The pressure isn’t letting up: you’ve only just finished studying day and night to get through your exams, but now your friends are talking about the offers they’ve received for graduate schemes, internships and trainee roles. There’s no doubt, it’s tough out there and the graduate job market is becoming ever more competitive.
So, when you spot that dream job, don’t let it pass you by – even if you don’t quite tick every box in the job spec.
Always an A for ambition
Employers value ambition. More often than not, graduates have skills and experience that they don’t even realise, so consider what you can bring to the role and how to best articulate this through your application.
Sometimes it can be difficult to showcase all your attributes in your CV, so make sure you are ready to shine with your cover letter. Here you don’t have to just focus on your qualifications or your work experience – highlight your broader skill set, career ambitions and past achievements – backed up by rock-solid examples.
If you manage to score an interview, you’re halfway there. However, the graduate recruitment process has become ever more comprehensive, often involving group assessments, video interviews or psychometric tests. Be prepared and make sure you know what to expect.
Be accurate and prepare to wow
Whether you’re applying for internships, graduate roles or permanent positions, job hunting requires dedication and persistence. Just because you’ve submitted multiple applications, it doesn’t mean you can get away with template-style cover letters. Spend time making sure every application is the best it can be – quality over quantity.
Ensure all aspects of your application are 100% accurate. Whether it’s imprecise starting dates of employment, incorrect grades or even embellished qualifications, inaccuracies are likely to lead to complications later in the recruitment process.
Once you’re happy with the details, focus on delivering the wow factor. Articulate your skills and expertise clearly and highlight how these attributes would translate into the role, and company, that you’re applying for.
Also consider the best format for your application – some will be standard electronic forms, but if you’re given that opportunity to be creative, by submitting a video or showcasing an artistic portfolio, make the most of it.
Leave no stone unturned
Once you’ve spent the time and effort perfecting your CV, writing tailored cover letters. And don’t let your online presence to let you down. Ensure your public profile across all your social channels matches the expectations of a potential employer– it’s not uncommon for decision makers to check job candidates out on social media.
Next, get your references ready to go. Early on in your career, you might not have a past job that can offer an appropriate reference so consider other contacts. Get in touch with your tutor or subject lecturers in advance to see whether they’d be happy to provide an academic reference on your behalf. If you’re involved in a sports team or university group, consider who might be able to provide a character reference there.
It works both ways
When you’ve set your heart on what you think is your dream job, it’s easy to go along with the recruitment process and forget that it actually works both ways.
In advance of your interview, consider the questions you want to ask your prospective employer – they could be about the role, the organisation, the team you’ll be working with, the opportunities for career progression or further training – find out what’s important to you, so you can make an informed decision about whether to accept the job if you are offered it.
Also, remember that from an employer’s perspective, being asked well-considered and intelligent questions by a candidate is also a really big tick on any application.
It’s competitive out there
While it’s easy to set all your hopes on one dream job, it’s really important not to get disheartened if you don’t get the role. Remember, when competition is fierce, persistence is the name of the game.
Ask for feedback whenever you submit an application or attend an interview that’s unsuccessful. The only way to improve is to understand where you’ve fallen down or how to address your weaker points.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when you’re starting out in your career.
Becky Mossman is an HR director at candidate due diligence company HireRight.