Before You Apply For A Job

You’ve seen an advert for a job, and decided to apply. Before you submit your CV, there’s a few things that I advise you to do to increase your chances of surviving the CV sift and getting invited to an interview.

Start by answering a few questions, to make sure that you’re not wasting your time applying for this job.

Is There A Closing Date For Applications?

There’s no point in going to all the trouble of preparing an application if you’ve missed the deadline. Check the job advert just to make sure that applications are still open. If there is no deadline date on the advert, it’s always a good idea to give the employer a quick phone call just to check that they haven’t already filled the vacancy. No employer is going to object to you asking, and that phone call is an opportunity for you to ask any questions you can think of to help you write a better application.

Plus, employers tend to remember people who have been in touch about a vacancy, which can help you get through the CV sift stage.

Where Is The Job?

The job advert will normally say where the job is based. This might be a different location to where the employer’s head office is, so always check and make sure that you’re clear on this vital piece of information before applying for any job.

If you’re applying to a software agency or consultancy, the job may involve travel. You might be asked to travel to their customers’ sites, and you might be asked to work from their customers’ offices some or all of the time.

Do You Want To Live In That Part Of The Country?

The job that you are applying for may be in a different part of the country to where you currently live. It’s a good idea to at least give some thought to whether or not you’d be happy moving there before you apply for the job. This is especially true if you’re looking to move into London for the first time, which is unlike anywhere else in the country.

If you’re applying for several jobs in the same area, it might be worth taking a day trip to that area to get a feel for the place. Or maybe you’re already going to be passing through or near there on your way back from another interview, and can divert to have a quick look?

Even if you land your dream job, doing interesting work with great people every day, you’ll struggle to enjoy your work if you don’t like where you end up living. Make sure you’re happy about living near your prospective employer before you apply. It can be hard to move jobs early in your career.

How Are You Going To Get To And From Your Workplace?

Daily travel to and from work is an important consideration, especially if you cannot afford to live in walking distance of where you will be working. Commuting takes time out of your day, and is a daily drain on your money. You need to make sure you’re happy with how long the commute is likely to take, and that you can afford the travel costs involved.

Public transport is pretty good in this country, but it doesn’t go everywhere and it’s quite common for bus and train services to run infrequently or not at all by late evening during the week. Public transport on a Sunday can be non-existent. During rush hours, trains and tubes can be standing-room only or even too overcrowded to get onto a train at all. You can buy weekly, monthly or annual season tickets for trains, and some employers run loan schemes to help you with the cost of an annual season ticket. The cost of train tickets is set to rise faster than inflation (and faster than most wage rises) for the foreseeable future.

Driving has the advantage that you can go where you want, when you want, but many major roads and city centres are too congested to cope with rush hour traffic, and it can be expensive and difficult to find somewhere to park if your employer doesn’t have their own car park. Rush hour normally starts well before 8am, thanks to the “school rush”, and normally lasts until after 9am. Many city centres have either banned parking on the street, or only allow short-term parking of up to 2 hours before you have to move your car. Insurance and fuel costs are high, and you also have to think about depreciation costs - saving money each month to pay for future repairs or to replace your car when it dies.

Many employers offer flexi-time working these days, and it’s a good idea to use that to travel off-peak and so avoid the rush hours as much as possible.

Work Out Your Minimum Salary

Historically, the cost of living in the UK has always varied from region to region. Generally speaking, costs are lower in the north and in Wales, higher in the south, and highest of all in and around London. The global credit crunch has made this much worse, driving up living costs and housing costs much faster than wages have increased.

You need to make sure that you can afford to live where the job is, on the salary that the employer is offering. You cannot assume that the employer is offering a high enough wage.

Some employers sadly either don’t care about the living standards of their employees or can’t afford to offer a reasonable wage for the local area, even in the computing industry. For others, it will have been many years since the employer earned a salary as low as what he is offering for the role, and so he may mistakenly believe that the salary is high enough for the local area. Plus the employer’s living costs may be much lower, because he might be buying a house whereas you will have to rent a room or property, and because he might not not have any debts to pay each month.

You can look on websites like or to see what monthly rental costs are like in an area. Be wary of the cheapest places to rent: they are normally cheap because they are in poor condition or in unsafe neighbourhoods. You can check crime statistics online on the Police’s website. Your health and happiness can suffer if you’re living somewhere nasty, and street muggings, property damage and burglaries can be a problem too in deprived areas in larger cities.

Rental properties come in three flavours: unfurnished, part-furnished, and fully-furnished. If you decide to rent a property that is not fully-furnished, you will have to provide your own furniture. This can be a substantial one-off cost, and you’ll probably want most of the furniture before you start your new job. You might have to take out a bank loan to pay for this.

Don’t forget that you will have to pay council tax, gas and electric bills, water rates, and telephone line rental and broadband charges too. You may not have paid some or all of these bills whilst a student. Some rental properties (especially if you’re renting a room in a house) include these bills, but most do not. Collectively, they can cost two hundred pounds a month or more. As with transport costs, many of these bills are rising faster than annual wage rises.

You’ll also have to pay income tax, national insurance contributions, and pension contributions from your salary. These are deducted by your employer every time you are paid, and your employer is responsible for making sure that these are paid to the tax man and the pension scheme. HMRC has a tax calculator online that you can use to work out what these deductions will be. It’s easy to forget to include them in your minimum salary calculation if you’ve never had a paid job before.

There’s one more thing to consider about your target starting salary. It’s much easier to join a company on the right salary than it is to get a big pay increase once you’re working for the company. You may not get your first pay rise for over a year; it’s a good idea to plan your budget with that in mind. It’s much easier to move jobs after your first year, and moving in order to get a pay-rise is very common in the industry.

Get The Job Description

Before you can apply, you also need to get a copy of the job description, as discussed earlier in this book. Make sure you get it from the employer if possible. If you get a copy from a recruitment agency, always ask them to confirm that they have an up-to-date copy.

You need the job description to help you write your covering letter and to help you tailor your CV before you submit it.

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