A Guide to the Graduate Job Application Process

Uni is ticked off; congrats!

Knowing what to do next and securing your dream job might be your next challenge. The application process for many jobs can be gruelling and tough to get through, so here are our best tips to make your application a success. 

Research graduate jobs

If you don’t already know what you want to do, you will have to get looking for jobs (you can’t start the application process without having anything to apply for)! Luckily there are plenty of websites out there to help you find jobs, such as job boards. 

Once you've found the right graduate job for you, you'll want to research it to the ends of the earth. It may seem silly, but you don’t want to apply for a role that you know you won’t enjoy, or work for a company whose culture doesn’t quite suit you. So, make sure the job is right for you by looking into the company and the role.

Next, find out about the interview process. Do they do group interviews, tests or phone interviews? If you can’t seem to find out relevant information, make a list of questions to ask during the interview, this will make you look incredibly proactive, and you can never be too prepared.

Just remember that, although the graduate job scene can be competitive, you don’t want to be applying straight away and rushing your application, so always take your time at this stage.

Perfecting your graduate CV

Your CV is the first thing that an employer will see about you, and if you don’t nail it, it will probably be the last. Make sure to tailor your CV and cover letter to the specific role, as it's easy to tell if you use a standard template. Try to add skills and work experience that are relevant to the position to make yourself stand out. Be creative, yet remain professional. We have a whole blog on how to tailor your CV, so check it out if you want to know more.

When creating your CV, make sure to show yourself off, but try to avoid listing every little thing you’ve done. Focus on how you've developed yourself by overcoming different challenges. Have you had great success in your life? How did you bounce back from a failure? Remember, the aim is to sell yourself so that you get asked back for an interview. Also, don’t forget to personalise it slightly; add something about yourself to show off who you are.

Finally, make sure you get someone to proof-read your CV for a second opinion. If an employer sees a spelling or grammar mistake, they will most likely chuck it in the bin. Making it easy to read also means the recruiter will be able to understand more about you, so avoid waffle and keep it concise. Make sure you send a cover letter along with your CV, as it will help give recruiters an idea as to why you want the job.

Social media and your job hunt

For starters, it's important to clear out your social media of any unwanted pictures or statuses; you can also set your profiles to ‘friends only’. This is crucial, because if your employer sees one thing they don’t like, they'll most likely stop your application process there and then. So, make sure to have a good balance of your personal and professional life, as you’re not a robot after all.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are great places to start if you can’t seem to find any jobs for you. For example, LinkedIn is employers' most popular medium for recruitment, as it has over 500 million users.

The graduate job process

Online application 

Like most job applications, the first stage is an online application where you upload your CV and cover letter. It's handy to check out how CVs and cover letters are usually laid out, as there may be simple changes from your home system (such as no photos). A tailored CV and cover letter is also a must. 

Some graduate jobs might ask you to fill out forms before even adding your CV or cover letter. Ensure that you take your time with these forms, as they may ask you challenging questions. Our top tip is also to save your answers somewhere else, just in case your form plays up.

Psychometric testing

This is one of the most important stages of any application process, as quite often, it requires the most amount of time. Don’t worry if you haven't heard of it, because now you have! A psychometric test is designed to put your mental skills and logical thinking to the test. They're used as a preliminary screening, so they also take into account your common sense and personality to identify whether you suit the role within the company. Don’t worry, it isn’t all about academics.

There are two main types to be aware of, the personality test and the aptitude test.

  • Personality tests focus on your emotions, your character and how you handle certain situations. There are no right or wrong answers; the company will just see whether you fit with their values by seeing to what extent you agree or disagree with statements.

  • Alternatively, the aptitude tests focus on your cognitive ability. These are usually multi-choice questions; however, sometimes, you'll be asked for the reasoning behind your answer and you'll obtain a score with a passmark.

It's advised to practice as much as you can for this stage; like research, you can never over practice. Make sure to keep an eye on the time, have the right equipment (a notepad, calculator and dictionary are recommended).

Interviews and group assessments

The following steps vary from company to company. You'll often have a phone or Skype interview, or an assessment centre day.

The interview will be pretty straight forward, just the same as applying for any other job. You might be asked why you've applied for the job, about your past experience, and to explain some situations where you've shown certain traits or characteristics. Practice is the most important thing to do when preparing for an interview, so ask your friends and family to help - they may even have some valuable advice, so don’t be afraid to ask around.

Whether it's a group interview or one-on-one, as long as you're prepared and speak with confidence, you’ll be sure to pass the interview with flying colours. Don’t forget to ask the questions you prepared, as it'll show your interest in the job and make you seem more prepared.

Alternatively, an assessment centre is usually held over the course of a day. Once arriving, you'll meet other successful applicants so far, and you'll complete a combination of tasks and activities. Although you may participate in group work, the assessor will monitor your skills individually, so bring your A-game.

You may be asked to ‘visit’ a digital assessment centre, if your application is online. Although this may seem a little odd, it's exactly the same as a normal assessment day, just over an online platform. You might have various projects during the day, including group tasks, interviews and presentations. Although it's remote, dress to impress and be on time when logging in.

So, if you follow these tips, you'll be sure to land yourself your dream graduate job in no time. Although, if you do get rejected at any stage, don’t be disheartened as this it happens to everyone. Make sure to ask what went wrong so you can improve upon it for next time, and see what does work for you. Good luck!

Written by Rebecca Hart, an Online Marketer at StudentJob UK. If you're starting your job search but not sure where to start, then check out StudentJob. Our application tips will help you create an effective CV, cover letter and help you smash interviews!

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