Four Tips For a Successful Job Application


We’re often asked by new subscribers if we have any inside info on how to get a job in council. So, this post has some suggestions based on what we’ve learned from dealing with CouncilJobs advertisers and subscribers for almost 20 years.

  1. You get one chance to make a good first impression and that first opportunity is always your written application. To improve applicant suitability and save recruitment time, many councils have moved to a full online application process via an online ‘Portal’, where applicants respond to a template of questions and input fields with information specific to the job being recruited and it may seem that this strict format disadvantages applicants. Some councils, particularly smaller and regional ones, still invite applicants to submit their resume along with a cover letter either by email or post. Either way, these principles apply to both processes and you must think about how you will make your skills and experience stand out as being a good fit for council. Often it is your motivation for the job that the recruiter is looking to see and there are many ways to show this in writing, especially if you get someone else to review your application before you submit it. 

    2. You will often see words in the job ad like‘Applicants must address the essential and desired criteria’ – this is the most important element of the application process. You may have to look hard to find these two sets of criteria as they may be buried in a position description document on council’s website or in a similarly named document link from the job ad. In the rare case that a council does not use this terminology because they’re trying to seem more flexible, it won’t hurt your application to pretend that they have used it by responding as if they had. This will show that you understand how council recruitment normally works.a. The essential criteria is the most important of the two here. To get through to the interview shortlist, you must show how you meet or exceed every single item in the essential criteria list. Don’t embellish or write too much so that it looks like you’re not answering the points directly – ‘less is more’. Keep in mind that the person reviewing your application may have to read hundreds of other applications, so help yourself by helping them to easily tick the Essential criteria boxes. It is rare that one candidate stands out alone in a council’s assessment of answers to the essential criteria. b. The desired criteria section is your chance to shine as it’s where you can show what else you can bring to the job. Councils primarily use answers to the desired criteria to choose between candidates who may appear to have a similar fit to the essential criteria, so fill up your answers to the desired criteria with as much relevant content as possible and highlight where your skills and/or experience match or exceed the desired criteria. c. Do not falsify or embellish any part of your application as you will get found out – council recruiters do undertake reference checking, often including social media background checks, so it would be a waste of time to think you can get away with ‘fake news’.

    3. How you submit and follow up your application is as important as the application itself. For applications using an online ‘portal’, print out your responses to the template questions and input fields before you ‘submit’. Then have a friend check these in detail to ensure a. That you have fully answered each question or input field requested, b. That your answer is the best response you could make and c. That there are no simple typo’s or other errors.For Email or Posted applications, take extra care.  Many councils use strong junk email filters with the result that, unfortunately, many good applications never make it to the recruitment Inbox. So, a. Send your email from a reputable email server, b. Do not include graphics and/or HTML links in your email and 2. Save and send your application letter and resume as PDF attachments. Once you have sent your application, it is a good idea to follow-up within 1-2 days by phone to confirm it has been received. If you receive a proforma confirmation email from council that your application has been received, you can generally assume that all is ok, but sometimes attachments may still be lost. 

    4. Regardless of application method, ensure the reader knows why you want to work at council. Councils are always looking for applicants who share their values and who want to contribute to their community.  So, research council’s website for its history, values and latest news. Explore the section in the Job vacancies section of council’s website telling you more about council’s recruitment expectations and process. 

    Good luck in your quest to get your dream job with council. Imagine going to work and making a difference each day in the community where you and your family live. A career in council can be very meaningful and much more than a wage.