Careers Advice

Applications with impact: write an application that hits the mark

University may have felt like a structured safe haven, and often graduates think of finding a job as stepping into the ‘real world’.

Published: 16/07/2018

That might feel a little scary just now, but keeping an open mind about the kinds of roles you’re happy to apply to, will definitely give you an advantage.

Perhaps you’re on your first application, or you’re thinking about submitting the same application as you did for that last vacancy because it took so long… Stop for a moment and read our advice. There are a few key things to remember to have any chance of writing an application with impact:

  1. Research the employer and offer a strong rationale for applying
  2. Read and understand the job description and the essential skills section
  3. Review your CV/ covering letter with the job description and essential skills in mind
  4. Think carefully about what is unique about what you can offer

You’re perhaps thinking you have already done all of these things in your application, and if so, that’s great. It’s still worth reviewing it with this in mind.

You’ll have definitely heard the expression ‘stand out from the crowd’ and your application is your chance to make a positive first impression. Ask yourself these questions and think about how you can include references to these in your CV/application:

  1. What is your approach?
  2. What results and outcomes have you had?
  3. What are your talents and attributes?
  4. What is your personality?

These are all completely unique to you, and demonstrating a combination of all of the above is exactly what will enable you to stand out in the recruitment process. 

Research the employer

Employers are looking for graduates they can trust to take responsibility for the project they’re advertising, with excellent business acumen, an eye for detail, and the skills and personality to make a success of it as a prerequisite.

Basic research and evaluative skills are a necessity for all our vacancies, so if you can demonstrate a thorough understanding of the role, why the employer is seeking a new employee for this project, and how it fits into the company’s strategy as a whole, you’re a step ahead of the competition.

Think about the company’s business model and where this particular vacancy fits in.

Understanding the job description

It’s important to read the job description first, before even considering the skills the employer is looking for. The reason is that the description tells you why each skill is important and will enable you to think of your own examples in a relevant context.

If you have completed similar activities in a similar setting, it makes sense to use that evidence to show you can do the tasks the employer needs doing. If you don’t have directly relevant experience, adapt the examples you do have with the job description in mind.

Articulating what you can offer

Think about what would convince you that someone else has a certain set of skills. Chances are someone stating that they do isn’t enough to convince you! If someone you have never met tells you they’re an excellent team player, you have no reason to believe them… So your job is to convince the employer you can do the job.

An easy way to see whether you’re doing this is to think about this model:

Completed [task] by doing [action] with [this outcome]

Remember to use quantitative and qualitative evidence to be most convincing. If you have statistics and/or feedback to back up your examples, ensure you incorporate it. That doesn’t mean quoting your last boss when they said you did a great job but mention you received positive feedback for your performance.

Please never use a generic application, the employer won’t appreciate it and it won’t get you very far in the recruitment process… we know it’s time consuming, believe us we’ve written plenty ourselves, but it’s worth spending time submitting one finely tuned application than ten generic ones.

Keep an eye out for our careers advice blogs, and remember… you’ve got this! You can contact your University Careers Service for personalised application support.