Most graduate recruitment is done through online application forms so before you start typing, here’s a few things you need to consider to get past the first hurdle.
Companies who have graduate training programmes use Applicant Tracking Systems to help them process the large volume of applications. Each question answered on the form is graded and allocated marks. If your cumulative score exceeds a particular number, you make it to the next stage. To make marking easier, questions typically come in 3 formats. Ones which require a yes/no, multiple choice or a free text answer. All the questions on the form are pointed and are looking to see if you have the skills and competencies to do the job.
Being aware of what could lose you marks, will maximise your chances of success. These 5 tips will keep you ahead of the competition.
Fill in all the fields
Avoid the temptation of referring an employer to your CV. This could be considered as leaving the field blank and could cost you.
Follow instructions precisely
Make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. These can include precise details about how to fill in the form, guidance on what to write about, word counts or instructions about attachments. If the form asks you to show directly how you meet the skills listed and you don’t, it shows lack of attention to detail.
Pay attention to grammar and formatting
Make sure your spelling, formatting and structure are perfect. Applicant Tracking Systems can be set up with minimum selection criteria to rule out candidates who don’t reach certain standards. For example it’s not uncommon for applicants who’ve made more than 5 spelling/ grammatical mistake to be automatically rejected from the process.
In the free text section, keep your answers tight and bullet pointed. Your communication skills are being assessed here and you’ll be expected to present quality information in a clear and concise manner. Those reviewing your application will be under time pressure and will value information that’s easy to digest.
Study the competencies
Read the job spec and the competencies required very carefully before filling in the application form. Be aware of what makes you attractive to an employer and back this up with evidence. Highlight the best examples of your experience, not your entire employment history. (The examples you use can come from paid/volunteer work, sporting activities or role in college societies.)
When you’ve completed the application form, remove any repetition or information that’s surplus to requirements. Get a friend to review it. It’s always worthwhile having a fresh pair of eyes to pick up on mistakes you’ve missed. Finally, some employers ask you to submit your CV as an attachment. Make sure it doesn’t let you down. Double check it for typos or spelling mistakes. Make sure it’s as professional and concise. One last word of advice. Don’t rush the process. Make sure you put enough time aside to compete the form – they always take longer than you think.