Application planner: quick tips for graduate job-hunters

Application planner: quick tips for graduate job-hunters

Quick tips to help you prepare for graduate applications, interviews and assessments. Use them as a handy check list to make sure you're on the right track to get a graduate job.

Step 1: Preparation: make yourself the ideal applicant

  • Start with yourself Write down your skills and characteristics so that you know what you have to offer. Make a list of your achievements and pull together all your best work experience examples.
  • Make time for employer research Break down employer research into manageable activities: draw up a list of the employers you want to investigate, compare them on basic categories (size, culture, location, salary, training, etc). Shortlist the employers that meet your criteria and research them in greater depth. You can do this on targetjobs with our employer hubs: reports and research on graduate employers.
  • Use a range of sources for your research Use the employer profiles and immediate graduate job vacancies here on to get started. Visit each employer’s website to find out specifics about the company. Pick up free copies of TARGETjobs publications from your university’s careers service. While you’re there, look at the information the careers service holds on employers. To improve your general knowledge of a business sector, follow stories about the companies you’re targeting in the national press – look at the Financial Times and business sections of The Times or the Guardian.
  • Know what employers want Always check minimum degree requirements and what degree disciplines are required before you start applying. Find out what general competences (eg communication and teamworking) and what specific skills (eg office IT skills) are wanted.
  • Check the application process Confirm whether you need to apply online or send a CV and covering letter. And don’t forget to find out the application deadline.

Step 2: Graduate applications: the essentials

  • Give yourself plenty of time to write applications Good applications take time and concentration. Never leave them until the last minute. Find a place where you won’t be distracted when you are working on them.
  • Tailor your application to each employer Match your skills and competences to each job and organisation you apply to. Recycle CVs and application responses at your own peril – you might leave in a reference to another employer.
  • Prepare longer responses in a separate document This will make it much easier to structure responses and to spell check what you write.
  • Use a range of examples to highlight your abilities Choose good examples from your list of work experience and extra-curricular activities to showcase your skills and abilities.
  • Check applications carefully before you send them Poor spelling and grammar will immediately jeopardise your chances of success. Never let silly errors slip through. Ask a trusted friend to read through your application before you send it off.

Step 3: Graduate interviews and assessment centres: top tips and advice

  • Check the interview or assessment centre process Read any information sent to you by an employer well in advance of the day. This will give you time to make contact and clarify any queries, as well as prepare for interviews and assessment activities.
  • Reread your application and the job description Try to anticipate questions you may be asked and prepare a range of fresh examples you can use to demonstrate your skills. Make sure you’ve thought about your responses to some of the standard job interview questions that may come up.
  • Prepare your own questions to ask Write a list of questions you want to ask interviewers and employer representatives about the job vacancy and working life. In the heat of an interview it’s easy to forget what you want to ask, so type up your questions and take them with you.
  • Participate fully in all assessment activities You can only be assessed if you are taking part and contributing to all the activities. Get stuck in and have a go.
  • Be enthusiastic Be ready to tell interviewers why you want to work for their organisation and what you’ll bring to the job. Smile, be positive and be yourself at all times.