Careers: Tips for The Application Process

When I think back to second-year, when I was frantically applying for every single actuarial placement I could find (which, let’s face it, isn’t very many…so was supplemented with analyst jobs too), I know I’d have loved honest, down-to-earth advice about applications from a student perspective. So that’s exactly what I’m doing!

 photo Application Process_zps39xhw2wd.pngHave Your CV Ready

Yes, you are probably going to want to make a few small changes to your CV for each job you apply for, but having the majority of it done, up-to-date and ready puts away a big chunk of work.

Pre-Prepare Responses

Certain questions come up in most applications, often worded slightly differently, often banded under ‘competency questions.’ Getting these right is crucial to doing well in job applications (I’ll be doing a dedicated post in a few weeks). Whilst the questions always cover the same skills, you’ll probably need to tailor response specifically – but having base answers can save so much time. What you did, how you handled it, the result.
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Don’t Rush & Check Through

Obviously there are occasions where you might be up against a tight timeline (I remember once forgetting to apply for a job until the closing date – though I did end up being offered it!). For the most part, however, try and complete applications slowly and thoroughly. Rushing can mean silly mistakes.

Spell check even simple things like your address. I would advise never using auto-fill for a job application as it can occasionally fill the information into the wrong box – now is not the time for that kind of mistake!

Research & Make Notes

Make sure you do your research on the company, it’s values and (most importantly) the role. You’ll want to tailor your CV to the job so this is crucial – and I’m pretty sure this is the main reason why I’ve had success in job applications so far.

When I apply for any job I make notes on the company and the role. I also document the application date, details about the process and closing date – then I’ll have a rough idea when I might expect to hear back.
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Personalise It

No two job applications should be the same, you need to hint at the company, at its values, drop subtle notifications that you meet that specific job specification. This is especially important if you’re applying for a whole host of slightly different jobs (i.e marketing vs advertising roles) as your application won’t seem generic.

What are your tips for job applications?

Careers: Writing That Perfect CV

I might not have a graduate job yet (I am dreading starting to apply come September) but having received two offers for a year’s placement I think I’m well enough qualified to give some kind of career advice. I’ll be doing a few posts, generally following the order in which most application processes go…so first up is CV tips!
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Make it Priority

Keep your CV updated at all times, even if you’re not actively looking for roles. You never know when the perfect opportunity will come up, and when it does you don’t want to waste time making big changes on your CV. Every time you get a new job, learn a new skill, gain a qualification, work on a big project – update your CV to reflect this.

Adapt

My previous point should not suggest that your CV should be the same for every role you apply to – you will need to subtly tailor it. Look at the job description, check out the requirements and make sure your CV shows you can tick each box.

Length

I was always told two pages is ideal, and that’s probably true for a graduate with no/little relevant work experience. However if you have relevant information to the role don’t leave it out for sake of length – but if you go over to another page, make sure you fill it at least over halfway. A half-filled page looks a little half-hearted, like you haven’t much to say – no matter how much you’ve written preceding it.
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Structure

I’d include name (you’d never believe how many forget this!), contact details, personal statement, education, experience, key skills, interests, references.

Contents

The personal statement is a few sentences introducing yourself – it’s often the only thing a recruiter will read so make it snappy and memorable. State what type of role you are looking for – and remember to personalise it to the specific role for each application.

Education and experience should both be in the order of most recent first. I’d bold out any particularly relevant qualification – for instance in my case any actuarial exams passed. Add more detail where experiences are relevant to the job being applied for, key skills developed and main responsibilities.

Key skills includes bits like personal skills such as teamwork, and technical ability such as software knowledge – but always back up with short examples. Bold out key works again.

Include a short ‘interests’ section to show off some of your personality, but keep it limited to three lines. And obviously sensor it – best not to mention your love of the pub, but I include bits about my blog, love of reading, and learning to knit,

References can be included or not – if I have a bit of spare space they are included in full, if not I’ll say they are available on request.
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Design

Try and get all your key content written down before you work too much on design. I’d recommend going for a table format that’s easy to edit as you go. Keep size of type consistent throughout, plenty of white space, and a simple font.

What Employers Look For

I’ve been doing some work on recruitment recently, so I can say a bit about what employers look for when they read your CV. They will scan it over first, checking for whether you are eligible for the role in terms of qualifications. They’ll check for professionalism in terms of layout, structure and design, and any spelling mistakes. Personalisation to the role gets ‘bonus points’ and please, please, please spell the company name right – we screen out five CVs recently due to this being misspelt.

Make sure you are demonstrating you are the right person for the job in terms of skills, qualifications, experience. It’s often your only chance to show yourself off before the interview stage, so do it well!

What are your top tips for CV writing?