Careers Network

Make applications

Photo of students writing an application

Most graduate employers have a 'shopping-list' of the skills, personal qualities, knowledge and experience they hope to find in candidates, and the recruitment process is your opportunity to provide evidence of these attributes.

Careful preparation is essential and Careers Network offers a range of activities and resources to give you the best possible start. We run presentations and workshops on all stages of the recruitment and selection process and offer individual advice on CVs, application and interview techniques and employer tests.

Getting Started

The secret to any successful application (and interview!) is doing your background research before you start. By reading the vacancy carefully, learning about the organisation and exploring the wider job sector, you will be more effective at targeting your applications. Learning about skills employers seek will help you to identify your strengths and evidence the relevant ones. Work out your unique selling points (USPs) and use positive action words to make a more powerful impact, online and in person. 

All applications must be tailored to each job role you apply for. The vacancy will ask you for specific skills, qualifications and knowledge, so it is imperative that you use the information given to you, as well as what you have learned from your background research, to construct your application.

When writing an application it can be easy to make mistakes. Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is checked thoroughly, please look at the following documents to help.

CVs (Curriculum Vitae)

Curriculum Vitae literally means 'record of life'. It's a personal marketing tool, presenting your skills, attributes, experience and qualifications to employers in a way that demonstrates your suitability for a job or position.

  • Your CV needs to be well presented, concise and tailored for each opportunity.
  • Everyone’s CV should be different and yours should reflect experiences and skills that are specific to you and relevant to your chosen role.
  • Make sure you get your CV reviewed by someone else to make it the best it can be.
  • Unless otherwise stated, a UK CV is generally 2 pages long.

Please refer to our CV checklist below to make sure you have considered all the basics:

If you are a researcher, please use the CV checklist below:

Chronological (or traditional CV)

This is probably the most popular style of CV, where you structure your sections in reverse chronological order (most recent first, earliest last).

This style of CV helps employers to quickly understand your experience and where you have developed your skills and knowledge matched to the job description.

Skills based (or functional CV)

Skills based CVs are useful for those who have had a gap in their employment or education history, have limited or unrelated experience, or who have had many jobs in a similar field, using the same skills.

This style of CV allows you to dedicate a section to the skills the employer is looking for and provide evidence of how you have demonstrated them.

One page CV

Certain sectors, such as finance and management consultancy, may ask for a one page CV. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is easier to write than a 2 page CV. It can be a lot harder to select the necessary information, and every sentence must be relevant to the job! 

Design CV (or creative CV)

When applying for roles within creative areas, candidates may wish to construct a CV to reflect and showcase their creativity. If you decide this is right for you, make sure the wording and structure is right first before you think about the layout and design. It is also important to check whether the employer in question is happy with receiving this style of CV.

Academic CV

These are used when applying for research based or lecturing roles. Your CV can be longer than 2 pages, but ensure you keep it as concise as possible. The lenience in length allows you to go into more detail about projects, publications, funding and relevant conferences.

For more detailed advice, see The Guidebook - How to excel in applications and interviews.

For example of action words to use in your CV, please click on the PDF below:

 For examples of how to articulate your skills on CVs, please click on the PDF below:


CV examples for international students can be found on our International Students page


Covering Letters

Whenever you submit a CV you also need to send a tailored covering letter (or email). It should explain your motivation for that role and organisation and emphasise the skills and experience that are particularly relevant to that opportunity.

  • Your covering letters need to be specific to the role and highlight why you are suitable, making reference to your CV where necessary.
  • Make sure you research the company you are writing to and reflect this in your reason for choosing them.
  • Keep your letter short and concise and present it in a logical and structured way that makes it readable and interesting!

Example covering letters 

For more detailed advice, see The Guidebook - How to excel in applications and interviews.

For example of action words to use in your covering letter, please click on the PDF below:

Covering letter examples for international students can be found on our International Students page

Application Forms

Application forms are used by employers to compare candidates’ details against their selection criteria and choose who to take forward to the next stage of the recruitment process. They usually combine simple questions, asking for factual information, with more open ended questions with word limits, requiring you to evidence a particular experience, skill or competency.

