It can be a scary time of the year, with exams and the impending world of graduate careers starting to open up. But you’ll be surprised how becalming taking some steps towards applications can be.
The most important tip? Start doing them! You’ll learn so much about the process of applying by simply starting to fill applications in, and your confidence around researching and filling out those all important forms will grow with every one you write.
Of course, it’s important to prioritise, and make sure that you don’t start with your dream job. As you learn the ropes, and go through a few application processes, you’ll have received some feedback and will be ready to bring your A-game to the jobs that you care about the most.
Research, Research, Research
Whether it’s the application, an interview or even your first day, the best way to impress is always to know as much about the company as possible. Often companies won’t simply be assessing your skills and your experience but your dedication too; by proving that you’ve taken the time to learn about them it will demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic about the prospect.
Not only can this be useful if the process requires answering a question on the company, or about why you chose to apply, but it will provide insight for you to use across the whole application process. The insight is crucial to ensure that you present yourself as the ideal candidate. By finding out about the company, you’ll discover what they value in their employees and what they will expect from you both for your specific company and as a member of the company as a whole.
Check out the company website, social media, blogs and press releases. Perhaps more importantly, find out what other people are saying about them. Try and find news articles that feature them, or consider checking out websites like Glassdoor where people leave frank, insider reviews about the company.
Start with yourself
When it comes time to start writing, use your research to read between the lines of the application questions and find out what the company wants to hear. Then connect these ideal traits and skills to the ones that you have in your arsenal.
Like any stage of the process, do everything you can to provide examples to back up the skills or abilities that you have. Blankly stating that you’re able to work well as part of a team or individually doesn’t tell the hiring manager anything; provide proof that you can do both and you’ll be on much better standing.
When you’re applying for lots of graduate jobs and schemes it can start to feel like a numbers game, that the more applications you complete, the higher the chance of a positive response. But don’t start to let your applications become a copy and paste job, and make sure at all times that you’re tailoring quality applications to each company.
Of course you may start to see a lot of the same questions and you may use some of the same answers and examples, but make sure you always keep your research in mind and think about what each individual company values.
Yes this can be time consuming, but remember while this might be the 10th application you’ve sent this week, it’s the only one the hiring manager is going to see from you, and it needs to stand out.
Plan long, edit short
When you’re writing your answers, try to at least write a skeleton plan of how you intend to attack the question. This way when you’re writing the answer, you can focus on the quality of your writing, as opposed to the content of what you’re trying to get across.
Equally, don’t be afraid to write long answers over the word count. Just make sure that you take the time to edit them down to a reasonable size and omit all of the unnecessary information. Keep it concise, keep it clear and keep it quality!
Offer something new
Remember, these hiring managers may well be looking at hundreds or even thousands of applications and with limited experience, they’ll start to see a lot of very similar CVs. Try to make sure that you include a few examples and answers that make you stand out.
This can be an interesting piece of insight, a new way of looking at a question or a skill or ability that might set you apart from others. Can you speak a foreign language fluently, or have read something in the sphere recently that you thought was really interesting? Find a way to include it!
Check, Check and Check Again
Seriously, typos and grammar errors are the number one turn off for employers, and it’s not worth ruining a brilliant application by using the wrong type of ‘you’re’. Go over your application again and again, each time checking for a new thing. Go over the general content, make sure there’s no grammar errors or awkward written expression, check for spellings and then finally do one last catch all check.
OK, so you might not be successful with every application, but you need to see each one of them as an opportunity to learn. Wherever possible, seek feedback from the rejections and you’ll have invaluable, personalised information on how to improve for next time. This could be as simple as the way you wrote, the insight you provided or that there were other, stronger candidates. Either way, you’ll walk away from the encounter in a much better position for the next time.
Matt Arnerich is a content writer at the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. He writes about all things graduate jobs and internships, including advice for graduates, from applications and interviews right down to how to advance in their first graduate