An application form is your opportunity to market yourself to a recruiter and convince them you have the skills and experience they are looking for. In order for your application to be effective, make your answers specific to the organisation you are applying to (known as targeting). Remember to save a copy of your form, as this will be useful reference if you get invited to interview and can help when making future applications.
Get it right:
- Read the job description carefully. You won’t be able to sell yourself effectively if you are not sure what the recruiter is looking for and what the specifics of the job are. You will then need to address each of these points in your answers. If it is an unadvertised role, read job descriptions for similar positions and use the Prospects job profiles to get a sense of what the recruiter is likely to be looking for.
- Use examples from when you have successfully used a skill in the past as evidence to prove you have the skills required for the role. (See the STAR technique below for information on how to structure your answers). Think about what you have been involved in over the past few years where you have used and developed your skills (your CV can be a useful starting point) to identify the most appropriate situation to use for your answer.
- Part time jobs, volunteering and involvement in clubs / societies can also be used as evidence of skills e.g. working in a team or taking the initiative. Examples from work, study and extra-curricular activities show you have a range of experience.
- Find out about the organisation you are applying to. What makes them different to their competitors? What are their biggest achievements? Look beyond just the department you are applying to. Knowing more about them will allow you to sound confident and informed when answering why you want to work for them.
- What are the key issues affecting the industry? Understanding this will mean you can show your interest in the industry and your ability to contribute to the organisation.
Your mission in a nutshell is to persuade the employer:
You can do the job
You will do the job
You’ll fit in
Employers want evidence of what YOU have done. If you have used a skill before, you are more likely to be able to use it again in the job.
This is only half the battle – making your CV clear and easy to read is vital if you want it to make the right kind of impact.
Language and format
- Omit pronouns – I, you, he, she, they and articles – a or the. Saves space and ego
- Balance –Are the long sections the most relevant ones for the job?
- Dates – ensure there are no gaps but don’t worry about day dates – month and year will be fine
- Whilst you do not need to list all your modules, an employer will appreciate a list of relevant modules as this demonstrates an understanding of the requirements of the role
- Prioritise – Check the personal specification
- Achievements – Include anything that was IMPLEMENTED
- Evidence – Think about HOW you are a good communicator and team player. Use examples to show this
Did you know you can access one-to-one support for 2 years after graduation?
Check out our *brand new* video below to hear from QMUL students and graduates and find out how we’ve helped them.
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So, you’ve found an opening for a job that you just know you’re right for. You’ve spent time putting together the perfect CV and now you’re ready to apply, right? Wrong. Usually, as part of the application process, you will also be expected to provide a well-written cover letter. The purpose of a cover letter is to inform your prospective employer of exactly which position you’re applying for, while at the same time demonstrating your suitability for the role. There’s plenty of great advice out there on what you should and shouldn’t include, but knowing the basics isn’t always enough.
To maximise your chances of success, it’s important to remember the following:
- It’s not a rewrite of your CV
Your CV is basically a list of previous experience and qualifications. Your cover letter is the chance to pick out your most relevant and impressive achievements and go into more detail. For example, your CV might include something like the following:
Mathematics Tutor (September 2016 – June 2017): independently planned and delivered one-one lessons in GCSE mathematics on a weekly basis to students with learning difficulties.
This is great, but very brief. In your cover letter, you have the opportunity to explain what challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and what skills you developed which make you the ideal candidate.
Your cover letter is also your opportunity to prove that you’re a good cultural fit. You want to show that you share the company’s values and that you like the way they work. Taking the time to explain in this way why you want to work for them specifically shows that you’ve done your research and that you’re taking the application process seriously.
This can be a perplexing interview question, particularly if you are applying for jobs which are closely connected to your internship/work experience and degree area. If you’ve spent the last three years studying marketing, for example, as well as seeking out marketing work experience, it might seem obvious that you’re interested in marketing. In addition, we all need to pay for food and somewhere to live, so the answer ‘well, I need money’ might be on the tip of your tongue.
To answer this question, it helps to know why the employer is asking it and what they’re looking for:
- Genuine motivation: People who care about and are interested in what they do tend to go the extra mile – they often suggest new ideas and bring energy and enthusiasm to teams. Employers would rather hire people who have a real interest in their jobs. Remember that enthusiasm is conveyed not just by what you say but how you say it – show your interest through your body language and tone of voice.
For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because I learnt from my work experience placement that I relish the challenge of inventing innovative ways to reach new customers, and I find that I’m motivated by the buzz of meeting regular targets.’
- Understanding of what the role involves: Make sure you’ve done your homework and have a realistic understanding of the position, its role within the team and its day to day duties. This shows you’re keen and that you are aware of the purpose of the job and its function in the organisation.
Application Advisor Melisa sees QMUL students from all subjects, and gives them feedback on their applications, cover letters and CVs. Read on for 3 common mistakes and how to avoid them…
– Being too generic: a typical question in job applications is why you want to work in that particular organisation. The key to answer this successfully is RESEARCH! (Google is your friend! 😉) Why do you want to work for them and not for their competitors? What has that company done that made you interested in them in the first place? Imagine you are applying for a position within the banking industry – why have you applied to Barclays and not, say, HSBC?
A good technique to check whether your answer is specific enough is to cross out the name of the company you are applying for and write the name of their competitors instead. Does your answer still make sense? If so, then you are being too generic!
– Ignoring the job description and person specification: it is really important that you study these (long!) documents in depth when completing an application form as they contain the key elements that you need to focus on. Once you have read them carefully, make a list of the essential requirements for the job. What skills are the employers looking for? Can you think of specific examples to back up your claims?
– Language: Keep it straightforward and simple. Avoid contractions and clichés. Focus on how your experience and skills make you a suitable candidate for the post and explain clearly why the company appeals to you. “It would be my greatest honour to work in this world-renowned company” is something to avoid!
Melisa, Application Advisor
Many job applications will include a question about motivation: a question that asks about why you want to work for a company, or what you think you will get out of doing a particular role.
It’s important to understand that when you write about your motivation, the employer will want specific reasons. Avoid generalisations such as “I want to work for your highly-esteemed company”, or “I have always been passionate about customer service”.
Imagine that you are the employer. What kinds of questions might you have when reading about an applicant’s motivation?
Here are some ideas:
- Have you read the job description? The employer wants to know that you understand what the job entails and what tasks or activities you would be doing on a day-to-day basis. They may also expect you to show that you understand how this job role fits into their wider organisation, and even the wider sector. Make sure you acknowledge what you would be doing in a job when you talk about why you want to apply for it.
- Are your expectations of the job realistic? Show that you understand what the reality of doing the job would be like, and that you have the key skills to cope with its challenges. One of the best ways to show that you understand this is by talking about your past experience, and the ways in which it might compare to this new role. Lay out the relevant skills you gained from this experience that you can bring to the job.
- What are you career goals? Most employers are interested in investing in your future, and so they want to understand what goals you have for your career. Be realistic, and think about what your plan for the next three years will involve. Convince the employer that you will make the most of this job, and explain why it will help you to develop your longer-term career within this sector or company.
Remember, we offer 1-2-1 appointments where we can give feedback on your application. Call 020 7882 8533 to book.