How to approach job applications?
It’s late October/November, and jobs or internships, depending on what stage you’re at, have started opening up. Question is: what’s the best approach to job applications? In this blog we start from choosing which job to apply for to the dreaded wait to hear back from your potential employer. We try to help calm your nerves, and tackle this in the best way.
Select which company to apply for
This stage seems simple enough. Some of you might have a strategy of choosing the ultra-elite (McKinsey — anyone?), others might decide that they don’t want to feel rejected multiple times, so they only stick to a few.
Our advice, apply for them all, but be strategic at the same time. From the elite to the start-up, whatever company that does work that somewhat interests you — apply!
Why use this strategy? Simply put, you won’t lose anything by applying, in fact, you’ll probably gain a lot, because even if you don’t want to work somewhere and they offer you an interview, that experience is gold. So, don’t be too snobby with your list, but of course, if you’re limited on time, then apply for a reduced number.
Remember, you only get one application per company, so you need to make sure that your preferred company is your strongest application. You could apply for you less-preferred firms first, build that experience and then apply for you first choice firm.
Don’t forget that places can be given on a first come first serve basis and some applications close early. So, maintain that balance between speed of applications and preparedness.
I always recommend creating a spreadsheet, and keeping yourself organised. Making sure you note what stage you’re at, and what the deadline date for applying is. Nearly everyone will talk about this holy spreadsheet as part of their career journey — it’s an important part.
Write your CV and cover letter
Apart from the tedious form where you have to enter all your details (which are already in your CV!), one thing that is common for employers to ask for is a CV and cover letter. I always prefer the applications that only ask for my CV, but there’s always the few that make you write a cover letter or answer some competency based questions.
Let’s start with the CV. We’ll write up a blog on CV writing basics, but for now, what you need to know are the 3S’s : Structure, Succinct and Size. Ok … I might have made those up, but bare with me, they’re actually quite logical.
Structure: Make sure that your CV is in a clear format. There are lots of templates available online for this. Nobody wants to look at a messy CV.
Succinct: Keep your experience clear and concise. Cover letters and interviews are there for you to go into detail, so don’t clog up your CV. Not too much detail or too little … find the perfect balance. Those of you who struggle to
Size: CV’s should be 1 page or max 2 (if you have a lot of experience). Go over 2 pages, and your CV likely won’t be read. Most people at university don’t have enough experience to justify doing 2 pages, so stick to 1.
CV’s are arguably the most important thing, as they’re your foot through the door. So make sure you get it right. GradGurus offers help with CV writing, so reach out to us and we can sort you out.
Finally, cover letters or competency based questions. These also require a blog post on their own. But for now, I would recommend similar tips as above. Make sure you follow a template so you have the right structure. Whenever you mention your experience, it’s vital you follow-up with its importance/value for your employer. The STAR framework (Google it) is key … use it, you won’t regret it.
A common mistake people make with their cover letter is they submit the same one for every application. In an ideal world, the cover letter needs to be tailored for each company and job role as you need to demonstrate how your skills/experience match the job specification. So, skip taking the fast route on this one, and make sure you put in the work.
Click submit and wait!
I thought I’d dedicate an entire point to the dreaded wait after submitting your application. The wait is not easy, we’ve all been there … checking your emails every minute, hoping that the next one will be from your potential employer. I even hated weekends at one point, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a response on those days.
Our advice? Chill. You’ll be fine. And as we say at most GradGurus events, trust in the process. Okay, you might have some rejections, maybe you didn’t get your first choice, or your second, or your third… but there’s always something out there for you. When you receive a rejection, always try and ask for feedback. It’s important, because it can save you from making the same mistake again for future applications. Keep moving. It took me a year of 28 rejections, a gap year, and another year of applying to finally get accepted. When I look back, I’m thankful for the year I was rejected, because it led to a gap year that made my application much stronger the following year. I trusted the process :)
Good luck, and hope your applications go well. As we mentioned in the blog, there’s a couple of future blog posts to look out for that will help your application process.
GradGurus offer a range of services (we’re not just events people), such as; application advice and guidance, CV and cover letter review and re-work, mock interviews and networking opportunities. Please reach out to find out more at www.gradgurus.co.uk