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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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

Bag yourself some work experience with the likes of TfL, NHS and Crossrail

QChallenge London will offer successful applicants the chance to develop their problem solving skills, their leadership skills and their cultural intelligence.

Apply for QChallenge London here.

Watch the video below to see Andy Coxall, CEO of Common Purpose Student Experience, give an intro into this brand new programme.

This is your opportunity to test yourself, your creative thinking and your ability to work with different people. You’ll develop leadership skills and your ability to innovate. You’ll also develop your networks across a wide variety of organisations across the city. Who knows where your challenge could take you?

Applications for QChallenge London close on Sunday 3rd December, and the programme will run from 5 February to 18 April 2018.

Please visit our website for further details and to apply.

Get fit and get your CV into shape – join a club or society and boost your CV

Did you know that getting involved with a club or society is a great opportunity for you to gain experience and develop your skills, which you can use to demonstrate to recruiters that you have what they are looking for when you apply for a job?

Whether you are going for graduate positions, work experience or part-time work, recruiters look for evidence that you have the ability to do the job. This means they will be looking out for examples of the key skills (competencies) that they require for the role on your CV/application and at interview. So whilst you’re keeping fit, you will also be giving your CV a good workout too and getting it into shape for future applications!

How, you might ask?

First of all, being part of a club or society is a great example of team working, communications skills and initiative. Running events for a club or society can demonstrate organisation and planning skills, and contributing to a newsletter or blog will prove your experience of  written communication skills.

Joining a drama group can help enhance presentation skills, communication skills, thinking on your feet, team working… and the list goes on! Most of all, it shows enthusiasm to get involved with university life outside of lectures, helping you to stand out from the crowd when applying for a job.

Further down the line, there could be an opportunity to get involved with committee roles e.g. president… this demonstrates leadership, responsibility and commitment, all of which are highly valued by employers.  These positions could also be an introduction to management skills.

Once you have had a taste at trying different things and developing new skills,  you can also think about what you have enjoyed and what you have been good at – a great way of working out what sort of jobs you might want to do when you graduate.

Head to Freshers Fair or contact the Students Union to find out what is on offer this year. If you think there is something missing, you could always start your own club or society.

Good luck and have fun!

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.


  • 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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Ten skills your part-time job has given you

ssWhen it comes to writing your CV, an application form or answering questions at interview, don’t under-sell your part-time job. Working in a shop or restaurant etc. will have exposed you to situations that required you to use skills which graduate employers value. The key is knowing how to then make these relevant to the graduate job market. See our examples below. If you’d like to find out more or to get feedback on what you’ve written, visit the Careers & Enterprise Centre.

1. Customer service
Businesses are only too aware that providing excellent customer service is vital for retaining customer loyalty. Demonstrating that you know how to deliver friendly, polite and considerate service to customers will help you when you are applying for jobs after graduation. Don’t be shy to talk about times when you have gone that extra mile for a customer either.

2. Problem solving
What did you do when problems arose at your workplace? Did you decide to tackle the issues yourself, or work with colleagues? What did you learn from the experience? Being able to solve problems when they arise is a skill needed in every type of employment. Using the STAR technique (Situation Task Action Result) is particularly useful when structuring your answers to demonstrate the skill to employers.

3. Initiative
There may have been times when you used initiative in your part-time job, so why not show this off! Did you spot a way of making customer care more effective, for example, or of increasing sales in your department? Perhaps you came up with a way to motivate the rest of your team? You might think that your idea is not much to shout about, but to a potential employer it demonstrates initiative and commitment to improving your work environment.

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