Why have you applied for this job?

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.

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Completing application forms – common mistakes

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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

“Why do you want to work for us?” Demonstrating your motivation in application forms

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.

5 common CV mistakes… …and how to avoid them!

The art of writing a strong CV can sometimes feel hard to grasp, but with these tips to avoid common mistakes, you will be well on your way to a stellar draft.

  • Target your CV. One of the main mistakes candidates make is to think that they can keep their CV the same for every job application they do. CVs need to be targeted for each job to make sure that you are meeting the key skills asked for on the job description. If you have some older work experience that is relevant to a job for which you are applying, you can bring it onto the front page of your CV in a targeted section (i.e. “Marketing Experience” or “Customer Service Experience”).
  • Avoid complicated layouts. You want to make your CV stand out from the crowd, but using an unusual font, different colours, or a complex format is not the way to do it. Employers want to read a CV easily and quickly, without being distracted by unnecessary details. Format your CV in reverse chronological order, with clearly labelled sections for your education, work experience, and other key information. You can find examples of CV formats in the Knowledge Bank on our QMPlus page.
  • Don’t assume they know what you did. Often students forget to explain their work experience in enough detail for an employer to understand what they did. Before writing your CV, try doing a mind map of the key tasks and skills it involved. Note down any statistics or figures that show your achievements, such as the number of clients you worked with or the amount of sales you achieved. Have you given enough information for an employer to get a clear picture of you in that role
  • Don’t underestimate transferable skills. Transferable skills – such as team work or communication – sometimes get called “soft” skills, however they are anything but! It is as important to demonstrate these skills on your CV as it is to show your technical or specialist knowledge. Flag up these skills in your description of your work experience, providing clear evidence for how you used them and the outcomes you achieved.
  • Remember your degree! Sometimes students focus solely on describing their work experience, and forget one really important area of current experience they have: a degree! Talk about your degree on your CV, giving an employer a sense of relevant modules you are studying and key skills you are getting from it. Degree courses vary between universities so don’t assume that an employer will know what was involved in yours.

If you want further advice on CV writing skills, you can book a one-to-one session with an Application Adviser by calling 020 7882 8533.

Guest blog: 5 CV mistakes that can jeopardise your career prospects

Applicant Selection Concept with Business CV Resume - Job IntervYou might not realise how important a CV is when you start job hunting, but it’s the barrier between getting an interview and not hearing from the company ever again.

There are quite a few CV mistakes that can jeopardise your career prospects, especially if you’re applying for a part-time student role or graduate job, as the competition is often quite tough.

Here, we have highlighted five of the biggest CV mistakes to remain aware of throughout the job application process and your career.

1. Typos

Of course, you might make a mistake and miss a spelling error, especially if it’s buried way down deep in the middle of your CV. You can hope that the recruiter misses it too, but the chances of that happening are fairly slim.

So, what impact will that one little typo have on your career prospects?

Maybe very little, maybe a lot.

At best, it can weaken your chances of getting through to an interview. At worst, your CV will be dismissed instantly and you’ll have to scrape the bucket of your overdraft for just a few weeks more.

How do you mitigate against typos?

By double, triple, quadruple checking your CV before you click submit – the same way you would with a piece of coursework.

Once you have written your CV, step away from it. Give yourself a break from job hunting and do something distracting before coming back to it. Fresh eyes should help you pick up any silly mistakes and typos.

If you’re still in any doubt, give it to someone else to proofread.

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The Basics: Cover letters

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter (sometimes called a covering letter or supporting statement) allows you to personalise your job application and explain your CV, explaining your motivation for the job, your enthusiasm for the particular role and, most importantly your understanding of the organisation that you are applying to. You should always send a cover letter with your CV unless you are told otherwise. 

  • It’s a single page letter, which is a tailor-made personal statement for a particular job and organisation.
  • A cover letter is not just a repeat of your CV.
  • The advice below is also applicable when completing an application form and responding to: ‘Please use the space below to indicate why you feel that you are suitable for this post, including details of relevant skills and experience’ (but this will not be addressed to a named individual).

How do I write a cover letter?

Your cover letter should have a clear beginning, middle and end.

Beginning:

  • Address your cover letter to a named contact whenever possible to show you have sent it to them personally. You will usually find these details in the application pack – make sure you have spelt them correctly!
  • A clear introduction – explain who you are (e.g. a recent QMUL graduate), what position you are applying for, and how you heard about the role.

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The Basics: CVs

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a record of your experience, skills, achievements and education, and is an important document which is a crucial part of applying for a job. It’s not simply a list of everything you have ever done, but instead a way of “selling” your skills and experiences to an employer, in relation to a particular role.

CVs for most jobs in the UK should be two sides long, however there are two exceptions to this rule: if you are applying for a job in the financial sector, or for a position in the USA. Check the individual job application in these cases, but unless otherwise stated, your CV should be only one side long for these applications.

The golden rule for writing a CV is that it must be tailored to the role you are applying to, i.e. you write a new CV for each role and demonstrate how you match what an employer is looking for.

What should you include?

Personal details

  • Your full name should come at the top of your CV, preferably in bold and in a larger font than the rest of your CV.
  • Next comes your address, but try to fit this on one line if you can – space is valuable! On the next two lines include your telephone number and email You do not need to include your date of birth.
  • You do not need to write ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top, as it is clear what the document is.

Profile

  • You may wish to include a short profile (or personal statement). While this is not compulsory, it can make your CV stand out from the crowd by providing employers with a summary of your key skills. It’s also an opportunity to highlight any particularly relevant achievements or experiences you want to draw the recruiter’s attention to. Make sure that this is relevant to the role you are applying for.

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