Most graduates don’t have the luxury of being able to take a year off after they graduate from university and, if you feel anything like I did, you’re probably fed up with studying and just want to get on and earn some money. This leaves you, in your final year, panicking about what you want to do, making the applications, interviewing and securing a job, all of which is extremely time-consuming. And let’s not forget you still have your academic work to do, exams to revise for, and possibly also a job on the side.
What I’ve found is that there’s a great deal of advice out there for getting your CV right – including from me if you have a listen to episode 41 – and how to deal with assessment centres, which I will cover in a later episode. But there’s not so much on the actual application process itself, and that’s what I want to deal with today.
I thought it would be a good to hear from Imogen again, a young graduate in her second year of work after graduation. She spoke to us in episode 43 about how she decided on her career.
To recap what Imogen told us:
- Focus on one area of interest for efficiency
- Make sure you have a basic CV prepared – see episode 41 for guidance
- Prepare a list of your academic grades and achievements from the age of 16+, as most applications will require this information
That deals with the basic preparations you should have made. Now for the questions themselves.
The main body of questions are competence-based, and will ask you to demonstrate various skills. When answering these questions, use the acronym STAR to guide you: that’s situation, task, action, result.
Let’s look at a leadership question, which would look something like “tell us about an occasion when you have shown leadership.”
Don’t panic if you have no work experience, you will probably be able to find something in your education or hobbies to fit the bill. Think of sports that you’ve played, or projects you’ve worked on at school or university. For example:
- Situation: I was working as a member of a group for a school economics project.
- Task: The group was asked to research and submit a SWOT analysis on the comparison of car manufacturing in Germany and the UK.
- Action: Initially, we tried to brainstorm with a communal approach, but recognising that this was not working for the group, I suggested that we should divide the project between us and each of us would lead the discussion of, and be responsible for, one aspect of the final report.
- Result: The members of the team were able to concentrate on a smaller element of the project and therefore the quality of each segment was more focused and coherent than if everyone had looked at all aspects. I believe the overall project was done to a higher standard and we achieved a higher mark as a result.
Think about the job you are applying for, what sort of experience do you think they are looking for, try and use industry appropriate keywords wherever they sound natural and unforced.
Create these answers in a Word document and save them for other applications Naturally you will have to tweak them for each application, but there are only a limited number of questions that you will be asked in the entire application process, and having prepared answers will be very helpful, and efficient.
Additionally, it is always important to take note of the number of words that the company has limited you to. You don’t have to fill it, but also make sure you don’t exceed it.
Finally, before you send of your application, make sure you’ve checked the basics – for example, you should always check:
- Spelling and punctuation
- Your contact and personal details
- That you’ve answered all of the questions
- That you’ve saved or printed the application for reference (if possible)
The best of luck with your applications, let me know how they go.