Top tips for graduate job applications from the experts

As the graduate programme advertisements roll in, graduates will have plenty of options to choose from. And one thing they will all have in common is the need for graduate job applications.

While the application processes themselves might vary slightly depending on the programme you’re applying for, there is a lot of sound advice that can help in any case.

For a little expert advice, we spoke to Hays’ James Milligan and EY’s Kate Bolger to find out what tips they could give when it came to filling out graduate job applications.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what kind of graduate opportunity you’re applying for. Bolger said the type of role it is depends on the employer.

“Some graduate positions simply refer to entry-level roles in companies which require little or no experience in the field. Others require students to undertake further study as part of their time with the employer.”

Bolger added that graduate programmes are an excellent way to transition from third-level education into the working world.

“Even without a formal training element, joining a company on a graduate programme can be an easier transition with more opportunity to feel supported and mentored,” she said.

Do your research

In terms of advice for graduate job applications, Bolger said it’s important for graduates to do their research. This sentiment was echoed by Milligan, who said this research has to be more than just a cursory glance at a company’s website. “Understand the values of that organisation,” he said.

Milligan added that graduates should read the description clearly, make sure they understand the role and “bespoke your CV” for that particular application.

How to stand out

When it comes to standing out from hundreds of other graduates, Bolger reiterated that those who do their homework on the employer they’re applying to tend to stand out. She also said: “Sell why you want to work at that particular firm.”

For graduates worried about their minimal experience, Milligan advised leveraging relevant experience from education, part-time jobs and personal interests (such as sports or the arts) to demonstrate competencies.

“Try and speak to someone in your personal network that has knowledge or experience of that industry and ask them what’s important,” he added.

Avoid these mistakes

As with almost anything, there are some common pitfalls in graduate job applications. As part of EY’s student recruitment team, Bolger is well-versed in the traps graduates often fall into.

Unsurprisingly, not doing enough research on the employer, including its social media, website and values, would be a major misstep.

“Other pitfalls we see would be graduates not engaging with us before they apply,” she said. “Students that get in touch with us on campus or online before they apply tend to fare better each year.”

Milligan also warned graduates against telling a potential employer that they’re not sure what they want to do. “It’s always off-putting if an employer doesn’t feel like a candidate wants to work at their organisation and they will have many people who have applied that do.”

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