Applications / Job market

Applying for jobs? Demystifying confusing sayings, phrases and expressions.

Strong communication skills are a prerequisite for graduate level job opportunities. When I reflect on the colloquialisms and idioms used in everyday language that I use when I advise students, what am I really telling them?  

As a Job Search Adviser, part of my remit is to ensure that students develop their own strong, effective applications. Each day I explain to students the importance of demonstrating clear, concise verbal and written communication skills through their applications, CVs and interviews.So last week, when I was advising a student about her job application and I heard myself say to her ‘…don’t dilly dally, consider submitting that application today.’ I reflected upon the irony of the quality and lack of clarity of my own verbal communication on occasions. Of course, I went on to explain in simple language the point I was making. However, I thought how puzzling it must be for some students to comprehend such confusing English phrases and sayings. This sparked my idea to write this blog. What other saying and expressions might inadvertently be mentioned in the context of careers and employability advice? What do they mean? What can I personally do to improve the clarity of the advice I give?

The phrase ‘Don’t dilly dally’ means don’t waste time by being slow or by being indecisive. In terms of job applications, it is important to balance the need to produce a good quality application but speedily and in a timely manner. Be mindful that many employers will close a job opportunity when they have received enough applications. The NHS jobs site for example, often states that  ‘the closing date may be brought forward in the event we receive sufficient applications to shortlist.’

Top Tip: Save the Graduate  provides a useful list of application deadlines for many graduate schemes.

Students meet with me on a daily basis for face to face appointments, I provide them with a CV and application review service. When asked the question ‘Should I write my CV first or find a vacancy I want to apply to first?’, an old expression I occasionally respond with is ‘this is a chicken and egg situation’ because as this saying implies, it is impossible to say which of the two things should exist first. There are advantages to getting started by setting out the format of your CV before finding a specific vacancy you wish to apply to, however, the key point to developing an effective CV is to ensure it is tailored to the vacancy. No two jobs are the same, so you should always tailor your CV to reflect you have the requirements for the specific job.

Look for the person specification and read all the relevant information about the role and the organisation. Find out about the culture and core values of the organisation. Do they align with your own? What strengths, qualifications and qualities are they looking for? Are you a good fit for the job? In term of skills, one of the best ways for an employer to assess if you have the potential transferable skills they are seeking, is to see them embedded within your CV and covering letter. Demonstrate where and when you have used the skills and had a positive impact as a result. Simply listing the skills on your CV does not demonstrate you have utilised the required competencies effectively, provide some evidence to back up your claim so that the recruiter can see you have the potential they are looking for.

Many students I see share with me advice they have been given by friends and family on how to best develop their CV, but often they are being misinformed. Although family input is well intentioned, consider if it should be ‘taken with a pinch of salt’. This expression of the English language means to view something with scepticism or not to interpret something literally. An example of misleading advice I heard was to include absolutely everything you have ever done in your CV, from your primary school to now, make it as long as you can. Untrue, incorrect advice. Instead, remember to make your CV concise, keep in what is most recent and most relevant. Remember the importance of tailoring to the role and organisation. Recruiters don’t spend long reading your CV, the average time it takes an employer to form an impression from your CV is just 10 seconds.

The phrase ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is sound advice when applying for opportunities and jobs. This means do not put all your resources into one possibility. Take some of the pressure off yourself. Always have a back-up plan by applying for more than one job or opportunity. Then, if Plan A doesn’t work out, move on to Plan B or Plan C.
Reflecting as practitioners with my colleagues and upon my own verbal communication skills has been beneficial, as my aim is to continuously improve the quality of the service I offer to students. Going forward, I intend to use crystal clear language but I recognise that it is difficult to stop doing something I have done for a long time, as the saying goes ‘old habits die hard’ !


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