Applications / Job market

From good to great: make your job applications stand out

You may already be aware how to approach the graduate recruitment process to maximise your chances of success. However, having information hot off the press can help you to fine tune your approach in order to stand out from the competition.

Employers requirements are changing

This month saw the publication of the CBI and Pearson’s Education and Skills Survey 2017 , which surveyed more than 300 recruiters from across all employment sectors. Several key findings were positive; most businesses were satisfied with applicants’ basic skills and general readiness for graduate employment, with more than 90% happy with IT skills, use of English and numerical skills.

There has been an interesting shift in the recruitment and selection process however. The majority of recruiters (90%) now place a greater emphasis on the the attitudes and aptitudes that will enable graduates to be effective in the workplace, moving away from a generic skill set. See our recent blog exploring the theme of a ‘growth mindset’

Next in importance is your degree result or prediction; 65% of the recruiters surveyed your degree grade as evidence of both effort and ability. 59% highlighted the importance of work experience or a placement relevant to the sector to which you’re applying. Many Warwick graduates do secure graduate jobs due to the paid summer internships they undertake in their penultimate year.

So where do candidates fall short?

Applications for a number of graduate jobs will be open before finalists return to campus this autumn so it’s worth considering where recruiters feel candidates let themselves down

  • 39% of recruiters surveyed feel applicants are not strong in their ability to demonstrate inter-cultural awareness
  • 40% say they lack business and company awareness
  • 32% have issues with graduates’ attitude and behaviours of self-management and resilience.

How can you address these areas in order to present yourself with conviction?

Intercultural Awareness :

There are a number of ways you can evidence intercultural awareness. However it’s not enough to simply list the activities you’ve engaged with – you need to reflect on how these activities have supported your development. You may have spent a year abroad. How has this contributed to your understanding of the language, people, culture and your ability to adapt and nuance your communication and behaviours? Through your engagement with students from many different cultures on campus, what have you learned about yourself and others? How has this changed your perspective, or contributed to your personal development?

At the University of  Warwick students have a unique opportunity to access Global People, a website and resource bank to enable you become more effective at working across cultures. This resource will really help to you develop and excel in these competencies at interview. Kwintessential   provides a free guide to specific country profiles, covering business and cultural etiquette.

Business and commercial awareness:

Anyone can use a company’s website to trawl for information. But that’s a fairly basic level of research. If you want to impress prospective recruiters you’re going to need to dig deeper . Make sure you’re up to date with the news on the day as you may be asked for your views on topical news items. Keep an eye on the business sections of newspapers and as well as political debates and decisions as these will often have an impact.

N.B. The impact of technology, government policy and economics on the sectors you’re applying to applies equally to the creative industries, education and not-for profit sectors. You’ll need a similar level of awareness to those seeking positions with a more obvious business focus. You may, for example, be asked for your views on

  • the impact of technology on the publishing sector
  • of proposed government policy on secondary Education
  • or the potential impact of the increase in funding for Mental Health within the NHS.

You need to be prepared for these questions!

Attitudes and behaviours: self-management and resilience

Self – management requires you to be aware of the impression you’re creating.  This is something everyone can improve – see my recent post on confidence on how to approach this. You’ll need to understand the culture of the sector and organisation you’re applying to. Take your cues from the company’s marketing and website. How are people working there dressed? When you arrive how are staff conducting themselves? Is the environment relaxed or formal? Are you in tune with this? You want to stand out but not for the wrong reasons.

Resilience is how you cope under pressure, how you deal with disappointment and how you can become stronger through dealing with failure. How can you demonstrate your ability to deal with setbacks to recruiters? Be prepared with examples you can give that demonstrate this. See our post on Resilience. You may find it helpful to complete a free Resilience questionnaire, which provides suggestions on how to build your personal resilience. Student Careers & Skills also run central workshops on this topic.

In summary, knowledge is power. If there are areas you need to polish before applying, you will be as well-prepared as you can be. This in turn will help build self- confidence, shifting your performance from good to great and hopefully leading to a successful job outcome.



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