2017 is well and truly here. Like time, the job market moves at a rapid pace. With more competition than ever, job seekers must be willing to go the extra mile. As a recent or upcoming graduate, a degree alone is no longer sufficient. Employers are shifting their focus beyond academic credentials and expecting more from candidates.

So to help increase the chances of potential candidates landing their dream graduate role, here is a list of four insightful tips.

Make CV and Covering Letter Relevant

For many, the dreaded CV and covering letter can be the most daunting part of the job application process. It doesn’t have to be. Have a careful look at the role specification and then make condensed notes on the most important aspects. Once you have this understanding then you can tailor accordingly. On the CV for instance, rather than listing every experience, identify those that most embody the skills required by the job specification.

With respect to the covering letter, chucks of irrelevant text will only baffle employers – don’t go off in a tangent. Instead, expand on the most relevant points on your CV. It’s the wonderful opportunity to express why you’re the most suitable candidate. Also, emphasise your ambitions. For example, indicate your career goal – employers love long-term thinkers.

We spoke to Jacob (24); after graduating in the summer of 2015, it took him seven months to get his desired job – which he largely credits to changing his approach to CV and covering letter writing:

“After graduating, like many others, I thought the world was my oyster. I was sending a standardised CV and covering letter to roughly ten employers a day. After a few months of hearing nothing, I decided it was time to significantly change my approach. Instead of sending the same CV and covering letter each time, I tailored them to meet the role requirements. This led me to my desired role – ‘human resource assistant’ – at a highly respected and thriving multinational firm within a month.”

Add Value through the “Skills Checklist”

Interviews can be very stressful. Despite the endless practice and preparation, under the pressure you may present yourself in a less favourable light. Fluffing or forgetting to mention relevant facts, essential skills and relatable experiences are just a few faux pas. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, and happen in the moment.

Whether the interview goes well or not, one recommendation would be to create a “skills checklist” and give it to the interviewers at the end of the interview. But it may feel more appropriate to give it when you feel your performance was really sub-par.

Robby Du Toit of sellhousefast.uk explains:

“Last year we were interviewing for a new junior graduate position. We had a ton of applications and managed to narrow it down to a handful of excellent candidates.

We had this one candidate come in for an interview – they started off very well, but unfortunately under the pressure they could not sustain it. It wasn’t a train wreck but if the candidate had remained calm, it would have been a very solid performance.

At the end of the interview, we shook hands with the candidate and thought that was that. But unlike any of the other interviewees, the candidate gave us a two page A4 document. They had gone through every skill mentioned on the job description and explained in great detail how they posed it through academic, volunteer or professional job experiences.

Me and my colleague were highly impressed, because it demonstrated great initiative. Additionally, it also showed their passion and willingness to go that extra mile.

We highly recommend that candidates to add such value to their own interviews.”

Identify and Acknowledge Influencers

Every industry has influencers. These are respected and influential individuals whose opinions and views are highly regarded. Take the time to research and find out who they are. Once you identify the influencers, make an effort to follow them on social media platforms and regularly check their websites/blogs.

By following them, you will not only gain invaluable knowledge but also an understanding into the potential future directions of an industry. You can even show off your awareness of various influencers when writing an application or during an interview. If you’re confident enough, examine research or studies conducted by an influencer and give your opinion on it (positive or negative).

We spoke to Simon Greaves (38); a Senior Marketing Manager at a growing digital solutions start-up. He gave his thoughts on mentioning influencers in applications and during interviews:

“Influencers have always been around. It’s just that before the internet, they were less prevalent. Now with the internet in its prime alongside the astronomical rise of social media, influencers truly have a voice. It’s not only got once dormant influencers to be active again, but also given life to many new ones.  A lot of them provide in-depth coverage and thought-provoking analysis.

If a potential candidate is aware of some influencers and their work, then I would be excited by this. It highlights to me that they not only acknowledge the work of others but take the time to carry out extra research to find fascinating information that can improve the quality of their own work. Hence, better results.”

Embrace Group Exercises

This can be a huge hurdle for many candidates, especially those who have become accustomed to working independently throughout their time at university. The ability to be a team player is a highly sought-after trait. Consequently, a lot of employers have group tasks to assess candidates’ team-working skills.

We again asked Robby Du Toit of sellhousefast.uk to give some advice to candidates on how best to approach this type of task:

“When we interview for certain roles, we make candidates participate in some group exercises. These exercises are still designed to see how competent individual candidates are, but are more for evaluating their team-working capabilities.

I, along with my colleagues, have seen tons of potential candidates aggressively dominate or shy away in the background during group exercises. Whilst active participation is encouraged, you have to compose yourself. To succeed during group exercises, I would recommend the following:

  • At the start make an effort to introduce yourself; it creates a friendly first impression.
  • Don’t interrupt others when they’re talking – respectfully listen to what they have to say.
  • If you disagree or think someone is wrong, then politely explain your point of view with logic and clarity.
  • When it comes to presenting or explaining the finished exercise, don’t be afraid to put yourself forward.
  • Build upon each other’s ideas and thoughts; all great teams assist each other.
  • Offer a brief insight into your decision-making: how did you come to a certain decision or conclusion?

If a candidate were to display a combination of these, it would exhibit to me their intention to contribute and build upon the team dynamic.”


Article provided by Louis Cooper for sellhousefast.uk.

(Featured image credit: Vector designed by Freepik. Used under the Creative Commons Licence.)