- Harriet Jones
Completing applications for anything can be a daunting experience – whether it’s for a job, a gym membership or a bank account! There are lots of different sections and often you won’t know what information is required until you start the process. Having said that, they do have their plus points. Job applications, in particular, are a great way to demonstrate to a company that you are serious about the opportunity and have taken the time to do your research.
I will always remember what my English teacher told me when I was at school – ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. Preparation is a key factor to taking on a job application and coming out on top! Most applications start out simply enough…Name? Contact details? Then, you get to the more complicated, ‘Why have you applied to this position?’ Followed by the free text box stating, ‘please answer in 1000 characters’. This can leave even the most seasoned applicant at a loss for words, left with only tired clichés. Common reactions include: “Help! How do I make myself stand out?”, “Where do I start?” or “How am I going to use up 1000 characters?!” Never fear, there is help at hand!
When tackling this question it’s important to think about it as 3 questions rather than 1: why are you applying to that company in particular? What will you gain from the role or programme? How does this programme or role fit in with your longer term career goals? By considering all three aspects you will demonstrate to the employer that you have thought seriously about not only the immediate benefits but also the longer term impact to your career.
Why that company?
First of all, think about how you heard about that company. Was it word of mouth, a job advert or some prior contact you’ve had with them? Next, consider what initially attracted you to them. Was it the brand, positive feedback you’d heard or the type of roles they offer? Try to be specific here and take the time to do your research ahead of completing this section. The beauty of the internet is that we have huge amounts of information at our fingertips and company websites will provide you with lots of great content such as their values or goals, as well as further details about what they offer. By doing this research you can show why this company in particular would be a great fit for you.
Top tip: Make sure you personalise your response to the company you’re applying too.
What will you gain from the programme/job role?
Once you’ve demonstrated why the company itself appeals to you, the next step is to detail why you are applying to that position or role and what you will get out of it. It could be that you are studying a subject associated with that industry and you want to put your theory into practice. Or you might be interested in pursuing a career in that sector and you want to use this as an opportunity to better inform yourself of the options available, as well as having the chance to meet people currently doing that role to start growing your network.
Top tip: Make sure your reasons are specific and linked to what the position will offer.
How does it fit with your long term career aspirations?
First things first, don’t panic! You don’t have to know exactly what you want to be doing in your career for the rest of your life to answer this question. By simply demonstrating that you have thought about the different pathways into a career that are available to you will show that you have given this some thought. Highlighting that you are using a role or programme as an opportunity to gain further insight will show that you are now taking action to aid you in making that choice.
Top tip: It’s important to include this section in your response, even if it might seem like the most difficult part to answer. Linking your future goals to the programme or role shows the employer that you have dedication, integrity and ambition – all qualities they’ll be looking for!
By breaking down the question and taking the time to do your research, that tricky question that initially left you tongue-tied becomes a lot more straightforward and easier to tackle. This same principle can be applied to other, similar questions that you might get asked.
To help you on your way, here are some final top tips to acing the application process:
- Don’t rush – grammar and spelling are important, so make sure you have proofread your response. It’s also helpful to get someone else to read it for you, as they might notice something you didn’t.
- Be clear on what you want to say – usually there will be a word limit and you want to include all the main points, so you don’t have space to waffle!
- Be positive – use this as an opportunity to convey your enthusiasm for the company.
- Sell yourself – don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet! Mentioning any previous experience you have will only benefit your application.
- Final check! – Before you click submit check whether you have answered all the questions – employers will need all the information to process your application, so make sure you haven’t missed anything!
For more application tips, go here.