Apply Yourself

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr is Career Zone Information Officer based in the Forum, Streatham Campus. 

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr, Career Zone Information Officer

You’ve seen your dream job, and only one thing stands between you and getting an interview; the application form. Little boxes? Impenetrable questions? STAR technique? Don’t worry, we’ve seen it all before and we’re here to help.

Do…

Answer the question. If you’re stuck, think about it from the employer’s point of view; they’ll only ask something that’ll help them decide whether to interview you or not. If they ask about leadership then the role you’re applying for will involve leadership.

Give clear, concise answers using the STAR technique; think of it like telling a joke, we’re waiting for the punchline, the employer is waiting for the Result. Employers don’t just want to know what you did, they want evidence that you’re good at it too.

If there’s a word limit use all the space available, otherwise it looks like you don’t have much to say. If there’s no word limit try and keep your answers around 500 words.

When you talk about your work experience employers are also looking for transferable skills like teamwork, leadership and time management. Have a look at the job description and person specification and try and mirror the language. Job applications are not a time to be subtle.

Show evidence that you’ve researched the company, the role and the market; but go beyond what’s on the website. Every employer thinks they’re different (and better) than the competition, you need to show them you know what sets them apart.

Demonstrate that you really want to work for them; show passion and enthusiasm. You wouldn’t interview someone who didn’t care about your company.

Book an appointment to have your application form checked, we’re here to help.

It might sound cynical, but at the end of the day, when an employer sees your application form, cover letter, CV, or you, they’re really only thinking one thing; ‘what value can you bring to my company?’ Once you get used to this idea, job applications can get a lot easier. 

If you could invite anyone living or dead to a dinner party, who would you chose?

Don’t…

Poor spelling and grammar could ruin your chances; some employers have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule, no matter what language you’re applying in.

Don’t forget to show your academic success; be proud of your achievements. If you don’t tell the employer about them, how will they know?

Don’t be shy about ‘selling’ yourself; tell the employer what sets you apart from the other candidates, but don’t be arrogant and never put anyone else down.

Don’t give generic answers; be specific and keep it relevant. We know it’s hard work applying for jobs, but employers really can tell if you’ve copied your answers from other application forms.

Don’t try and dodge the answer. Employers find this really annoying; reading anything other than a direct answer wastes their time.

Don’t repeat yourself. If you’re an undergraduate employers won’t expect you to have loads of relevant work experience, but don’t use the same example for every question.

Unless the employer specifically asks for it, avoid phrases like ‘I have exceptional attention to detail’ or ‘I have excellent spelling and grammar’. Whenever I see that on a form I think ‘challenge accepted!’ and search until I find a mistake.

Dealing with the weird ones…

Occasionally employers will throw a curve ball and ask something like ‘if you could invite anyone living or dead to a dinner party, who would you chose?’ The way to deal with these seemly pointless questions again goes back to the kinds of skills the employer is looking for. Some might want a quirky answer that sets you apart, but most of all they’re looking to see how you cope with a problem that has no correct solution, and how your thought process led you to your answer. They’re basically trying to get into your head.

Final thoughts…

One question we get asked a lot is ‘how many application forms should I fill in?’. The answer depends on you; the more applications you make the greater your chance of getting an interview. However, don’t do so many that the quality slips, and above all never do so many that your academic work or your health suffers.

Good luck!

Impress and Progress

Looking for graduate jobs after your studies can feel like a daunting experience, and with potentially thousands of applications streaming through their email inbox every day, you need to have a plan of attack to stand out from the crowd.

Matt Arnerich (left)  and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development InspiringInterns
Matt Arnerich (left) and Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at InspiringInterns

Matt Arnerich talked to Arthur Ashman, Head of Talent Development at graduate recruitment agency InspiringInterns, about his top tips for keeping your recruiter on side.

  • Have a Balanced Approach

If you get the chance to meet your recruiter in person or over the phone, it’s important to keep a balance between enthusiasm and politeness. ‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion’ Arthur says, ‘but it’s important this doesn’t spill into arrogance’.

According to Arthur, it’s important you remain humble, while coming across as confident and professional. ‘At the end of the day, we have to know that you’ll shine when we put you forward in front of our clients, and if you can impress us, we know that you’ll impress them’ explains Arthur.

