You’ve decided that the time has come to start putting together some job applications. You’ve even settled on which sector interests you and the sorts of roles which appeal. Well done! You’re making great progress. So, what next? Now for the research. The dissertation mark isn’t going to be great without some solid reading, similarly job applications which are inadequately researched won’t get you through to interview.
Where to start
You’re probably going to have to answer the “Why us?” question on the application form. If your application is going to have authority and credibility you need to answer this for yourself too. Your starting point is likely to be the company website. Great! You’re going to read the pages about careers and recruitment and find out all about the job and the training opportunities. You’ll probably find lists of what attributes the company is looking for in its successful candidates. Make some notes in whatever way works for you. If you get to interview you are going to have to revisit all this, minimise the duplication of your work!
Time to move on. The “About us” pages on the main website are going to be useful, you will find out what the company is proud of and what it says about its culture, keep making the notes but this is not task over. Your next port of call might be the news pages and any blog feeds on the website. Continue by researching the same news items more generally on the internet. Get the less positive comment on the stories as well as the company’s take. If you are encountering different opinions start to form some views of your own.
What about the industry?
You’re beginning to form a picture of the company, now what about the industry? Time to start digging. Try looking at trade or professional groups and magazines (on-line or paper). Where does your prospective employer sit within its business field? Is it a growing organisation, already a major player? Is its reputation somewhat in decline? Start to work out why. Back to the internet, what do your chosen company’s competitors say about it? What does the press say about the industry generally?
Time to use your contacts?
Try next to make contact with people already working in your chosen organisation and the occupational field. Be resourceful in reaching out, if you haven’t got your LinkedIn account set up this is definitely the time to get organised with it. Start looking for alumni from your university who might already be working in the field, make contact and ask for advice. Most people are happy to give you the benefit of their wisdom and can be flattered to be asked; be prepared to be bold in making approaches. You should be able to find out more about “industry gossip” and with a bit of luck will be able to make contact with people working in your preferred company. Ask what the culture is like, will it appeal to you? How about the application process, can you get any insights into questions and exercises at interviews and assessment centres?
Your Careers service should be another “port of call”. There should be resources in the library and find out which careers consultant specialises in your occupational area and make an appointment to see him or her. You should find another mine of information!
What about other opportunities to find out more?
Once the Autumn Term starts you’ll find employers piling onto campus, they’re likely to be at presentations, skills session and careers fairs. You’re going to need to balance your enthusiasm to get an application in early with the advantages of meeting representatives of the company, getting some more insights into what they are looking for and taking the chance to impress. This will be an individual decision for everyone. If you decide to wait, then make sure you approach them after you have done a lot of the research we’re talking about. Think of some really insightful questions and make sure that they’re not answered on the website! It’s good to chat with the graduate trainees but remember that the person you are trying to impress is the recruiter! Find the right person to talk to! As you know from my earlier post Be an early bird and plan your applications employers take a note of the name of students who impress on campus and some have computer systems which allow them to flag you as soon as your application is received. What a great start is that? Well worth the investment in time you’ll have made!
All of this research is going to have taken you a long time. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t possibly do it because you need to put in 50 applications! A handful of really well researched applications are worth 20 generic and ill researched efforts. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said:
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.