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How NOT to Apply for a Cool Job in Travel

Written by: Vicky Philpott

The travel job of your dreams is staring at you from your screen. Your heart is beating fast; you know you’d be just perfect. It’s yours. All you need to do is get your potential employer to see that by getting through the CV and covering letter stage and then the interview. But you know you’re so perfect for the job, they’ll be a cinch.
Well, that’s how I think some of the candidates must have been thinking when I needed to recruit for a Content and Social Media Specialist at gapyear.com when I was the Content and Social Media Manager. There were some shocking applications that taught me a lot about what not to do when applying for a job in travel.
Eighty per cent of the CVs didn’t even reach the second look stage, but a few ‘unsuitables’ slipped through the cracks and actually ended up in front of me in my interview room.
From beginning to end here are a few of the techniques the applicants used to destroy their chances at getting hired for that cool travel job they were ‘so perfect’ for.

Send an over complicated CV

You need to learn to be selective with what makes it onto your CV. If you insist on adding your paper round and Saturday night babysitting business, you only need a few words to do it. Whoever is reading your application does not have the time to sit and read through your unabridged life story. Short, concise points that illustrate the crux of your experience, not the total, are perfect. The role I was employing for involved writing and editing, among other things, and if the CV was too long it told me they didn’t know how to write concisely for the web, or edit to fit.
You have seconds to catch someone’s attention, whether you’re selling yourself or a destination, and if I’m not even interested enough to get through the first few words you won’t go far in selling travel.

Lie or over exaggerate on said CV

‘Master at the art of exaggeration’ is not a desirable skill, not on your CV anyway. Any claims made on that important document need to be backed up in the interview room at the very least. Once you’ve got the job you can always Google those capacities you claimed, but if you get busted in the interview, you’re out.
One of the most common empty assertions I found was my interviewees saying they loved travel, only to find they’d been on their initiation girls or lads trip and that’s about it. If you can show you’ve made sacrifices to follow your passion, that’s when you’ll catch the interviewer’s attention. You can’t just have watched Bear Grylls that one time and think you’d make a great second-in-command.

Give reason to doubt your ability

At the end of one of the moderately successful interviews I asked the candidate if they had any questions for me. Cue dramatic pause, from her. “Why me?” she asked. I was stunned to silence. “Why did I get an interview out of everyone else? I’m just a TEFL teacher”. At that point she’d failed the interview. If you don’t have an undoubting confidence in yourself that you’d be the right person for the role, at least in the interview, how am I meant to have confidence in you?

Don’t research the company

One of the most classic ways to fail an interview is to not research the company, so you end up asking stupid questions. You need to put yourself in the position of the employer: if they’re going to pay you thousands of pounds to come and work for them, don’t you think it’d be nice to have more than a cursory glance at what they actually do?
I was shocked at how few of my interviewees had even bothered to work out what gapyear.com was about at the time, and what we did. Saying you haven’t used a company’s services in an interview is fine, be honest, but then you should at least spend an hour or two working out what they do before you expect them to employ you. You’ll just look, and feel, stupid when you’re caught out.

Reveal questionable geography skills

In one of the interviews for this Content and Social Media specialist I asked the candidate if she’d travelled much. She replied, “Yes, to Africa”. “Whereabouts?” came my interested and cheerful reply. Silence. Then she started mumbling something about the south of Africa but couldn’t tell me anymore. Africa is made up of at least 47 countries (controversial) and she couldn’t pinpoint the one she’d been to. I understand a lot of people are confused about ‘South Africa’ but not someone who’s coming for a travel writing job, surely? This does not express an ‘interest in travel’ as specified in the provided job description.
To get a cool job in travel you don’t have to have travelled far, or know every country in the world and be able to pinpoint them on a map. But some interest beyond the Costa del Sol with your family at 14 would be useful to make you stand out from the crowd.

Reveal your undesirable qualities

People who work in travel are generally fun. They’re more free spirited than your usual colleagues and even when you’re in an office there’s generally a good atmosphere. Part of the point of a face-to-face interview is the chance for you and the interviewer to size each other up. They already like your skills and experience, but would they want to spend 40 hours a week or more with you?
If you’ve ever been told you’re annoying, condescending, never shut up, or similar negative attribute, don’t let on in the interview. Even when asked for a ‘negative attribute’ as some interviewers insist on doing.
Everyone knows that an interview situation is a fake one but you need to present the best version of yourself, at least until you pass your probation.

Don’t follow up on the interview

Most jobs in travel have customer care at their heart. To successfully work in travel you need to genuinely want your clients to have the best experiences possible so they tell their friends and come back for more. With review sites like Trip Advisor et al it’s never been more important for a business to ensure all interactions are positive. I think the seed of whether an employee actually cares about what they do, how they’re seen and the effect this can have first rears its head when it comes to following up on that initial interview.
After an interview I expect to get a follow up email the next day enforcing their interest in the job after they’ve learned more.


No matter what industry you want to work in you can take some inspiration from these pointers, but to work in travel you really have to put yourself out there. There’s no job in travel where you can get away with not saying much in a corner. To be able to get that cool job in travel, to learn about the world and get paid for doing it, you need to present your skills and experience concisely, be able to think on your feet in the interview, have confidence, and a passion for travel it’d be difficult to beat.

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