  • Honesty Really is the Best Policy

When you’re first entering the job market, it’s tempting to exaggerate your work experience or grades. While you might think you’re bypassing certain filters, it will always damage you long-term.

‘We do thorough research on all the graduates we decide to put forward for roles, and the chances are we will find out if you’ve been misleading on your CV’ says Arthur. It can be damaging for their reputation to pass on candidates to clients who then find their interviewee has been misleading.

‘If we find out you’ve not been truthful, it’ll damage your chances far more than if you’d been honest to begin with, as we can’t take the risk of putting you forward to the clients,’ explains Arthur.

‘When we interview candidates we love them to have enthusiasm and a genuine passion.’

  • It’s Not All About You

This is an important tip, not just for how to keep your recruiter on side, but how to impress potential employers looking to hire a graduate. It’s easy to focus on the skills and experience that you have, but really, your focus should be squarely on how those skills will benefit your employer.

‘If you have a huge range of diverse skills, but can’t equate them to how they’ll aid the company, then employers are unlikely to be interested’ says Arthur, ‘in essence, we’re a sort of gatekeeper to our clients, we only want to let the best through, but if we think you’re good enough we have a lot of authority as we have a direct line to interested companies’.

  • Email Etiquette is Important

When you move into the graduate jobs world, you’ll inevitably be faced with daily email duties, whether internally or getting in touch with prospective and established clients. ‘You need to make sure you’re professional in your email exchanges with us’ Arthur is quick to point out, ‘please don’t be over-friendly, as it just comes across as insincere’.

Arthur suggests using the recruiter’s name wherever possible, and avoiding ‘mate’, ‘pal’ or other colloquial references. ‘Finish off with Regards or, Kind Regards instead of Cheers’ he explains, ‘and please double check your spelling and grammar before you hit the send button!’.

  • Never No Show

‘We don’t mind if you’ve got another opportunity’ says Arthur ‘but please let us know as soon as possible’. Simply not turning up reflects incredibly badly back on them, Arthur says, and therefore increases the chance they won’t want to work with you anymore.

Even though it’s tempting to jump at the chance of a more attractive opportunity, don’t schedule it at the same time as an existing commitment unless you have to. ‘Companies will normally have no problem provided you explain that there’s a scheduling conflict’ according to Arthur, ‘in fact, you’re likely to come across as a stronger candidate if they know they’re not the only one interested in you.’

6 Tips for a Professional Social Media Presence

According to a new study, 90% of employers are using LinkedIn to find possible employees, 66% are using Facebook to research potential candidates, and over half (54%) are searching Twitter. But why the sudden focus on social media? The truth is recruiters believe social media allows them to see if prospective candidates can present themselves professionally, and if they’re a good fit for the company culture.

As the saying goes ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’, so here are six tips you can use today to make sure you’re ready for the social media examination from your employer:

  1. Don’t post controversial content

Social media is often used as a day-to-day vent for frustrations, but instead of posting negative views; try to keep it light and positive. Although it can be nice to get things off your chest, posting them online makes it available for everyone to see.

  1. Never comment about work online

Once you work for a company, you’ll most likely be entering a non-disclosure agreement to keep certain information private. This may be for the benefit of clients, customers or to keep information hidden from competitors. Whatever the reason it’s best to keep work related information off social media.

  1. Make your profile private

By turning your social media privacy on you can keep your profile hidden from employers, and reduce the risk of them seeing something they don’t like. According to a recent study by SafeShop, 66% of UK residents don’t have their social media privacy on, so if you want to change your settings, check out this guide how to make your Facebook and Twitter more private.

  1. Monitor your photos

When it comes to your reputation, you don’t want to paint the wrong picture, so discretion is advised when selecting the photos you want to share. But it’s not just the photos you post that you need to keep an eye on; any photos your friends may share will also show up on your profile.

  1. Hide inappropriate posts from friends

Friends can often post inappropriate content that we have no control of, but if that content includes you then you may need to hide these posts from the public. This is now possible thanks to Facebook’s new review feature that allows you to review posts once tagged, before they show up on your profile.

  1. Only follow or add friends who you know and trust 

Whilst some would argue it’s unfair, we’re often judged by who we associate with. For this reason and your general safety, it’s important to only accept friend requests from people who you actually know to ensure your reputation remains intact.