Job Application Advice: Common Mistakes

As a guideline:

  • if you are receiving many offers to interview but no offers of employment, reflect on your interview technique;
  • if you receive few or no offers to interview, reflect on your application style.

Do not send out a wave of applications with a duplicated covering letter. Tailored applications show research and thoughtfulness.

Employers like to see you have done your homework. That means you should:

  • write to a named person;
  • reassess your CV for every application;
  • demonstrate that you have made a serious effort.

Underselling yourself

Be positive about what you have to offer. If you are not confident about your potential, it will be difficult to convince others.

Ask a careers adviser to check your application before you send it in order to assess its strength and where improvements can be made.

Resticting your range of applications

Over 40% of graduate vacancies are open to graduates within any discipline. Opportunities are not limited to jobs directly related to your studies.

Explore graduate career paths in what do graduates do? and options with your subject.

Highly competitive areas

Some areas of employment are highly competitive. These include:

  • broadcasting;
  • advertising;
  • publishing;
  • journalism.

Voluntary work or unpaid work shadowing is a good way to gain experience and make contacts. If this is not an option, you might consider related fields where you can hone these skills while you continue to apply for your dream job.

Not looking widely enough

Some graduates only consider the large company graduate training schemes that appear in the Credible Directories rather than those of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With a downshift in the economy and increased job losses, there will be fewer graduate placements on offer and today’s graduates should not restrict their opportunities. SMEs can provide wider experiences and more responsibility.

Managing potential difficulties

As a candidate, you may have background constraints or issues that you consider to be a disadvantage. Always present this information positively. Demonstrate what you have learned and how you have overcome any difficulties. Describe coping strategies that you have developed. Employers often look for evidence of perseverance and problem solving, so you can use this as an example.

Some employers do use academic results as an initial selection tool. If you do not meet all the academic criteria, you might ask to be considered on other merits, to have your experience taken into account. You may want to say this in your covering letter. It is better to tackle the issue than to either deselect yourself or ignore the criteria.

Poor interview technique

If you are called to interview, you are in with a chance of the job. Everyone who is short-listed is considered capable of doing the job. The interview will check the competencies of candidates and show employers your motivation and ability to fit into their organisation.

Before your interview:

  • Spend time thinking through your motivation and how to express it.
  • Consider arranging a mock interview with a careers adviser. Interview questions are often predictable, so this could be a great way to prepare.
  • Have a look at interview tips for more information.

Always seek feedback

If you feel that you have put in a good application for a job and have not been short-listed, seek feedback. This is not always forthcoming, but in some sectors, such as public services, you will be able to find out exactly why your application failed. This may indicate something that you can easily improve, or provide useful tips for future applications.

It is often difficult to hear constructive criticism, but remember not to react in a negative manner.

Say thank you to whoever gives you feedback and remember that whatever you are told can be put to good use.

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