SUSAN DARYA; The Do's and Dont's of Job Application

Susan Darya is an educationist, serving at the University of Nairobi in Education Administration and Management. She shares more on the basics of job seeking, mostly derived from her experience in staff management at the workplace.


In a competitive job market where everyone has the neccessary qualifications, setting yourself apart is the only way to get the job you desire. When a job opportunity is advertised, the prospective employer usually attaches a job description to it. This should be the point of focus, as an applicant, because it determines whether your CV is a good fit for the position or not. You should identify the key words from the job description and tailor your resume to fit the duties that are generic to your own experiences.

It is important to do a background check on the prospective company and understand their business goals. This way you shall be able to tailor a letter that suits the company vision. While advertisements may be found in the dailies and as forwards from friends, social networks like LinkedIn increase your chances of employment, because recruiters often search the network to find new employees. Today, there are many online bases that can help you find employment because technology allows for so much more.

Also, thanks to technology, allowing employers to get a glimpse of who you are outside of your resume is easier than ever. You can let them know where to find you by adding your website, blog, and social media accounts to your resume. This takes up a small amount of space and gives interviewers the opportunity to see what makes you unique beyond your listed resume skills. Employment bureaus have also proven handy when it comes to the job search, albeit at an agreed fee. One, also, has to be careful with the bureaus as some only pose to be what they are not. Go to a reputable one that has a proven record.

Job application
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Email Applications

If you are sending your application letter by email, the subject is of importance. It forms the heading for your email and introduces the content of your email. Use the subject of the email to show exactly what you are applying for. You should also introduce yourself in the content of your email. Do not just indicate a “See Attached”.

Have a brief introduction of who you are, why you are writing the email and what you want. Let the introduction be brief enough to make them curious enough to read your CV and peruse your documents. Give them an appetite for your attachments but do not be seen to beg to have them seen. It makes you look desperate. Show some confidence in yourself with your words; have clarity and do not use short forms. No ambiguity.

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Application letter

Companies make hiring decisions based on culture fit and potential. Employers want employees who can easily fit into their culture and deliver the desired results. Your cover letter should have confidence and impact. Keep it short – about 100 words. Do not mention your salary expectation if they did not ask for it. This way you leave them thinking about your value.

The beginning of your letter should be brief and captivating. Stay away from stating the obvious such as “I am writing to express my interest in ….” The body should not be too wordy as to be a repetition of your CV. When the letter is too heavy on text, it makes it difficult to scan. The solution would be to call out some of your key points as bullets– highlighting the qualities, accomplishments, or skill sets that are most relevant to the role e.g.:

  • Several years of editorial experience that includes work on both academic and professional titles.
  • Ability to produce results and meet deadlines within a fast-paced production department.
  • Proven ability to manage a high volume of project priorities and coordinate deliverables among authors, vendors, and internal editorial and marketing teams.

Curriculum Vitae

An effective CV should be able to increase your chances of securing an interview with a prospective employer. Make sure it has a profile to capture the attention of the reader and that it has sections for you to describe your skills, experience, education and qualifications.

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Your CV should target the job and be able to show what you are capable of doing. What you may lack in experience or previous job titles you can make up for with glowing references. If a hiring manager is considering you despite you being under-qualified, it pays to have good references. Be sure to prepare a list in advance of your application and don’t forget to reach out to each potential reference to make sure he or she is willing to provide a very positive review of you. A good CV is about three pages but two is usually ideal. You can leave out jobs that lasted short periods or those that are not relevant to the job being applied for.


Documents are best sent as .pdf to curtail against editing. If you send an application letter as .pdf, your e-signature is protected. You can separate your documents as academic documents (school documents), professional documents (short professional courses), testimonials and recommendation letters. But to make the application neat, you can zip them up as an attachment.

It is not unprofessional to make a follow up on your application. It shows genuine interest in the job and makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants.


When job seeking, get the right people on your support team. This can help you stay positive while seeking a career change. A good fan base can not only help to calm your nerves but also propel you to present your application passionately about your desire to get the position. Look for your “fans” in family members, teachers, coaches, or mentors.

Read and internalize the job advertisement. Mentally, impersonate the position being advertised for. Look at the qualifications needed and match them with yours. Some jobs are very specific to gender, age, religion etc.

Recruiters go through hundreds of CVs after a job advertisement is placed. It is advisable to keep it short and precise. Make your CV easy to read, chronological in dates and of education and work experience. It should be free from grammatical errors and typos. When listing your experience in previous jobs, give enough descriptive detail to “sell yourself” but be careful enough to keep it short.

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It is good to be knowledgeable about the company before making your application. This improves your chances of employment because it helps you to have a mental picture of what may be required of you.

Before you place someone as a referee on your CV, it is good to ensure they know that you are listing them. Also, ensure that they are contactable. It is also good to be flexible when making an application. You may not always land the job you want but your qualifications should bring you out as someone who can fit into another role within the company just in case a vacancy comes up.

Be positive and professional in your language. Portray the image of intelligence, positive attitude and professionalism in your write-ups.


Lie about your experience. Companies do credit and background checks. In such cases, lies will never really get you anywhere. If you want to create a good impression, you need to let the person reading your CV know that you have done your homework. So do not be lazy. Each time you apply for a job, change your CV so that it suits the job application.

When you list your personal information, what is needed is basic. Your name, ID number, contacts details. You don’t need to include your religion or other personal information unless otherwise specified to do so.

If you have sent your CV or gone for a job interview, you can follow up after a week or two. Do not be afraid to follow up on the progress of your application. Following up will show that you’re interested and it makes you stand out. Don’t, however, pester the employer.


If you are applying for a job, make sure you have provided the correct contact details and that you answer your phone. Do not forget to watch your phone afterwards. Be contactable. If the employer can’t get hold of you, they may move on to the next applicant.

It’s good to have goals in place but approach them in a realistic manner during your job search. Do not go searching for jobs outside your skill level as these decreases your chances of landing a job. Look for opportunities within a company that has an opening your talent can fill, but also offers growth for their employees.

Do not forget to customize your resume. Prove you are the right person for the position by altering your skills, talent, and history to only match those relevant and specific to the industry you’re applying.

Keep records of your applications. Do not ditch the cover letter. Cover letters are the perfect opportunity to go into detail about why you are the best fit for the job. Decide which skills on your resume prove that point. Then, base your cover letter around a story that shows how you have put your talents to use.

Do not consider every job offer. You are not there just to prove your worth to a company. It is also necessary to decide if the organization is the right fit for you. While on social media, do not post unprofessional lines. Social media sites and personal blogs make it possible to form an impression of a candidate before seeing them in person, and recruiters today use the sites a lot. Even your headshot on social media says a lot about you.

These are not exhaustive of the expectations of employers when they are seeking to recruit new staff

(Originally published in Mwangaza Magazine Issue 8)

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