When faced with the formidable task of applying for a job it’s hard to know how to play the game; which information to include, which to sacrifice, and most importantly what is likely to give you the edge over the dozens, perhaps hundreds of other applicants. The process becomes all the more intimidating to those fresh from University. After celebrating a huge personal achievement, it’s natural to feel like a fish out of water when taking those crucial first steps towards employment, especially when it seems like every sentence has the potential to make or break you.
Although most employers simply require a well turned out CV and cover letter, some applications require more thought and effort in the form of specific questions which might also have a maximum or minimum word count. Yes, it’s important to choose those words wisely, but making the right impression is much more straightforward than you might think. Keeping the following five points in mind will help to make the whole process a lot less stressful and may just bag you that all important first interview.
1. A need to know basis
When tied to a pesky word count it’s crucial to keep information relevant. This sounds like common sense, but the achievements that impress your friends and family might not necessarily mean much to prospective employers. They have a brief to fit and candidates selected for the next step need to be as close a match to this as possible. This is where good research skills come into play. Any self-respecting business or company will have their own webpage so do some digging into their goals and ethics to find out what will be needed from you, professionally and personally.
2. Be creative
Just because your talents might not fit the job description (a common plight amongst students looking for an initial foot on the ladder) it doesn’t mean you can’t adapt your description of them. For example, having artistic flair can translate to ‘a keen eye for detail’ or ‘an inventive problem solver’.
3. Forsaking all others
Loyalty and commitment are huge assets in the eyes of an employer. Although a lot job adverts claim to offer you the chance to be part of a ‘team’ or even a ‘family’, the cold hard truth is that having a high turnover of staff costs time and money. So it’s important to show that you will blend well. Questions that address this can really work in your favour if you have the right answer up your sleeve – be prepared to show interest in potential openings to develop your career (and yourself!)
4. Sell, sell, sell
One of the most universally recognised questions asked in applications and interviews is “Why should we choose you?”. Although it provides candidates with the opportunity to shine, answering can be a bit of a minefield. Finding the right balance between confidence and arrogance on paper all comes down to your approach. Avoid using emotive or long winded descriptions of your previous successes – stick to factual evidence and positive outcomes.
5. Cover all bases
Finally, the Cover Letter is an applicant’s best friend. If you find word counts and specific lines of enquiry restrictive, a short stand-alone document allows you to add anything you might have missed and assert your individuality. Ensure it is brief but concise, well written and formatted and leaves your employer wanting more.
Job-hunting is a far from enviable task but one which should be treated in the same way as employment itself. Stay committed and focused but remember to sign-off at the end of the day, leaving your concerns at the virtual door. Making the application process part of your life rather than your sole purpose helps to avoid disappointment. Times might be tough but unemployment is not forever.