Careers Network

Make applications

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 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.

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 the opportunity you are applying for.
  • Everyone’s CV should be different and yours should reflect experiences and skills that are specific to you and relevant to your chosen role.
  • Refer to our CV Checklist‌ to make sure you have considered all the basics.
  • Make sure you get your CV reviewed by someone else to make it the best it can be.

Example CVs

Skills based

Chronological

One page CV

Design CV

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

Covering Letters

Whenever you submit a CV you need to also send a tailored covering letter (or email). It needs to 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

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 so you can tailor the information and evidence that you provide enough. 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 techniques for those longer competency based questions.

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

Interviews

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. 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 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 practice 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.

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

Employer Tests

Many graduate recruiters use online psychometric or aptitude tests within their selection process.  Research has shown that an effective preparation strategy can have a positive effect on your scores. Most tests are timed, so make sure you understand the instructions, plan your time and work through the questions as quickly as possible.

For numerical tests - ensure your maths skills are refreshed and as good as they can be.

  • Most tests use application of GCSE-level concepts such as percentages, ratios etc.
  • Identify gaps in your knowledge and address these gaps with one or more of the tools featured in the pdf below:

For verbal reasoning tests - find out about  the actual tests you will be taking, either from the employer’s website or information they have sent directly to you about the tests.

  • The employer is trying to measure your analysis, reasoning and whether you can you distinguish between fact and inference.
  • Read different questions types carefully and base your answers on only the information contained in the passage. Verbal reasoning tests are not tests of what you know, they are tests of how well you understand written information.
  • Avoid guessing the last questions, in case negative scoring is used.
  • Aim to get the most correct answers in the short time you are given, a combination of speed and accuracy will be measured.
  • Using the strategy outlined above, coupled with a positive and confident frame of mind, you will be able to improve your personal score to an optimum level.
  • For further advice see the pdf below:

For further information about psychometric testing, including other types of assessments, such as personality questionnaires, situational judgement tests, and other test practice resources use our pdf below:

The Careers Network has invested in high quality licensed online psychometric test packages to give Loughborough students and graduates free access to practice tests:

Graduates First: A range of practice psychometric tests, including verbal, numerical, logical reasoning, situational judgment and personality tests, plus example assessment centre exercises. You can access these tests and see further instructions on our Employer Tests page in the Careers toolkit.

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 and see further instructions on our Employer Tests page in the Careers toolkit.

 For further advice, see The Guidebook - How to excel in applications and interviews