Many student and graduates struggle to find work so if this has been your experience, you are not alone. The current job market for university students and graduates is difficult but ‘an inconvenient truth’ is that many applications are poorly prepared and miss-targeted. If all your job applications are being rejected, it’s time to audit your application technique and strategy.

A poorly presented application or one that appears ‘generic’ rather than ‘tailored’ to the job being applied for will almost certainly be automatically rejected. Inundated selectors look for easy ways to reduce the number of applications that will make it to their long-list – this is the pile of CV’s that they select to ‘read in detail’ with a view to creating a short-list of interview candidates. Employers rarely spend more than a few seconds looking at each application received so impact, quality and relevance should be the keys to your application strategy.

If your applications aren’t resulting in interview offers, is this genuinely the result of a shortage of jobs or is there a more obvious reason? Although there is no ‘one-way’ to prepare a job application, clearly the application should be attractively presented, well organised, address the job criteria and explain your motivation in applying for the position. The first page of the CV has a critical role to play as does the cover letter.  The employer is unlikely to look beyond the first page of your application unless that first page impresses.

Pre-application research matters. If you don’t really understand the role you are applying for and the organisation’s business, how can you present yourself convincingly enough to deserve an interview? Good quality research will help you to understand the role and the context, and decide whether this is a role that you could do well and enjoy; applying for a job that you have no chance of getting an interview for, wastes your time and the employer’s. In most instances when you apply for a job you should be confident that you can do most of the tasks involved. You should also have given consideration to any gaps in your skills and knowledge, and have potential remedies. If you are unable to meet any of the key criteria, it may be worth contacting the employer to find out what weighting the employer gives to these.

Aim for quality rather than quantity – remember your CV represents you to every employer you send it to. This is particularly important when you are applying to corporate employers and recruitment agencies who invite you to submit a CV online as an expression of interest. Your CV is then being used to match you against relevant roles and a poor CV, that is going to be ‘in the system’ for a while, will mean the loss of opportunities. Whether you are shortlisted or not, looking at your CV should be a rewarding and ideally memorable experience.

Be prepared to vary your job search strategy. Identify employers you can approach rather than relying exclusively on positions being advertised.

Have your application checked by a professional. If you are submitting good quality applications and targeting appropriate jobs, you should be getting interview offers.

As mentioned in the article above, part of preparing a convincing job application, or indeed preparing for an interview, is becoming familiar with what’s involved in the day to day work of the position that you’re applying for, in order to present the selector with appropriate evidence. At you can watch a range of professionals being interviewed in work settings explaining their roles, professional skills and academic backgrounds.

Psychometric testing is increasingly part of the selection process for professional and graduate entry positions and the following sites, particularly ‘theonlinetestcentre’ provide lots of practice questions to help you feel better prepared.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Informative article for job seekers.


  2. It also helps to get an insight into what’s required from those in the positions you’re seeking. Example, I approached recently a director level person for advice on how to get to wherever he is. I’d never met them before and it was an ‘I have nothing to lose’ moment that I wrote him an e-mail. 3 days later, his PA arranged an appointment with him and he was more than nice about it: insightful and it ended up with a personal recommendation to a hiring agent. So be bold and dare to ask the question, approach them with a hook e.g. I saw you speak at so and so event, I read your article on thingy-ma-jig, your work on this and that has inspired me. You could end up with nothing, which what you had before, or you could end with some advice, an informal mentor, a lead or a job!



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Advice, CVs, Graduate jobs, Job application, Looking for work


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