Do’s and don’ts of a good application

The environmental sector is competitive, with lots of applicants for every vacancy. Getting your application right is all important. With this in mind we contacted some of the recruiters who advertise with us regularly and have put together some tips on how to land your perfect environmental job.

Passion will get you so far but good punctuation might get your foot in the door.


  • Do read the job advert and job description – properly. You won’t make the first cut if it’s obvious you don’t really understand what the role is about. Enthusiasm coupled with an understanding of what the job entails will go a long way.
  • Do respond to each part of the person specification. Don’t get lazy! Recruiters know when you’ve missed a bit, so if you were thinking they won’t notice…
  • Do give specific and relevant examples of your experience and how you meet the criteria. It’s not enough to say you’re good at campaigning if you can’t name a campaign you’ve worked on.
  • Do follow the ‘how to apply’ procedure. Sending your CV and cover letter when only an application form is accepted won’t get you an interview.
  • Do give the organisation a call if you’re not sure about something (except when the application pack says not to!). Often a conversation before you send in your application will make those amazing communication skills seem more believable.
  • Do inject your application with a bit of personality. Sound human: a little about you, what drives you and what you do beyond your professional life will help you stand out from the rest.
  • Do promote yourself and your passion for the environment. Without making stuff up or being too ‘gushy’, make it known that you think you’re worth the job and that you really want to do it – back it up with reasons and relate them to what the organisation does.
  • Do prepare some responses to stock interview questions. What are your strengths/weaknesses? How do you manage your time? How do you handle criticism?


  • Don’t forget to attach all the relevant documents to your application.
  • Don’t spell the name of the organisation or contact person, or the job title, incorrectly. This happens quite a lot!
  • Don’t send an application off without checking it for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Use your spell checker and ask someone else to check it for you too.
  • Don’t send out blanket applications or make your application too long. Tailor your letter and CV to the role and the organisation – try to keep cover letters to one/two sides of A4, CVs to two, but don’t be afraid to use the extra space on the application form.
  • Don’t be put off if you don’t have all of the skills asked for – yet. It might be that you have something extra to bring. Don’t try to twist your experience to fit the specification, but do highlight where you show you’ve got initiative and the enthusiasm to learn.
  • Don’t forget to respond quickly to confirm an offer of an interview. No reply and they might give your slot to someone else.
  • Don’t go into the interview without doing your research. Get to know what the organisation does beyond the job you’re going for, understand how you’d fit into the grand scheme and how you’d work with others. It’s also worth preparing a few questions to ask your interviewers.
  • Don’t rush your answers in the interview. If you need to hear the question again, just ask – make sure you understand and answer the whole question, avoid leaping on a couple of key words. It’s OK to take your time!

In their own words

  • “People can make their application forms very long, describing everything they have done. Some of it isn’t necessary so they would do better by being more concise in what experience they show.” - Michelle Beckett, The Bat Conservation Trust

  • “Where there is a person specification, candidates need to demonstrate, point for point, with examples, where they meet those requirements. For example, not just say: ‘I am well organised’, but say instead: ‘In my job role as xxx I organised my own workload using Outlook task and to do lists.’” - Christine Nixon, RSPB

  • “As a conservation charity, conservation experience is obviously important, but it depends on the position. We recently recruited for an Events Manager and in this case conservation interest was an added bonus rather than a requirement – we would always hire someone with events experience over someone just with a huge conservation interest.” - Cath Lawson, Save the Rhino International

  • “We get sent random speculative CVs without cover letters. This won’t get you anywhere as it’s just spamming really, however, if you send a speculative CV with a good cover letter saying why this is the place for you we are more likely to keep your details on file – a formal application to an advertised post is always later required.” - Peter Bennett, BioRegional

  • “In the interview we’re looking for a two-way conversation.” - HR Team, WWT