corporate strategies the inside track on becoming a consummate professional:; 2. Applying Yourself

Despite recent publicity regarding ageism, racism, sexism, not- sleeping-with-Robin-Cook-ism and so forth, there is still one small minority blatantly discriminated against when it comes to employment. These are People Who Tell The Truth On Application Forms.

Application is a crucial part of landing any job - and applying a little cunning can make all the difference. When listing previous responsibilities, the word "filing", for instance, can be applied equally truthfully to fingernails as to important documentation. Your solitary achievement - having once scored over 50,000 on Tetris during a slack period - can be reinterpreted both as "computer expertise" and "a pivotal role in strategic manipulation".

Many jobs require liaison with the public, so an outgoing attitude is essential. Mentioning (conveniently paraphrased) your habit of going out every five minutes to have a smoke will stand you in good stead. Sacked for consistently making personal calls on office time? Congratulations, you now possess an "excellent phone manner". And if you're feeling particularly creative, why not refer to your Team Management responsibilities? (After all, you did look after the Fantasy Football league for the entire office, having had naff-all else to do).

If, on the other hand, you're willing to freely admit to having never done a stroke of work throughout your career, just write "Managing Director" where it asks for your previous job title.

Everyone can claim some computer experience, even if this experience was a particularly unpleasant one resulting from having mistaken the CD- Rom drive for a handy coffee-cup holder. You may safely assume that your prospective employer is a complete technophobe (why else would he be looking for someone with computer experience?), so you are at liberty to impress with as many fictitious software packages as you deem appropriate (Quack Express, Adobe Knockingshop, DTP, PMT, Nitscrape Explorer etc).

An alternative ruse - for the warped few who are loath to lie on official forms - is to specify "commuter skills", meaning that before getting the big heave-ho you travelled to work every day on the bus. Your employer will either fail to spot the mistake, or simply interpret it as a careless typing error - in which case you will immediately shine out as ideal secretarial material.

Next, qualifications. No employer likes to admit his unfamiliarity with trendy new academic diplomas. Will he really twig that your "MBA Certificate" is what you received, age eight, for sterling service to Blue Peter's Milk Bottle-top Appeal? That your "GCE" pertains to Grade 2 Clarinet Exam, or that "HND" is merely an uncharacteristically honest admission that you Have No Degree? If your qualifications do total Bugger All, just write "BA" - or more specifically "BA (Cantab)", short for "Bugger All (CAN'T ABide those smug Oxbridge tosspots)".

You may be required to attach a photograph to your application letter (although if this is the case, do check first that you aren't reading ads for "Personals" instead of "Personnel". Particularly if the interview venue turns out to be Cairo Jax Nite-Spot).

The purpose of a photo is to help the employer whittle down suitable candidates without reading their tedious application letters; it's also to ensure that no interviewee's time is wasted, for example, by inviting someone without suppurating facial acne to be considered for a Tesco checkout assistant.

If you're lucky, the application form will not actually specify that you send a photo of yourself.

In such cases, sending one of Pamela Anderson (if the Recruitment Director's name is masculine), Brad Pitt (if feminine) or a semi-naked Boyzone (gender unknown) may aid your chances, as will sending a blurry photograph of the Recruitment Director's wife and children, with the message "I know where you live" in green ink.

Sending pictures of the Queen is also highly effective, unless applying to one of Richard Branson's companies. (If you are Her Majesty, however, it's probably not worth it. Despite Age Awareness Week, no company is likely to employ a 70-year-old married woman who's never held down a proper job in her entire life).

The only time you are actually expected to lie is where asked for details of your current salary. Tip: you might like to practice lying about your salary on a piece of scrap paper, such as a Self Assessment Tax Form.

Finally, some basic errors to avoid: Do not attach your entire life history on 600 sheets of handwritten A4 - particularly not if: (a) you are applying for the job of Project Coordinator for Greenpeace's Save the Rainforests Campaign; or (b) you are John Major, sending a book proposal to a publisher.

If applying to work for the Inland Revenue, answer every question in triplicate and return the form accompanied by 12 years' worth of old bus tickets, cloakroom stubs and dud Lottery scratchcards.

And, if applying for a senior medical position, be sure to answer every question clearly, concisely and truthfully. Then throw the form away, get another one and scrawl some meaningless hieroglyphics on it. You're guaranteed to make the shortlist.

Next week: How Not To Be Gaby Roslin (Developing An Impressive Interview Technique).

Debbie Barham

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