Mastering job applications

Published: 21-02-2024

Read time: 12 minutes

Tags: accessibility careers

Today’s post will cover applying for accessibility jobs, but my advice will be helpful when applying for any job. I am a hiring manager, and just this week, I have sifted a lot of applications for a senior role. Recruiting is always frustrating for me because so many great people don’t make the cut. This blog post will cover why, and provide you some tips to master your next job application.

Understanding how your application is scored

I’ve been a hiring manager at four companies, and all four have used a similar system to score candidates’ suitability for a role. Usually, scoring is based on your job history and your cover letter or supporting information. We have (and shouldn’t have) no leeway regarding the scoring criteria.

You’ll usually get points for demonstrating that you meet the essential and desirable criteria. Scoring systems are different from place to place, but they are usually something like this:

  1. doesn’t meet the requirement (one point)
  2. somewhat meets the requirement (two points)
  3. meets the requirement (three points)
  4. exceeds the requirement (four points)
  5. greatly exceeds the requirement (five points)

So, let’s say the job you’re applying for has six ‘essential skills’ and eight ‘desirable skills’. If the perfect application comes in, they could score seventy points. I’ve never had anyone score top marks (and likely never will), and usually, depending on how many people have applied, the threshold for an interview could be people who score fifty or above.

Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand why it’s vital for the recruiter to know how you meet the essential and desirable criteria. You can discuss your experience and how it aligns with those criteria in your supporting information or cover letter.

Understanding the supporting information or cover letter

The number of applications I needed to reject because the candidate only had one or two sentences in their supporting information or cover letter is astounding. Sometimes, I’ll read through the job history and think they’d be ideal, only not to be able to score them because of a poor cover letter or supporting information.

Your cover letter or supporting information should complement your resume by providing additional context and insight on why you’re the perfect candidate for the role. Usually, you’ll have around one thousand words to get this across.

The importance of structure

Refer back to the essential and desirable criteria and think about a few real examples that you can use that best showcase how you meet them. Use the situation, task, action and result (STAR) or challenge, action, result (CAR) methods. STAR or CAR is also instrumental if you get an interview.

Other things to consider

Here are some more tips to help you write a great cover letter. The list isn’t exhaustive, but they’ll definitely help!

Format your text so it’s easy for me to read

I’ve had many an application that wasn’t formatted into paragraphs or sections. My ADHD brain does not want to read a thousand words in one paragraph. Some roles could have hundreds of applicants. It can be mentally fatiguing, especially when I have to try to focus on huge blocks of text.

Stop using acronyms

I’ve lost count of how often people have used multiple acronyms in examples, leading to me not knowing what they’re talking about. This will often lead to a lower score because I’m sat scratching my head, wondering what it is you’re talking about.

I’m less interested in your brilliant vocabulary and more interested in your brilliant work

A common thing I’ve seen is people using the most complex language imaginable. I shouldn’t have to Google the long words you’re using. Please keep it simple. We’ll never score your vocabulary, only your great work.

You can’t see the forest for the trees

This one is specific to accessibility roles. A lot of people are focusing their cover letters on low-level technical details. It’s great that you know the technical stuff, but very rarely do people talk about the users and the impact our work has on real people.

We want to know why you want to work in accessibility and why you’re passionate about it. A bit about you, what led you here? As a recruiting manager, I want to know if you’ll fit into my team, not just that you’re super technical.

Follow instructions

If the job advert asks you not to disclose information that can identify you, then please don’t. This is for good reason and helps prevent any bias in the recruitment process. It protects you.

Don’t let big job descriptions put you off

Some job descriptions are massive and it could be enough to put you off applying. You should always still put your name into the hat, because nobody will ever have all of the essential and desireable criteria. For things you don’t have, you can position them as learning opportunities within your cover letter or personal statement. It’s absolutely fine to do this!

Wrapping up

I don’t know why how applicartions are scored isn’t common knowledge to candidates. It’s almost a bit of a secret, that, unless you’ve recruited someone before, you might not know about. Everyone gets a better experience if employers are up front about how it works in the background.

The latest jobs I’ve recruited for got a lot of applications. Putting the time and effort in to your cover letter or supporting information is super important to get you to the top of our list. Getting an interview can be difficult, but if you know the dance, you can pretty much guarantee one if you have the right experience.

It can be tempting to copy and paste if you’re applying for multiple jobs, but spending the time on your supporting information or cover letter is really important. It’ll likely be the difference between getting an interview or not.