Top 7 tips for a successful job application

Jemma Smith, Editor
September, 2015

In the graduate job hunt first impressions count. To ace the application process follow the advice of these top employers

There's no doubt about it, competition for graduate jobs is fierce. Every day companies receive hundreds of applications from graduates who are eager to start climbing the career ladder, so standing out from the crowd has never been more important.

While the pressure is on to make a good impression from the start, you should take comfort from the fact that graduate jobs are on the increase and skilled graduates are highly sought after by employers.

Due to the huge number of talented graduates applying for each position your application will need to be faultless in order to secure an interview. To help you achieve this follow these top tips when applying for graduate jobs.

Do your research

Applicants that have done their research into the company never fail to impress and it's easy enough to do. 'Employers will have lots of information on their websites and it's key that applicants have a good understanding of who they are applying to, what the organisation does and current issues that the organisation might be facing,' says Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment at PwC. Read 'about us' pages, research competitors and look for any recent news items.

Make sure you've really thought about why the job you are applying for is right for you and not just about what you need to do to get the job

Include relevant skills and experience

Read the person specification carefully and make sure to include all relevant skills and experience. Evidence these skills with specific examples to really make an impact. 'We look for candidates who can show us how they acquired their skills and experience, and how they would use these to be successful in their role,' explains Ruth Doyle, regional managing director at Aldi.

Show your personality

While academic ability is important you shouldn't underestimate the value of personality.

'As well as credentials we look for candidates who are able to get the best out of their teams by working well with a variety of people. The inclusion of extra-curricular activities gives us a snapshot into the candidate as a person,' adds Ruth.

Double-check your application

Proof reading applications before sending is essential. Failing to do so could cost you the job. Julia Jank, talent acquisition, employer branding and diversity lead at Siemens believes that it's important to demonstrate attention to detail by double checking your application for spelling, grammatical and presentation errors. Get a second pair of eyes, such as a family member or friend, to do this.

Avoid common mistakes

When you ask employers about the most common application mistakes their answers are always the same. Submitting a generic application usually features on the list. 'You should always aim to tailor your skills to the company's needs,' says Julia. Aim to adapt past experiences to the role being advertised. Generic applications that fail to give enough detail will automatically find their way onto the 'no' pile.

Lying is another. 'Employers will check the information that you provide on your application form and may withdraw your job offer if there are any discrepancies,' explains Richard. 'Integrity is vital to employers.'

It's also easy to fall into the trap of waffling but long rambling answers that fail to answer the questions being asked will automatically take you out of the running. Read all application questions/instructions thoroughly and plan and edit your responses before writing or typing out your answers.

Sell your achievements

In most cases your application form or cover letter is the first chance potential employers have to get to know you, so don't waste the opportunity to sell yourself. While following the above advice is a great start, you'll need to go the extra mile to set yourself above the competition.

Julia believes that memorable applications come from candidates who show interesting personalities and a drive to succeed. 'At Siemens we want to see candidates who can demonstrate their passion for the industry and the role they are applying for.'

For Richard, when it comes to standing out employability skills are essential. 'Gaining these skills and being able to demonstrate them during the application process is vital. Students can acquire these skills in a number of ways through internships and work placements, part-time jobs, university clubs and societies or volunteer work.'

Ruth feels that being able to show a deep understanding of the company and its ethos is a sure-fire way to impress and to ensure that your application makes it onto the 'yes' pile.

Be convincing

Until you meet in person (hopefully at interview) applications are all about convincing potential employers that you have what they are looking for so before you press the all-important 'send' or 'submit' button Richard's parting advice is this, 'make sure you've really thought about why the job you are applying for is right for you and not just about what you need to do to get the job. If you haven't convinced yourself, you'll struggle to convince employers at interview.'