Man at a computer

Online applications to consulting firms

Boost your graduate career chances with these tips on filling in online forms.
Successful applications require equal measures of time, effort and common sense.

Online application systems are favoured by many consulting employers. They do not replace the traditional CV and covering letter, however – these are usually requested in addition, as an attachment to the application. Expect to see the following kinds of categories in a typical consulting online application:

  • Registration: applicants must fill in their name and email address, create a password and choose a security question and answer. This enables them to save the form at any point to complete at a later date.
  • Personal information: name, address, telephone number, email etc., how a candidate heard about the vacancy.
  • Education: details sought here include university, degree and grades achieved, any other languages spoken. There is also an opportunity to record any other test scores.
  • Employment history.
  • Preferences and documents: covers preferred office and position, plus the facility to upload a covering letter, CV and exam results.

Exercise caution

Outside of work the internet and e-mail are primarily reserved for keeping in touch with friends and family: many applicants forget to switch off the informality when it comes to professional correspondence and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. Consulting recruiters have reported a drop in the quality and standard of applications since the switch to online systems. The main crimes are poor grammar and spelling errors, incorrect employer details, lower case personal pronouns (‘i’), and, in severe lapses, faux pas have included smileys and text speak. These mistakes will immediately blow your chances of creating a good impression. The best way of assuring this doesn’t happen is to take your time. Most online systems will allow you to save your work and come back to it at another time, so you don’t have to do it all in one sitting. It’s advisable to print a version off and ask a careers adviser, friend or family member to read through it for spelling, grammatical sense and consistency – don’t just rely on your computer’s spell-checker program to pick up things.

Meeting the criteria

Online systems are designed to filter out candidates who don’t meet the set criteria. Saying that, recruiters realise there may be reasons why you didn’t achieve better A level grades, for example. If this is the case use the ‘Other information’ box on the form to explain your circumstances. It’s also advisable to contact recruiters directly after submitting your application to explain things in person.

Checks and planning

Successful applications require equal measures of time, effort and common sense so make sure you’ve covered the four key points of consideration before hitting the ‘send’ button:

Preparation. Research is a key ingredient of producing successful applications so be sure to use all available resources (eg the internet, graduate recruitment literature, careers publications) to find out about an employer and the position.

Answering the question. Make sure your answers are tailored to the particular section of the application you’re completing and that you address the questions directly and succinctly.

Attention to detail. Read through your application a number of times to check for spelling mistakes. Ask a second person to check it as well.

Keep it professional. An online application form is a formal piece of written communication – whilst it is important to get your personality across in an application avoid using informal language and grammar and ‘quirky’ sentences. Avoid gimmicks at all costs.