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Five Common Mistakes in Job Applications – and How To Avoid Them

Weronika ZBenning22 September 2016

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We’ve all been there. You sit for days and days, snuggled under your duvet, shooting off job applications. Out of fifty apps, you get seven responses – all rejections.

This is the reality of life after uni – or, for the proactive among us, final year. In a world where twenty people apply for every skilled job, half of them good enough for the role, what can make you stand out? And what are you doing wrong?

Here’s five common mistakes you could be making.

You don’t know what you’re applying for

This is the most common reason for rejection from a job. “Graduates and those seeking to further their careers often pay 99% of their attention to the big things on their CVs – their academic performance, employment history, achievements and so forth,” says employment expert Lillian Bususu. “But those things mean little when a company receives a CV addressed to the HR manager of their rival.”

For every single application, you must change your approach. Do your research; Google is there for a reason. Customise your CV, covering letter and the skills you advertise. 36% of employers reject copy/paste applications, and 14% turn you down for a lack of research. Don’t give them the excuse.

So repeat with me: “I would love to work at [insert company name here] because…”

Your CV isn’t up to scratch

How hard is it to write a decent CV? Very – or so anecdote suggests. HR and recruitment officials are always complaining about CV quality. So how can you put yours in the ‘good’ camp? Firstly, typos. It’s possible that you’re making the language mistakes this Guardian article seeks to eliminate. Check over your resume and amend where necessary.

Secondly, your formatting – is it professional? There are no real rules for CVs, which makes it harder in many ways. You want a recruiter to look at your document and go: “That looks like a serious, organised person.” Emojis and star-shaped bullet points are not your friends. Here’s an example of a grad CV format from the National Careers Service – or look at these from the Guardian. It’s best to design your own – originality, etc – but nobody will sue you for getting ideas from a template. Submit PDFs rather than Word docs where possible, to preserve your beautiful layout. And for the love of Miley, don’t go over two pages. Lastly, don’t sell yourself short. It’s easy to get caught up on what to include and what not to. But if you put everything in and order it well, nobody’s going to fault you.

You don’t have the experience

Your first job will always be the hardest to get. Universities may be stressful and work-heavy and possibly even impressive on a CV, but they are not work. They don’t prepare you for the rigmarole of the commute, the necessity of attendance and often rigid hours of an actual workplace. In fact, the only guarantee that a graduate can hold up in a real job is if she has had one before.

“But I’m only just out of university!” you cry. “I can’t have had a job!” True – but other applicants will have internships, part-time roles and volunteer experience to their name. They’ll have worked gap years and done summer placements. The more of this you have – whatever the industry or role – the more likely you are to be looked on favourably by an employer.

So, if you haven’t already, get out there. If your interviewer asks, “What are you doing at the moment?”, you need to be able to respond. Volunteer, build a website or tutor some local schoolkids. Sign up for a short course or online tutorials while you’re job-searching. There’s work out there for everyone.

You’re not using all your resources

Ever heard of hidden skills? If not, you might be overlooking your most employable attributes.

Hidden skills are abilities you have but don’t recognise. Are you always the one to organise outings and trips for your group of friends? That is people-management experience right there. This handy website can help you convert other activities into excellent CV and interview babble.

Additionally, you know those rejections you get? You can reply, you know. Follow up on rejections.

Generally, employers are open to giving feedback. This valuable tool, which so few jobseekers use, is a good way to identify the failures in your applications and improve future chances.

Finally, remember that you are a multifaceted person. You have lots of skills and could work in many different industries or positions. Spread your search – if one approach isn’t working, try applying for other roles. Want a job in marketing? Try applying for social media and content writing positions. They’re great experience that can strengthen a marketing CV in the future.

You’re not tied to your first grad job; switching industries and roles is commonplace. Concentrate on getting your foot on the ladder for now. The dream job can come later.

You’re too… young…

This is a hard one to accept. Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are not well-liked in the working world. We are unemployable and undesirable. Though we boast the technological hard skills required for many jobs, we lack soft people and business skills.

