Keeping track of your job search

Once you begin your job search, finding a new role will probably involve several job applications. You may end up sending quite a few applications before you find the right match for you. Keeping track of this process is very important. University recruitment and selection processes are thorough and often take many, many months, so you need a way to remember deadlines, which roles you have applied for, where you stand with each application, and what you need to do to complete and follow- up on applications.

As soon as you decide to send in your first application, it is time to create your job search spreadsheet. A quick online search for ‘job search spreadsheet’ will give you lots of suggestions – it does not have to be complicated, but it does need to be thorough and you must keep it up-to-date. Fill in the details for that first application immediately and you will quickly understand how it works.

This is a task where a cloud-based spreadsheet (for example Google Sheets) works well because it is always accessible wherever you are. Protect your spreadsheet with a password because it could eventually hold a LOT of information.

The headings you need across the top of the spreadsheet will become clear when you do your first application. Here are some suggestions to get you started, then you should add and remove things as you find you need them:

  • Application deadline
  • Date of your application
  • Name of the organisation
  • Department or faculty (if relevant)
  • Job title
  • Job listing URL
  • Job listing reference number
  • Where you saw the job advertised
  • URL for your online application (username and password saved in your password manager)
  • Any names and email contacts you used for your application
  • What you submitted in your application (CV, cover letter, online forms, references etc)
  • Names of referees you supplied
  • Date you received confirmation of your application
  • Date of further contacts from employer
  • Dates of any phone calls (file your notes from these calls with your other documents)
  • Reminder dates for yourself to check application has been received and to follow up
  • Assessment dates and locations
  • Interview date and location
  • File location for your complete set of application documents – including a copy of the original job listing and copies of any emails received

That last item – the file folder location for all your documents for each application, is essential. You will probably make changes to your CV, and certainly to your cover letter, for each different position you apply for. It’s important to keep the right version of your CV and cover letter, or online application, where you can find them easily.

You should also download and save a copy of the original job listing – it can take many months to be called for an interview by a university and it is useful to be able to refer to the original job and person specification. These will disappear from the university or jobs board website on the closing date for applications. This is also why you must have a copy of the CV and cover letter, or application you submitted. You will want to check these when you are invited for an interview.

Most larger universities will ask you to complete an online application rather than send a CV/resume and cover letter. There is usually an option to save and download a copy of your application. This will be useful for other similar positions too, so do save it with your other documents.

When you enter the details across the rows for each application, set yourself some ‘check in’ dates and then also add reminders to your calendar. If you do not receive a confirmation that your application has been received in the week after the closing date, do check back with the organisation to be sure it has been correctly received. If something has gone wrong and your application has not arrived this is where all the details you have saved on your spreadsheet will quickly become very useful.

Other useful reminders and dates are:

  • Thank you notes after an interview
  • Notes to your referees to tell them you have used their name in your application
  • Check in dates to follow up after an interview

Your job search spreadsheet is always there when you need to check a date, make sure you have completed all tasks, or remind yourself of follow-up dates. You can even add positions that you want to think about or do more research before you actually apply – it’s your system so make it work for you!

A well-organised HR department will keep all candidates fully informed during a recruitment and selection process, but things can, and do, sometimes go wrong. Your job search spreadsheet is a simple way to guard against some known problems and will help you keep track as you work your way through this exciting and exacting job search project.

Other articles in this series on job search tools

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