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How do I start my job application?

With strict procedures of preparation to adhere to and a presumably low tolerance for errors, the way to approach a job application is almost ‘liturgical’ to many especially for people of our age. However, the standard ritual, at least to me, is rigid and does not lead to proportionate mental preparation for the challenges to come.

The handling of one’s CV and cover letter is only the first of many mountains to climb, and people often do not even have the slightest clue of the ordeals that they will be facing after the initial screening when applying for a job. This is especially true when one employs the ‘cluster bomb’ application technique – sending out generic applications as much as possible without knowing what’s to come, and if successful, adapt along the way. Whilst gaining a probabilistic advantage by splattering and sprinkling applications across the job landscape, what one lacks is the depth of understanding – a trade-off that I’m not willing to make.

I always tackle my application by doing these prior to anything else (even before tailoring my CV and cover letter!):

1. Research and digest the whole application route for mental preparation and strategising

2. Digging out the interview, test and case study questions from the internet and prematurely preparing them

Especially for the second point, it allows to me measure my own competency against an appropriate reference point instead of something arbitrary before going deeper into the application itself. Understanding my own competency with regards to the role/organisation that I’m aiming for helps me to eliminate any wishful thinking/naïve presumptions that I make to illegitimately consolidate my own competitiveness. Plus, this also helps me to strategically map out the areas that I’ll have to work on if I decide to try out the application.

The downside to this is that it tends to make me pessimistic and significantly raises the mental barrier that I have to overcome to press the submit button. My experience – the will to try is always a wrestling match between my tendency to be over-confident and to be realistic. All being said, although everyone’s balance is unique on this matter, one must always try to move around this equilibrium to suit the current job search market – as in be appropriately courageous/adventurous and substantially realistic, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone!

As always, digging information from the internet is tiresome and restrictive at times owing to payment barriers. Additionally, analysing the plethora of information mined from the net can drastically expand one’s preparation workload - not to mention that the net is laden with useless fake/generic information. My approach is always to firstly categorise information into groups, primarily generic (like standard strength-/competency-based questions that you probably already have an answer template in hand) and unique (questions that are unique to the role/organisation).

Further, cluster the generic questions into sub-groups (questions that can share the same answering points) to eliminate volume. Next, try to answer the unique questions to the best of your ability to grasp the nature of the role/organisation. With the ‘taste’ of the organisation in hand, try to integrate what the role/organisation wants into the answers of the generic sub-clusters. This is a systemic method that can provide you with a holistic view of the role/organisation. Hence, you can now gauge your own competitiveness and make strategic plans on how to approach the application if you decide to proceed with it.

That’s all for this month, thank you for reading and I hope it’ll help you out with your future applications!