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Applications and interviews
From filling out that job application, to attending your first (or second) interview, we offer friendly and supportive advice to help you achieve success
In this section, we will cover the dos and don'ts of writing your CV, filling out job applications, and preparing for job interviews.
Both applications and interviews are your opportunity to convince an employer that you are the right fit for the job. In both, you need to highlight your skills, experience, knowledge and personality, which in interview will also enable you (and the employer) to assess whether the position is a good match.
If you have a query or would like feedback on your CV, covering letter or application, please Submit a Query below and one of our Careers team will aim to get back to you within five working days.
Your CV is your marketing tool to promote your skills, knowledge, experience and personality. As your key to unlocking opportunities and experiences, they require your time and energy to make them as strong as they can be. If you aren’t going to sell yourself, who is?
To give yourself the best opportunity of getting an interview, the resources contained in this section will help you develop a strong CV for a range of purposes.
Check out our new three part series of animated CV resources:
Most job applications call for a covering letter or email to accompany your CV. It’s an important document, because it acts as your chance to introduce yourself to a prospective employer and show them how you meet the job requirements – or to explain your skill set, if you are applying speculatively.
It is vital to tailor your covering letter to the requirements of the role, as employers will be able to tell if you’ve simply copied and pasted a generic version.
Some employers ask for applications through a form, rather than by CV and covering letter. However, it is still just as important to use the form to demonstrate your skills and abilities, and how these match the employer’s requirement.
Getting to interview stage is your opportunity to shine. This is your chance to meet (and impress) future colleagues and demonstrate your suitability for both the role and the organisation. You will also have the chance to learn more about the employer, and whether you feel they are a good fit for you.
In addition to face-to-face interviews, employers may also use phone or video interviews, psychometric tests or assessment centres.
Be prepared – know your CV and the company in question inside and out
Practice - answer interview questions out loud beforehand, perhaps using a friend as a sounding board
Use techniques such as STAR to structure your answers
Focus on the positive - it will help you overcome any feelings of apprehension
Keep going - if you make a mistake, don't dwell on it, take a deep breath and move on
Be curious - prepare a series of questions of your own to ask at the end of the interview.
Strengths-based questions are all about understanding what energises and motivates you, as well as what you do well. These do not have a right or wrong answer, but are particular to you and how you work.
Because of this, they tend to be more personal than a typical competency based one – for example, they may ask what activities come naturally to you, or what tasks on your ‘to do’ list do you enjoy the most?
Psychometric tests are another form of assessment used by employers to a gauge your suitability for the role. These can take the form of numerical, logical or verbal reasoning tests, as well as personality quizzes.
It is a good idea to prepare by taking some practice tests so that you know what to expect.
Assessment centres are often used as part of the recruitment process for graduate schemes, and usually comprise a full day of activities, including group work, interviews and practical exercises. We explain this more in our Guide to Assessment Centresin our resource library.
A key thing to remember is that you are likely to be under observation for the entirety of the event – even when on breaks – so it’s important to show yourself in your best light and engage with other candidates in a professional manner.
Competency-based questions are the most common type of interview question, and ask you to provide an example of how you have demonstrated key skills or competencies needed for the job in the past.
These questions are ideally answered using the STAR format. This stands for ‘Situation, Task, Action, Result’ and enables you to structure your answer by explaining how your actions contributed to completing a particular objective and delivering a positive outcome.
Networking is about using your existing relationships with people you know to build new relationships with people you don't, in an effort to create opportunities for one another. These can include jobs or internships, free entry to an industry event, an informational interview, or anything else that gets you a step closer to where you want to be.
Networking in person can take place at specific events, at workshops on-campus, or even in the workplace or on a placement! For tips on how to get the most out of your interactions with potential new contacts, check out our Guide to Networking in our resource library.
The growth of social media means that networking is no longer confined to just in-person meetings – contacts can be made online before you even meet in person.
If you plan on using your social media accounts for networking, it’s important to keep them professional – see our resource library for our Guide to Using Social Media for Job Hunting for help on this.