CAREERS BLOG: Is YOUR job application really good enough?

Everyone knows how competitive the graduate recruitment process is.  So how can you be sure that your job applications are as strong as they can be to stand out from the crowd?

Firstly it’s important to realise just how much competition there is. One graduate employer told us this month that graduate applications are already up 140% compared to last year.  As well as this year’s finalists, there may be graduates from last year who have taken time out, or who have not yet found a job, who are also competing for next summer’s graduate position jobs.

Research by High Fliers into the graduate recruitment picture in the country’s top 100 companies says that in the academic year ending June 2012, there were an average of 52 applications for every graduate position available – an increase of 11% on the previous year.

A story from an employer on LinkedIn also caught our eye recently. Out of around 200 applications for a job the company advertised they felt that only one had shown that they had done any significant research about the company.  As far as the employer was concerned the other 199 had wasted their time.

Employers want to know that you have done your research – both into the role  and into the company.

  • What is it about this company/role that appeals to you?
  • what do you know about the work culture?
  • what would you be doing on a day-to-day basis?
  • do you know which markets the company operates in?
  • what are its latest successes?
  • what challenges does it face?
  • what does it actually do?

There are lots of ways you can research the companies you are interested in applying to. Start with their website, follow them on social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc), follow people who work for them on social media as well, set up Google alerts, read business pages of newspapers, use professional journals (we hold reference copies of a wide range of journals in Careers).

Have you spoken to people who already work in the company you are targeting? This can be a really good way of getting some key insider information. There are lots of opportunities to do this – at Careers events, recruitment fairs, employer events on campus (such as our new “Employers in Residence” initiative), via our Graduate Profiles where you can contact York graduates – some may be working in the company you are applying to.

Although it may be tempting to rattle off scores of applications as quickly as possible to give yourself the best possible chance, it is very unlikely to work.  Targeted applications are much more likely to be successful.

And you really need to understand what work you want to do, and why you want to do it.  If you don’t know this it will be difficult to make a strong application that convinces an employer that you are someone they would like to invite to interview – especially if you are competing with lots of other applicants who do make this clear in their applications. If you need further help with your decision making use the Explore/Research Your Options sections of our website and then if you need to discuss further make an appointment with an adviser.

So, here are some top tips for making sure your application stands out from the crowd:

  1. Do your research, make it clear to the employer why you are applying to their company specifically
  2. Think about your application from the employer’s perspective – if you were the employer would you choose you?
  3. Use the job description/person spec or any other information supplied by the employer and match your skills to what the employer is looking for
  4. Give concrete examples of the skills/personal qualities/experience you are highlighting
  5. Get your application reviewed by a member of staff in Careers – appointments are available most days
  6. Are you 100% sure there are no spelling mistakes or poor grammar?
  7. Have you met the deadline and followed the employer’s instructions to the letter?

Although the graduate recruitment market remains challenging you can still give yourself the best chance possible of getting to interview stage if you work hard and keep focused. And whatever assistance you need along the way – Careers can help.