Ace your applications!

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.

rightGet 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.

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How To Get Your CV Noticed

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.

Reviewing Curricula - Job Applicants Under Scrutiny - With Copys

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

Work Experience

  • 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

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Top tips for technical CVs

photo_61056_20160126If you study a STEM subject, you may be expected to include more technical information in your CV when applying for work experience, internships, placements and graduate jobs. The trick is to create a CV that introduces a rounded, human candidate who has the relevant technical expertise, rather than one that presents list of technical skills but not a person! Here are some tips:

  • Consider a profile at the top of your CV: this can be a short paragraph or a few bullet points which clearly and succinctly state your key skills and experience and, most importantly, your career ambitions. Naturally these should relate to the position you’re applying for!
  • Bear in mind that the first person who reads your CV will probably not be an expert in your field. They will understand that you need to use technical language, but at the same time, they need to be able to understand enough of your CV to see that you’re filling the criteria for the position. So, make sure that you’re using the same kind of terminology/buzzwords as are being used in the job specification and also be sure to include some evidence of broader, transferable skills (such as teamwork, leadership and communication), especially if these have been asked for.

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Creating your skills story…

A CV tells a story about you and your professional journey to date.

As a student it can be common to have a varied range of work experience, such as part-time jobs, internships, or even placements during your degree. This can mean that your CV can seem quite broken up, with some of the work you did before or during university no longer feeling as relevant to the career you want to pursue now.

But by focusing on the skills you got from these jobs, rather than just the tasks they involved, you can refocus your CV to tell a story about a portfolio of skills you have developed across these different experiences.

Here are three quick ways to try this on your CV:

  1. Start with skills: When describing your work experience, start each bullet point with a skill. Then describe the actions you took in the job that evidenced that skill. Even if you have done lots of different kinds of jobs, you will then be able to highlight the similar skills that connected them. Here are some examples…
  • Written communication: wrote weekly mail outs to inform customers of new services.
  • Teamwork: chaired monthly staff meetings, ensuring that all staff were able to speak and raise their concerns and thoughts.
  • Organisation: updated the online room booking calendar daily on Microsoft Outlook.
  1. Include a profile: Try writing a profile at the top of your CV, which gives potential employers some context about you and highlights the key skills that link together your different experiences. The profile should be short (no more than a couple of sentences) and specific to you, for example…

I am a bilingual BSc Mathematics student, who has developed strong communication skills across a range of customer service jobs, and is now seeking to apply my knowledge of statistics in the public sector.

  1. Use a cover letter: If you have the opportunity, submit a cover letter alongside your CV. On the cover letter you can select the most relevant aspects of your work history and education, to create a narrative about how your previous experience has given you skills to undertake the job for which you are applying. You can find advice on how to structure a cover letter here.

Good luck! And don’t forget you can always book a 1-2-1 appointment with an Application Adviser to get some feedback on your CV, cover letter or application.

Eleanor, Application Adviser

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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