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How to prepare

Employers want to see that you understand the job and the organisation, along with evidence of how you match up to the skills, experience and personal qualities they want.

Employers are also interested in your motivation and focus on this career. They expect your application to be tailored to the specific opportunity they're offering.

Be aware that a lack of motivation or commitment to work for the organisation is one of the top reasons why employers reject applications.

If they get the sense that you've copied and pasted your answers from 20 other similar applications, this is likely to be as far as you get in their recruitment process.

Employers expect you to have done some research and found out about their company or organisation. Learn more about how to carry out this preparation which is essential to making a successful application.

Make some notes about what you have done while you have been at university. Remember to think of all elements of your university life  – your degree, fieldwork, study abroad, as well as work experience, internships, volunteering, part-time and vacation work and all extracurricular activities and interests. Take note of when they took place, your role and any job titles held.

Then start to consider what this means:

  • what skills did you develop during these experiences?
  • what events or achievements are you proud of?
  • what did you learn?
  • what personal qualities did you develop?

Focus on what you did and what your own contribution was. Be positive and confident about what you have achieved during university.

Employers in all sectors believe that getting involved in university life is a great way of developing skills and qualities for graduate jobs and internships – they are looking for you to analyse what you have done and explain to them why it is relevant. They are not expecting you to have years of experience – they're looking for your ability and potential.

Allow enough time to complete the application form well. You need to be able to draft your answers, take a break and then re-draft and refine your answers.

If possible, log in and print out the form, so you can look through it and write your answers in Word before inputting them into the form.

Don’t leave yourself 30 seconds to upload your documents before the deadline, because this is exactly when your WiFi will fail and you'll be stuck. Allow time for any technological problems that may arise.

Many employers now use automated selection software which scans applications for keywords before a person reads the form. So it can be useful to include some of their keywords in your answer, as this will get picked up by the software.

Take note of the words they use to describe skills they are looking for and reflect these in your examples (but it doesn't mean copying and pasting your answers from the organisation’s website).

When you start writing

Don’t be afraid to use bullet points and paragraph breaks – they can help the reader as well as providing structure to your answer especially when you are faced with a tight word limit. Check what formatting the online application form will enable you to use.

Find out more

For advice on filling out an application form, you can book an appointment with a careers adviser via your Careers Account or contact:

Careers and Employability