October 19, 2012

Applications: are you hearing the message?

Megaphone manAs you've probably noticed, the careers fair 'season' has kicked off in earnest. Last week saw the first of our autumn fairsImpact – and Stephanie Baravelli, final year philosophy student (and careers rep) popped along to get the employer lowdown....

As a student, one of the most stressful things we encounter are job applications. The world of graduate employment is a competitive one, and the right application can easily mean the difference between getting an interview or not. So how can you give yourself the best chance of getting through to the next stages of the recruitment process?

We spoke to a multitude of different employers at the Impact Fair, concerning the most important piece of advice they would give to students who are applying, and one resounding message emerged from almost every employer. The key to giving yourself the best chance is a simple one, but is something that many students fail to do and a source of great frustration to employers; read the material provided by an employer and use this to tailor your application to that specific company.

Employers want to employ graduates who match the needs of the company and the team they will be working in. This may seem like an obvious statement, but many students fall at this hurdle by submitting either a destined-for-the-bin ‘general’ application or a more specific application tailored to the field, but not to the company; an IBM representative at the fair said that success “is in the details”. Many of the employers spoken to said that if a recruitment team looks at your application, and can’t see clearly why you would be a good fit for the role, your application is unlikely to go any further.

Fear not though: companies are not trying to catch you out with this process. We asked one employer what advice he would give to students to better their chances; he handed us a booklet and said read it through. It seems many students and grads are failing to do this. It may sound obvious (because it is!) but read the material thoroughly – don't just leave the glossy brochures gathering dust at the bottom of your fair goody bag. Booklets that are handed out by employers at careers fairs or through the careers service contain within them, under all the jargon and superlatives, key information that you can and should utilise when applying. One of the things that frustrated the employers I spoke to most was that they provide so much material for students – including things like details of the company ethos and the person specification – and yet this is seemingly ignored in many applications.

So, for those of you about to apply for graduate jobs, or any other type of job, make sure you are paying attention to what the company wants and tailoring your applications. If the company has put their ethos in bold on the front cover of their booklet, it is obviously important to them, so you need to think how you can show them you understand and embody that ethos. The materials the companies provide are there for a reason – use them, and you are giving yourself a much better chance of making it through to the next stage of recruitment.

And if you would just allow me a quick 'NB' it is this: please don’t ignore grammar and spelling. You may think this doesn't need saying but according to many employers – including big companies like Coca-Cola – spelling mistakes run rampant throughout applications, and are a real turn off to employers. An error filled application makes you seem lazy or careless – or possibly both! Remember that most of the large employers will be looking at hundreds of applications – try to make their jobs easier by running a quick spell check or getting a friend to read through your covering letter. Many of the graduate recruiters will only 'permit' one or two small errors throughout your application: don't screen yourself out on the basis of a few silly mistakes.


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