A step by step guide to smashing your next job application

Job and internship applications can often be intimating and, given that the odds of getting the job are sometimes 1/1000, it is important to prepare as much as possible. Finding the job that is right for you isn’t always easy, so applying for internships is a great way to get a taste of the industry you are applying for, whilst also developing skills that will be relevant to your career and will also look great on your CV.

Sending in your CV

When it comes to the application process, the first question you should be asking yourself is what does this employer want? Remember that while the role may be similar to various companies, their requirements and expectations of applicants can differ. For this reason, it is important to do some research before you apply what it is that the employer expects.

The expectations of originations go beyond the job description – look at their key competencies, their values, and various awards that they may have won. This will give you an idea as to the type of person they want to employ.

Having done some research about the type of origination you are applying for, you will be in a better position to tailor your CV specifically to this kind of job or internship, and this employer. Some applications simply require you to submit your CV and a cover letter, whereas others may ask specific questions.

First, read the instructions! It is always a good idea to draft your answer to any questions on a separate document instead of typing them directly into the online application, as many online forms do not have a grammar and spell check function.

Most importantly, make sure you answer the question. Whilst it’s great to give examples of your work experience or your studies, make sure that in doing so you are using these examples to answer the question set. Sometimes your work experience won’t be relevant, but that doesn’t mean you should miss it out. If you can relate the skills you have developed to the job you are applying for, make sure you include it.

Completing psychometric tests

The next stage of the application process is often psychometric assessments. Most companies will use verbal, numerical and personality tests for graduate roles. If it’san Engineering or Tech company, then they are also likely to use abstract/spatial and logical tests. Most tests are designed to measure performance under pressure, so there is usually a time limit for each question or the test as a whole.

An important point to remember is that usually, it is not the number of correct answers that are relevant, but rather you are measured against the rest of the candidates that sit the test; so even if you only answer half correctly, the rest of the candidates may also have answered a similar number correctly. The key message here is to not panic if you find questions difficult, you are not expected to get 100 per cent!

Most tests are designed so that you don’t finish but are testing how you work under pressure. Therefore you must keep an eye on the time. In the last minute before time runs out, quickly go through the rest of the test and click on the same answer for the remaining multiple-choice questions.

A Psychology graduate now working in HR gives some helpful advice. She said: “I tend to select B every time as psychologically most people will go for C so they are unlikely to make the answer C! If you stick to the same letter each time then statistically you’re likely to pick up a point or two, which can make all the difference to the result, and it is much better than not completing the test, meaning you would gain no marks for these questions.”

You can also complete practice tests online beforehand. Sometimes, when invited to take a psychometric assessment, the employer will direct you to online tests that are similar to the style that they use.

Attending interviews

Interviews and assessment centres can be the most daunting part of the whole process. If you are lucky enough to get this far then the employer already thinks you have the skills required for the role. Interviews are used to assess your personality, and less so your work or education history. However, some graduate jobs and internships will be interested in the subjects you have chosen to study, and why you did so – be prepared to answer these questions and also explain what you have gained from your educational experience.

Although it’s a cliché, the best person you can be in an interview is yourself. Interviewers are only human, and they want to be able to connect with you as you are. Most importantly, be confident! This is probably one of the hardest things to deal with in interviews. Interviews and assessment centres are often nerve-wracking environments, and it can seem as though the questions they ask are designed for you to trip up.

However, remember that recruiters are not expecting graduates and interns to be able to solve all the company’s problems on day one, nor are you expected to have 10 years’ industry experience when you have just graduated from university.

Before the interview, think about why you want this job, and why it is this company or organisation you want to work for. Interviewers will often ask  competency based questions, such as “tell me about a time when you’ve worked in a team.”

The STAR approach is a useful way to remember how to answer these questions fully – giving context to the Situation, Task, your Action and the Result. Some examples to practice could be: “tell me about a time you have worked to a deadline”; “tell me about a time you have influenced others” or maybe “can you give me an example of a time where you used your initiative.”

The assessment centre

Assessment centres often involve group tasks, presentations and sometimes case studies or tests. In each of these exercises, but particularly in the group tasks, contribute as much as possible. It is important to be mindful of others in your group, and show that you can work as part of a team.

Ask your team members questions, suggest new ideas, and try to include everyone in the group. If you see someone who is quieter or struggling, it is a good idea to ask them their opinion to try and involve them in the discussion.

Further advice

A career advisor for the University Careers Service gave us some helpful tips: “Top Tips on CVs would be to make sure the CV is targeted to the specific jobs you are applying for. If you make claims of skills/experience – make sure you back it up with evidence and examples. “Application forms are likely to ask you to give examples of experience you have – it’s important to think of specific examples and make sure you talk about what you did (even if you were working with others).

“Interviews – prepare for questions, be very familiar with what you said in your application or CV as questions may be based on that. You will be asked why this job, why work for us – so practice these answers with friends (or talk to Careers staff).

The Careers Service website has lots of really useful advice on CVs, application forms, interviews and assessment centres and we have staff who could you give you feedback on your CV/Application form. We also offer practice interviews and advice on assessment centres.”


image: Geralt via Pixabay

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