Massey University CareerplaNZ

Career and student learning issues brought to you by Massey University’s Careers Service – New Zealand

It’s all in the application

Posted by John Ross on February 10, 2009

Although it’s relatively early days, the recession is having an impact on graduate recruitment.  Don’t be surprised to see a cessation of graduate training programmes or a reduction in the number of graduate recruits by some organisations this year.

As a result, if you’re looking for work your focus should be on quality not quantity – it has never been more important to prepare good quality applications and you’re facing an increasingly competitive market.

Whilst it’s hugely tempting to fire off loads of applications, largely saying the same thing, this ‘scattergun’ approach is unlikely to prove successful.  Instead, you should tailor your applications to each of the employers you are applying to. You can re-use stuff you have already written on different applications but you’re likely to have to re-package it.

Crucially, each application should show the reader that you’ve read the job advertisement; any job description that you have for the role and that you’ve researched the career area concerned.  Think about what they are looking for and give it to them!

Here are my ‘hints and tips’ for this:

  • Remember that the purpose of your application is to get you an interview.  It is, to all intents and purposes, a marketing document with you as the product.

  • What you put in your application can come back to haunt you – many employers will ask you, at interview, to expand on some of the things that you’ve said in it.  Equally, you can use it to ‘volunteer’ relevant information that you’ll be comfortable talking about – that way you may be able to ‘steer’ the interview to some extent.

  • Spend as much time as you can on each application – crafting it carefully; grammatically and professionally.

  • Do your research. Find out about the employer. Use its website, or directories such as Check online newspapers to see if they are in the news and to research the sector – try the Stuff site.

  • Read the job advertisement. Sounds obvious doesn’t it but it could mean ‘reading between the lines’. Some employers are very clear about what they are looking for (listing core competencies, qualities etc.). For others you will have to look for key words in the text.

  • Make sure everything you write is focussed on the job advertisement. Use your experience (work, volunteering, study, sports/hobbies etc) to show how you fit what they are looking for.  Potential employers will want to know of the relevant skills that you have, and will want to see evidence of where you developed these skills.

  • Don’t make any spelling mistakes and get someone else to read it first – they’ll often spot things that you don’t.

  • This is all about getting an interview – it won’t get you the job.


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