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Top Tips for Application Forms from Skills4Work Panellists

Joe SSprecher11 May 2018

Sally Brown – UCL Careers Advisor

On the 3rd October, UCL Careers welcomed four speakers from different companies to speak to students about their application processes and to offer some ‘top tips’ about completing application forms. What was clear was that although every company has their own way of shortlisting candidates, some specific annoyances regarding poor applications were common to all recruiters.

Online application forms

All the panellists stated that their company asks you to fill in an online application form. They often ask for the same information that you will have on your CV – such as your academics and some personal details – but often in a format that suits the needs of the company. The representative from PwC was keen to highlight that due to the desire for social mobility, many companies (inc. PwC) do not ask for your work experience at this stage – understanding that some graduates may not have had the opportunity to undertake relevant or unpaid work experience/internships during their studies. So don’t worry if you feel your current work experience – such as bar work or retail – doesn’t directly relate to the industry you are applying to, they will be looking for a breadth of transferable skills they can build on.

Top tips from the panellists:

  • Talk to people already doing the role you are interested in
  • Check whether it is the right ‘fit’ for you through researching the role and company thoroughly before applying.

Online: Motivation and Competency questions

Online questions regarding candidates’ motivation to apply to the company, their industry knowledge and basic common competencies (such as team-work) were common amongst the companies represented. It was also common that some candidates offered generalised responses that could be applied to any of their competitors.

Top tips from the panellists:

  • Research! Research the role as well as the organisation.
  • Take your time – allow 1-2 weeks to fill in the in the application.
  • Research the industry to build up your commercial awareness – reflect upon how current issues may affect the company.
  • A ‘real human’ will read this – all the panellists agreed that their companies do not use software to filter candidates.

Video Applications

Yes the 21st century is here! Both the panellists from Unlocked and the Bank of England stated that they use video as part of the process. This is where you receive some written questions, get a few minutes to prepare your answer and then you are filmed saying your responses. These are reviewed later, as there is no one on the other side of the camera whilst you are speaking. The aim is to find out what you are like as a person and your communications skills.

Top tips from the panellists:

  • Check what else is in view of the camera e.g. remove the picture of you and your friends at a Halloween party, lock up the cat etc.
  • Dress smartly
  • Find a quiet place, but not too quiet that you are inclined to whisper.
  • Try to look directly at the camera and not at the ‘thumbnail’ of you.
  • It is acceptable to jot down key points during the preparation time and refer to the paper during your answer – but avoid reading from the notes like a script.

Online testing:

Two of the panellists – from PwC and The Bank of England – stated that their company uses some online testing that may include numerical, inductive (sometimes called logical reasoning) or verbal reasoning tests, work style preference questionnaire, or a personality test.

Top tips from the panellists:

  • Don’t lie or second guess yourself on the latter two – they are there to help the company work out a ‘best fit’ for you regarding departments.

Five Top Tips for applications:

  1. Don’t copy and paste information off the website for your application.
  2. We know what we do – show us why it interests you and discuss how you would be a good asset.
  3. Take opportunities offered – reply to e-mails that offer you information, meetings or chats.
  4. Be specific to the firm you are applying to – show a genuine interest.
  5. Research! How can you show motivation about something you know little about?

 

Employer Insight Profile: FINIMIZE ‘Financial news for everyday people’

Chloe JAckroyd4 November 2016

DSC_1553

Scott Tindle, Co–Founder & Head of Content of Finimize

How did you get into your role?

I co-founded Finimize, our financial news start-up, in 2015. After graduating from university I worked in equity sales at Barclays but after 7 years there I decided I needed a change. I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial. Around the same time, an old friend from university was starting to work on a new project called Finimize – and he needed someone with a finance background. There was a gap in the market for a financial news resource that was brief and not full of jargon – but still provided readers with the sophisticated information they wanted to know. So now, every weekday (and on Sundays!) I curate and explain the two most important financial news stories of the day and send it out to our subscribers.


What are the best things about working in your role?

I love the entrepreneurial aspects of working at Finimize. Co-running a small business means I get to do so many different things, from finding new stories to talking to investors – no two days are ever the same. Another definite pro is being able to shape the company’s destiny and take it wherever we want to go. Because Finimize is something that we have personally created it also means that its success is hugely rewarding – to know that we’ve made something that tens of thousands people appreciate and read is amazing.


What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Time! As an entrepreneur the most valuable commodity you have is your time and prioritising my time to get the most out of it is my biggest challenge. There are so many things I could be doing at once that I have to be disciplined and structure my day effectively. There’s also a lot of uncertainty that’s inherent in running a small business – dealing with that on a personal level can be stressful and is a big change from working at a big company (which can also be stressful, but often in different ways).


What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Broadly speaking, there are two typical routes into the startup world. One is to dive in straight after university and look for internships or a junior position in a start-up. Another is to gain a bit of experience in a bigger company, acquiring skills and knowledge at a bigger company before switching tack to a startup. The benefit of the latter is that you learn a lot at big firms and you can bring that knowledge and experience with you to a small company. But jumping right into the startup world can also be the right move. There’s no “adjustment” to make later on and, especially now, the startup ecosystem is so well developed that you can gain relevant, high quality experience without working at a big traditional firm. In short, you have to figure out what’s right for you and run with it!!

 


More about Finimize:

Finimize is financial news for everyday people that strives to demystify finance by making financial news easy to understand, succinct and relevant to its readers. The email takes just 3-minutes to read each day, never uses any financial jargon and is a useful tool for students preparing for job interviews. Learn more and sign up here.