Epic Application Form Odysseys...and how to emerge victoriousBlogs
graduate schemes. And what a hurdle! If you think your dissertation was a slog, you're going to be in for a treat when you come to face one of these thesis-length application forms. But as with many things, you've got to have a ticket to win the raffle, so they are worth persisting with and worth taking time over. Many different employers adopt different approaches to application forms, some will require you to enter every grade you have ever received and some will require almost autobiographical accounts of your personality, character and experiences. Much like Odysseus, if you are to be successful and make the most out of the hours it will take you to fill out these forms it is worth being cunning by carefully constructing what you submit. So here are the typical questions that you will face when you start to apply to Graduate Schemes and have to start your assault on these epic application forms.
What makes you suitable for this role?This is a key question that nearly all application forms will adapt in one way or another and can really determine your success. It is worth giving it some serious thought and spending some time on. Employers will be able to tell if you're applying to this role just for the sake of it or if you genuinely want to work there. If it is the former, there is no point continuing with the application. Companies usually give you anywhere between 250 and 500 words to answer questions similar to this and they do that for a reason. Short or limited answers will be instantly dismissed, while on the other end 500 words of unstructured waffle will get you nowhere, so Plan! Plan! Plan!
To show you are suitable for the role there are three areas to you need to satisfy:Firstly you need to mention that you are able to do the role. Whether it is a couple of sentences emphasising that you have the correct skill-set that satisfies the criteria. Secondly it is worth noting you have a desire to work at the company and in that particular role. Employers have the luxury to pick and choose because of the high volume of applications they receive so showing that you have an interest in the company's operations and direction will help your chances. And finally, you need to show that you are a cultural fit for the company and area of work. This could be pointing out some of your characteristics that might lend themselves to the Scheme. For example, if you were applying for a Management Scheme you could point to your insatiable need for organisation and order.
Why do you want to work at this company?The subjective question to catch out the copy and pasters, this is a very obvious trap and will require you to use cunning to be successful when answering this question. This is also the opportunity to get some flattery and industry knowledge in. Employers are always wary of graduates who apply to everything because they don't know what they want to do or where to do it, so in this question the key is to be precise and exact. In employer-speak this is a "motivational question", looking to learn your motivations to work there. And in true idealistic fashion, it is not acceptable to say "you pay a shit-load" or "28 days holiday a year looks superb". To be successful you need to highlight what excites you about the scheme or company. It could be the training, the career path, the professional qualifications they support you through and so on. There are a range of things that could "motivate" you to apply to this particular scheme, but the important thing to do is to make the connection between you personally and the company.
Give an example of when you have shown...Getting into the nitty gritty of what you can offer, employers will ask you for examples of this, that and the other. They want to know every little detail of your past to know you are the real deal and want to see the examples. Because it's all very well saying you are a team player, great communicator or the world's greatest ever graduate but you need to prove it. Concrete examples, cold hard examples are the only way that you will get anywhere with these sorts of questions. But they are not that hard to find if you need to find them and sometimes it is worth being creative with what you've got: Teamwork - This could be anything from group presentations right up to sports and society teams that you were part of coordinating. It would also be wise to go into even more detail with what your society or sports team did and its achievements. Non-academic achievement - Another question where they are looking to find out more about the "real you". The more recent the achievement the better, graduate employers will not be bowled over by your Gold Medal from Sports day, but finding something that sets you apart from the crowd is the way to go. Communication skills - Some employers will ask for more specific examples of when you might have explained difficult and complex concepts to people, a time where you have had to persuade someone or even a time where your communication skills had failed. Again, this is a time to be very precise and exact with what happened and how you handle the situation. It could be helping out a classmate or sibling with an academic concept they couldn't grasp, a time where you'd secured more funding for your society or a situation you handled badly and were misconstrued. It is important to be honest with this one, so that you can show you have learnt and honed your communication skills. They are not going to believe you are the greatest orator or wordsmith, but if you can show a development or learning curve that's important.
What is your biggest achievement?This is as loaded a question as they come and can send you into a mental meltdown if you are not careful. The dichotomy is balancing academic life and achievements without it coming across like it is the only thing in your life. So what do you do? Well, be honest. If getting a2.1 in your degree is the best thing you've ever done then fantastic, well done! If being published in a national newspaper is your biggest achievement to date, then congrats, well done! If your greatest achievement to date is being promoted in your part time job to a more senior position with responsibility, then go you! And so and so on. Underplaying your achievements can be as fatal to chances as any, if you are proud of something you've done then don't be embarrassed, show off.
Describe a recent industry development and your opinion on itAnother tricky question requiring research and suitability to the role. If you're applying to a position in say banking, it is important to make sure you are clued up with what is going on. Being ill-informed about an issue can be dangerous. So take your time and read up on a subject that you think could be relevant. Relevant websites are always a first point of call and be careful not to just regurgitated the latest column by their lead writer - it is bound to get noticed. Yes we all know that Application schemes are epic, I mean they're not battling a giant Cyclops epic but they're pretty tough going. It is worth understanding that they can be life changing opportunities and really kick off your career. So it might seem laborious at times but if it is right for you, then you could be starting an incredible journey. By James Howell
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