So you must work against your stereotype. If you look at the words ‘soft skills’ and frown, fix this issue. Don’t be yet another Gen Y recruit with no idea what the term ‘icebreaker’ means. It’s tough out there for our generation, but it’s not impossible.

Finally, it’s a numbers game. Apply to five jobs? Expect to hear nothing. Apply to five hundred? That’s more like it. Stay motivated and remember: you’re not alone. And if it all goes to pot, you can always write your CV on a sign and go for a walk.

Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

Guest blog post from Inspiring Interns. Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

 

A leaver’s guide to job hunting

Weronika ZBenning16 August 2016

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Image: Young Woman With Diploma, ABQ Museum Photoarchives

Just graduated? Congratulations. The world is now your oyster. But for a lot of recent leavers, moving on from UCL doesn’t come easy and can be more than a little daunting. Don’t forget that as a recent leaver, you now have access to our services via UCL Careers Graduates, our 2-year provision of continued 1-1 coaching, workshops and events to continue supporting you.

In the meantime, here are 5 key tips to kick start your job hunt and keep you motivated :

1. Think of job hunting as a job

Like most things in life, the more you put in to something, the more you get out of it. Job hunting takes time. Put in as many hours and as much energy as you would doing a job in order to get things moving and keep up your motivation. As well as looking for roles and making applications, do your research and keep up to date with industry news. An action plan can be a great way of structuring your time and giving you a sense of achievement when you can tick things off that you’ve done.

2. Connect with people

Opportunities can come from those you know and those they know, but the biggest source of opportunities are actually people you don’t know – YET! Join Linkedin and start connecting with people who might be in a position to help. Contact a UCL alumni careers mentor, go to conferences or events organised by industries you’re looking to work in. Engage with the industry by following companies through social media and get involved in discussions. Connecting with people is a great way to gain more knowledge of an industry – find out what the realities of the job roles are, any skills and knowledge required and what the big issues are that are likely to define the industry going forward. People love talking about themselves and what they do – just give them the opportunity! Once you’ve begun to connect and establish relationships, who knows where those conversations could lead! Remember, more people find jobs through ‘word of mouth’ than online job boards so make sure you spend some time thinking about how best to use connections.

3. Be visible

The more you let people know what you’re looking for and make them aware of what you can offer, the more likely you are to find opportunities. Don’t be afraid to speak to people both on and off-line about your job plans as they may be able to give valuable insight or pass on contacts or information you could use. An up-to-date and complete Linkedin profile is fast becoming a must for students and graduates to manage their online brand. Employers use social media as a way of advertising jobs so get connected by following recruiters and relevant job boards. Upload your biography with a link to your LinkedIn account, and start engaging with people in your chosen industry sector.

4. Target your applications

Keep your CV and cover letters relevant and targeted to individual opportunities. Employers continually tell us they’re put off by applications that are general and not specifically adapted to the roles that they’re recruiting for. Use the person specification as a guide to the evidence you need to provide and format your CV in a way that allows the recruiter to relevant information easily. Use Careerstagged, our online careers library to learn how to draft targeted applications and get a UCL Careers consultant to look over your CV, cover letters and draft application form answers in a 1-1 appointment.

5. Create a balance and stay positive!

Job hunting can be a full time job, and like any job, you need to take time out. Make time for exercise, relaxation and fun. Meeting people, eating healthily, exercising and doing things you normally enjoy are all ways to stay positive and avoid the job-hunt taking its toll. Feeling daunted by taking the next step, dealing with rejection and lack of structure to your day can be difficult at times but it’s essential to try and keep a positive mind-set in order to keep your motivation up. Remind yourself of all your positive skills, talk to family and friends to boost your confidence. Remember, lots of recent graduates will be in a similar situation- read our job hunting case studies from previous graduates describing how they tackled the transition on from UCL and see if there’s anything you can learn from the experience.

Best of luck.

By Dave Carter, Careers Consultant.

For other next steps, connect with other UCL Graduates about the job hunt via our dedicated UCL Careers Graduates Facebook and Twitter pages, and make sure you’re subscribed to UCLAlert! to receive the weekly Graduates newsletter.