  • why you’re interested in working for the company;
  • what you can offer the organisation.

4. Closing statement – Summarise what you would bring to the position. Reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for an interview.

General tips:

  • Address the letter correctly;
  • Include a relevant reference number or job title;
  • Keep the letter to one page.

Should I say that I am a military spouse/partner?

This depends on whether it’s related to the job or organisation. If the job is with an armed forces-friendly employer or organisation, make sure to identify yourself as a military spouse in your cover letter.

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