Brian Semple, Head of External Affairs, Money and Mental Health
What makes a good job application?
19 June 2020
At Money and Mental Health, we take seriously our commitment to being an equal opportunities and Mindful employer. That means we welcome applications from people of all backgrounds, and particularly from underrepresented groups in the charity sector — such as people with lived experience of a mental health condition, and from diverse ethnic communities.
However, we realise that it’s not always easy to know what kinds of things an organisation like Money and Mental Health is looking for in job applications, if you don’t have much professional experience or lack connections in the charity sector. We want to do more to make our job opportunities more accessible to a wider group of people (including our External Affairs internship which we’re currently advertising for — click here for more details).
So we’ve decided to set out the key things that we look for in a good job application. We hope this will make the process clearer, so it’s easier to apply for jobs here. Read on for more info and tips on how to make the most of your application, and remember to also sign up to our mailing list or Professional Network for regular updates on job opportunities at Money and Mental Health.
There are three main things we look for in a job application:
1. Passion for the issues we focus on, and the work we do
The number one thing that will make your job application stand out is a clear interest in what we do, and a commitment to our vision of breaking the link between mental health problems and financial difficulty (you can read more in our strategy here). Showing a passion for these issues is vital to let us know you really want to work at Money and Mental Health.
Equally, it is also important to show that you understand what we actually do to address these issues — such as carrying out research, coming up with policy ideas, and campaigning to make real change — and the values underpinning our work. An awareness of the central role in our work of our Research Community of people with lived experience of mental health problems will help your application stand out from others.
2. Understanding of what the job entails - and specific examples of how you meet the requirements
It’s important that you show that you’ve read the job description thoroughly, and understand what the job involves. For example, if we’re recruiting for someone with good research skills, then talking about your passion for campaigning will be less relevant. Don’t be afraid to use some of the language we’ve used in our essential criteria in your cover letter — that will help us see that you understand what the job involves.
Wherever possible, try to include tangible examples of things you’ve done, which show that you have the skills and experience we’re looking for. That doesn’t have to be something you’ve done in a job — it’s perfectly appropriate to mention relevant things you’ve done in your community or personal life too. For example, if we’re looking for someone to help us organise events, the key thing we’re looking for is evidence that you have organisation skills — so using an example of something you’ve organised for family, as a volunteer, or as a hobby is fine.
3. Get the finishing touches right
Attention to detail is important in most jobs, and the most obvious way you can demonstrate that in a job application is avoiding spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It’s worth taking a pause before clicking “send” on your application email, to make sure you’ve proof-read your cover letter/CV properly.
One tip is to use a blank piece of paper to cover the document/computer screen, and just lower it enough to read your application line-by-line, checking for errors. Changing the text to a font you wouldn’t usually use can also help you to spot mistakes. Another tip is read it out loud — that can help you spot silly errors that you might otherwise miss. If possible, ask a relative or friend to read your application with a fresh pair of eyes — they might notice things that you don’t.
It’s also really important to check you’ve followed the instructions for the application process. At Money and Mental Health, we normally ask for a cover letter and CV of no more than two pages each – so sending a ten page letter isn’t a great idea! We also ask for documents in PDF format — most word processing programmes will let you save in this format, and help is available online if you’re not sure how to do that. Making sure you’ve got those details right will go a long way in helping to impress.