Research the job or placement you are applying for so you can tailor the information and evidence that you provide. Read the instructions and questions carefully, making sure you understand exactly what the employer is looking for.  Select powerful and relevant examples from all areas of your experience and consider using the STARR technique for those longer competency based questions.

For more detailed advice, see The Guidebook - How to excel in applications and interviews.

For example of action words to use in your application form, please click on the PDF below:


Interviews are good news – they mean your application form or CV has worked.  Now you need to get the preparation underway to make the most of the opportunity.

Increasingly first interviews are telephone interviews - and video interviews are becoming popular too. A first interview tends to be one-to-one between you and the interviewer, but at some stages you may be interviewed by more than one person at a time. Some interviews can be very formal, while others might resemble an informal chat, but be assured that the interviewer/s will be assessing you whatever the format. Assessment centres or second interviews can have a more varied structure.

Interviews may seem scary, but they don’t have to be.  By preparing well they can be a positive experience. Review your application form, letter or CV and build on the research you have started. Find out as much as you can about what the employer expects during their interview process and prepare and practise answers to typical interview questions.

Work out in advance what you will wear and how you will get to your interview; and on the day be positive and enthusiastic to make the best impression possible. Our PDFs below have example questions to help you prepare for your interview:

For more detailed advice, see the tools and resources below.

Video Interview Practice Tool:

The Careers Network has teamed up with Sonru, a leading provider of video interview software, to bring you the chance to practise a video interview. To find out more and to have a go see our advice on Video Interviews below:

Resources to help your prepare for an interview

Please find a PDF below containing videos, websites and documents to help you prepare for upcoming interviews:

Assessment Centres

Assessment centres, (sometimes called second interviews), are often the final stage in the graduate recruitment process – and are increasingly used in placement selection too. They are usually held at the employer’s premises or a hotel and involve a variety of individual and group exercises designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate specific skills and qualities against a predetermined set of criteria.

Find out if you need to prepare anything to take with you to the assessment centre. Some employers ask you to prepare a short presentation. Identify which skills and qualities the organisation is looking for and work out how you can best demonstrate these.  When you get there be friendly, positive and professional and be yourself.  Make a contribution to all activities so that the assessors have something to mark you on.

For more detailed advice, see our guidebook - How to excel in applications and interviews 2017.

Resources to help prepare for assessment centres

Mock Assessment Centres:

To sign up to attend a mock assessment centre, run by the Careers Network team, with participation from leading graduate employers, visit Attend Careers Events for a list of dates available.


Capita: Lead The Way graduate programme - assessment centre advice from graduates

Barclays behind the scenes at an assessment day (what the assessors really think):

Civil Service Fast Stream: Top Tips - e-Tray Exercise

CareerPlayer: How to ace an Assessment Centre


Intel: The assessment process at Intel



Employer Tests

The majority of graduate recruiters use psychometric tests at some stage of their selection process. Research has shown that an effective preparation strategy can have a positive effect on your scores in these tests. You can find information, advice and practice tests in the 'Employer Tests' pdf below to help you prepare.

The following practice tests have been purchased under licence by Careers Network to give Loughborough students and graduates free access to these high quality test packages.

Graduates First: A range of practice psychometric tests, including verbal, numerical, logical reasoning, situational judgment and personality tests, plus example assessment centre exercises. 

Profiling for Success: A comprehensive suite of practice psychometric tests, including abstract reasoning skills, numerical reasoning skills, verbal reasoning skills, personality - Types Dynamics Indicator (based on Myers-Briggs), a learning styles indicator and a values-based indicator of motivation.

You can access these tests on our Employer Tests page in the Careers toolkit. (However this link only allows access to current students and staff, so if you are a graduate and would like to use these tools, please email stating your full name and either your Student ID number or your degree course and year of graduation.)

Click on the links below for further help with numerical and verbal tests. 

You will also find helpful information in our guidebook How to excel in applications and interviews.

Job Offers

If you’re reading this section because you’ve received a job offer, congratulations!

To find out more about the following:

  • what to expect when you receive an offer (the documentation and processes involved)
  • evaluating the offer and making a decision
  • how to accept (or reject) an offer
  • where to access advice and support

see our PDF: