Application Adviser Emily gives us 10 top tips for preparing an application for a banking/finance role …
- Check closing dates: The deadlines for applying to graduate jobs in this sector are very early in the academic year – sometimes October of the year before you would start the job. Internships too are advertised in the autumn semester. Start researching job and internship opportunities ASAP so that you don’t miss out. And don’t leave applications until the deadline; some graduate schemes and graduate jobs will close earlier than advertised if enough applications from qualified candidates have been received.
- Understand the sector: Many students have a vague idea that they want to work in finance because the industry has a reputation for high salaries and challenging, exciting work. But you need to fully understand the way it works and the type of role you would be suited to. Research on the internet, read the financial news (for example the Financial Times) and consult the resources in the Careers Information Room. Attend networking events, where you can also get first-hand advice from companies’ recruiters. Your answers to questions about motivation in application forms and at interviews will be far more persuasive if you really understand the field and the requirements of different roles.
- Read application forms carefully: Make sure you understand what is required by the application process of each company you apply for. Banks often have similar but slightly different application forms, for example – although the difference of emphasis in a question might seem minor, it might call for a quite different response. Also, some employers ask you to fill in a form, some ask for a CV, some for a CV and form, some for a CV and a cover letter – and there are many other variations! Make sure you have enough time to answer all the questions and prepare the necessary documents.
- Write a concise and clear one-page CV: Banks and financial services companies receive huge numbers of applications. It is unlikely that recruiters are going to read your CV in close detail – so, if a CV is required, make it as easy as possible for them to grasp the key information by making it short, clear and concise. Use bullet points and don’t go over one page.
- Practice assessment tests: Some companies include tests (such as numerical and verbal reasoning tests) as part of the initial application. So it makes sense to practice and make sure you understand what they require before you start to complete them. Register at http://www.assessmentday.co.uk/qmul/ using your @qmul email address to practice.
- Highlight your achievements: Employers are interested in prizes you’ve won, high marks, positions of leadership, promotions, increased responsibility and achievements (such as increased sales). In addition, when describing your work experience, don’t just list tasks which were required by the role – explain what you personally accomplished (e.g. exceeded sales targets, took the initiative to suggest new system of stock organisation which increased efficiency), and the skills you developed.
- Quantify your achievements: use numbers wherever possible. For example, if you achieved an increase in sales at your part time job, can you state the increase in percentage terms?
- Proofread carefully: Working in banking and finance often requires high levels of attention to detail, so make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammar mistakes in your application, which will suggest that you are careless. If this is something you struggle with, ask a friend or family member to check your application.
- Include your extra-curricular activities: show that you can excel in your free time as well as during your degree. Involvement in societies – or, better, leadership of a society – commitment to sport, or voluntary work are valued by employers in banking and finance.
- Get a second opinion: Remember that you can book an appointment at the Careers & Enterprise Centre to have your CV, application form and covering letter checked before you send them off.