Applications] [My CV] [Covering
present a number of challenges. It pays to prepare your responses
applications fail simply because the candidates have chosen inappropriate
targets, in terms of type of job or employer. By being realistic
and choosing your targets carefully, you can save yourself a great
deal of frustration.
If you have
seen a fair number of graduate job application forms, you will have
discovered how challenging they can be. Some are designed to make
candidates think very hard about themselves and their suitability
for the opportunities on offer, and to put off the faint-hearted.
The more difficult
forms, while daunting, usually give you ample scope to put yourself
across effectively. Short, undemanding forms can frustrate your
efforts to do so.
(When the employer
is happy for a CV and a covering letter to be used, the challenge
for the candidate is to work out her/his own design for the application.
CVs and letters are covered in separate leaflets - and .)
At the best
of times, large organisations might interview about one in three
applicants for graduate posts/traineeships. The odds are often considerably
worse. However, the figures by themselves do not give a true picture
of the strength of competition.
to receive large numbers of applications that are inappropriate
or badly done. If you choose your targets wisely and take pains
to present yourself well on paper, your chances will be very much
better than the figures suggest. The odds are likely to improve
if you include in your target list employers who are not household
You need to
make a case
Making an application
is not simply a matter of providing information. Unless you are
among the fortunate few with a record so outstanding and relevant
to what you want to do that it speaks convincingly for itself, you
will need to be persuasive.
You don't need
to be a budding sales representative to be persuasive. Essentially,
it is a matter of presenting a rationale for your application -
of making a case.
A well thought
out case can carry you a long way through selection procedures.
It can help you make an effective application, to perform well at
first interview and come across convincingly at the final stage.
Constructing a good case and presenting it clearly on paper can
take a lot of time and effort, but the procedure is in principle
Work out how
you match up to requirements
Find out as
much as you can about the job you are applying for and the kind
of person likely to fit it best. Some employers provide a lot of
helpful information, but often one has to do a bit of research.
General information is available in the Careers Service to supplement
any that you can obtain from the employer direct.
Sum up what
you learn in terms of the knowledge, skills and motivation that
the employer is likely to be looking for in candidates and relate
these to evidence in your history. Look for examples and, where
appropriate, proof that you have the knowledge and skills required,
and are inclined to apply them. Take note that any examples you
use will need to stand up to discussion at interview.
most telling evidence
will be the most convincing evidence and ensure that it is included
in your application. Where evidence is lacking, try to cover the
gaps with convincing arguments. If you find nothing to support your
case at all, you are probably applying for the wrong sort of job!
Do what you
can to make the evidence hang together in a way that creates a word
picture of the kind of person you are, what you are good at and
what you like doing. Sometimes you need to complete this in a covering
Try to create
a distinctive impression
you meet all the employer's requirements might not be enough to
get you an interview. Faced with a lot of good applications, the
employer will tend to select those which are distinctive in some
way. This can arise from one or more of the following:
of outstanding or unusual achievement
and effective style
and overall visual effect
FILLING IN AN
through carefully and note any specific instructions. If they
ask you to write in block capitals or black ink, do just that.
answers to relate to what you have discovered about the job
and the kind of person best suited to fill it.
in rough first. It may help to take a photocopy of the form
so that you can work on the layout of your answers.
why an employer may be asking this question. What do they want
If a question
is not applicable, say so. Do not leave empty boxes.
and specific words to describe your activities and interests,
rather than vague terms and tired clich,s. See below for some
ideas on words to use.
draft is complete, check for spelling mistakes and grammatical
errors before writing the final version.
that it is legible. If necessary use block capitals throughout.
Typing in boxes is difficult so only do this if really necessary
and only if permitted by the employer, and you have the competence
to do so.
a copy of the form so that you can remember what you wrote.
to keep an eye on the closing dates.
To take an example,
suppose you are answering one of the key questions to be found on
the Standard Application Form (SAF):
attracts you about the kind(s) of work for which you are applying
and offer evidence of your suitability.
This kind of
question gives you an opportunity to put across your case. The space
provided on the SAF allows for an answer of about 250 words.
you want the answer to achieve
It is worth
working out first, on a separate piece of paper, precisely what
you want to achieve with your answer. You might set out, for example,
to convince them that you:
have a long-standing
interest in the field of work concerned
the key skills that the job calls for
have a good
insight into the nature of the job.
could then provide the basis for three short paragraphs. Focusing
on three or four key points is a good way of shaping your answer.
again on a separate piece of paper, you might:
the facts that support the three points
material that seems to be most telling
how you can use the chosen material in the three paragraphs.
100 words on each point
If the main
points you have decided to make are of equal weight, you could then
use the chosen material to produce the first draft of perhaps three
100-word paragraphs. Remember to use positive and specific words
Edit the three
paragraphs down to about 250 words
You will almost
certainly need to revise the draft to ensure that it hangs together
as a whole, relates appropriately to other answers on the form and
will fit comfortably in the space provided. You can try out the
answer in the appropriate space on a photocopy of the form.
Write out a
fair copy of the final draft on the form
Only when you
are satisfied with the answer do you write on the form itself, taking
great care to achieve a high standard of presentation.
Stuck for words?
Here are some ideas
- to describe what you have done
assessed, budgeted, chose, completed, contributed, co-ordinated,
created, decided, demonstrated, developed, devised, directed, elected,
enjoyed, evaluated, expressed, gained, handled, increased, initiated,
implemented, improved, interpreted, investigated, led, measured,
organised, planned, prepared, presented, produced, raised (money),
ran, researched, selected, set up, started, supervised, tested,
to describe yourself
calm, commercially minded, conscientious, determined, hardworking,
impartial, logical, methodical, patient, persistent, persuasive,
precise, reliable, resilient, resourceful, responsible, self-reliant,
sensitive, systematic, tactful, tolerant.
Use a mix of
short and long words, and don't begin every sentence with 'I'.
BE SPECIFIC! BE RELEVANT!
How to Complete
an Application Form, University of London Careers Service
and Interviews, AGCAS booklet
- Looking Good on Paper, AGCAS Video