Acing your Application Forms and Interviews

laptop and pen and paper

Acing your Applications and Impressing at Interview

Hints and tips from Campus Jobs

During February we will be advertising for new students to apply to work on our Help Desk team, so what better way to prepare you than with a blog all about application forms, CV’s and interviews! The hints and tips we give you here are usable across various roles and you should consider them for your applications/interviews for graduate jobs too! 

First stop – Preparing to apply 

Do you know the values of the company/organisation? Have you looked them up on glassdoor/linkedin? What are people saying about them?

Do you have further questions that you can’t find out from the job description?

It’s becoming less common for job seekers to contact the “informal contact point” that is often listed on adverts, why not call or email them to ask a few additional questions. This initial contact can often make you stand out as someone eager and confident in their job search who isn’t afraid to speak to those they don’t know.

Individual preparing notes
Stock Image – Preparation

Putting together your CV

Putting together a strong CV is crucial when it is required for a job application. Recruiters/hiring managers often do not have time to wade through pages and pages of CV’s, therefore keep it succinct! 1 side of A4 at font 11 is often adequate.  You’ll want to use bullet points to make your prioritized facts easier to read.

Due to the Equal Opportunities act employers are not allowed to discriminate against individuals for various protected characteristics such as race, gender, age or sexual orientation. Therefore, DO NOT include your Date of Birth, Photograph, Gender or any other personal information about yourself other than your name, address, email and telephone number.

One thing that hiring managers are bound to notice is whether your CV is tailored for the job you are applying for, DO NOT send out generic CV’s and watch out for how you’ve labelled your CV. It won’t look good if you are applying for a sales job but have your CV labelled as “Graduate Scheme CV”.

The start of your CV is often called your personal statement, but don’t think of this as your UCAS personal statement, it should be a short and snappy sentence or two explaining who you are and what you are looking for. You should include confident positive words in this opening section of your CV and tailor it so it matches up with the job type you are applying for. An Example: “University of Reading Business Graduate with 3 years of part time work experience looking to utilise their strong communication, analytical and problem-solving skills within a role as a Management Graduate Scheme Trainee.”

Now your CV is ready, move on to the application form, it’s important to pay close attention to the wording of the questions.

Depending on the questions set out for you, you may get asked  for a statement of suitability, here you need to make sure you check off all of the essential criteria (specifically mention the words) as well as any desirable criteria you can confidently cover and evidence. Hiring managers will comb through application forms looking for each criteria point and examples so they can tick them off (we know this from experience here at Campus Jobs (hint if you are going to apply to work for us!)). Those who can demonstrate they meet all the essential criteria and potentially some of the desirable criteria are likely to be interviewed as priority.

However, we would like to state that you should still put your application out there for as many roles as you are interested in, don’t panic if you don’t necessarily have the desirable criteria. Occasionally recruitment managers find that they don’t have any suitable candidates with the right availability/skillset and desirable criteria so they may interview you even if you don’t meet the extra criteria points.

Reading the questions carefully – do they want you to list, or explain? Or provide examples? 

It’s important to make sure you have clearly read and understood the question before spending time on your answer. What words have they used in it? Do they want you to “Explain” or “Describe” something? This usually means they are expecting a lengthier answer (don’t forget your paragraphs!). Have they asked you to briefly list or outline some key skills? The clue here is in the word “briefly”, they aren’t expecting a long answer. Some application forms will give you a word limit to abide by for your answers.

Standing out

It’s important to sell yourself throughout the process, from CV to application form and at interview. Do you have any niche skills that people may not know about? Have you undertaken any additional courses or qualifications that may add to your skillset compared to other applicants? Make sure you mention these where appropriate.

You may even get asked a question about what makes you stand out at interview? Have a few things lined up in case you get asked to name some interesting facts about yourself.

Note taking and preparing via laptop
Stock image – note taking

Preparing for Interview

Back to basics for this one, do your homework. Find out the key facts about the company or organisation. What are their core values? Do they have a mission statement? When they did they launch/form? What is their core business focused on?

For many graduate roles and roles for employers such as University of Reading you are likely to get asked a question to find out what you know or have researched about the organisation or the role itself. For example: “From your understanding what do you think the core aspects of this role are?” or “Do you have any comments or thoughts about the values of the company?”.

Don’t forget to clearly read the invite to interview, are you going to be expected to do a task on the day? Do you have to prepare a presentation or carry out psychometric tests? Plan ahead and make sure you haven’t missed anything in the instructions.

On the day…

Dress smartly, personal hygiene is also a must! The first impression you make is very important.

Arrive early or on time (if you are going to be late, make sure you ring the contact point you must advise them, do not leave them waiting and not knowing where you are!). Arriving early is often better as it gives you time to calm yourself down, do a final read of your notes and prepare yourself.

Aim to be confident but not arrogant, you will want to come across personable and showing a real interest in the role and company. Some interview panel members may find it off putting to interview candidates who appear dis-interested or if they don’t have anything to say.  On the other hand, you may worry that you have said too much, nervous chatting is normal, most interviewers will appreciate how nerves can influence people’s interviews so don’t worry!

Shaking hands picture
Stock Image – Interview

Follow up

You may want to follow up by email after your interview to the contact individuals just to say thank you for their time and for meeting with you. This follow up communication shows your keen interest in the role. Once is enough though, don’t get too stalkerish by emailing more than that.

Been rejected for a role? Have you read our article about what to do if rejected for a position?

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing your applications and CV’s if you are going to apply for the Campus Jobs Help Desk roles (advert goes live 3rd February).