We asked some of our key employer contacts what they thought made a written application stand out – have a look below and get your applications in shape!
You can also view another post including comments from The Boston Consulting Group, Oxera, and many more.
Katie Frost – Campus Engagement and Recruitment Process Effectiveness Manager
We always look for evidence that demonstrates the candidate has a really good understanding of the firm, our values, as well as the business area they have applied to. Good research and plenty of preparation is key to succeeding with PwC!
Trever Evans – Director, Consulting
As an employer, I look for interesting things on resumes that fits into the overall culture of our team. I generally can tell someone’s intelligence by their CV so I’m looking to see if I could work with them for 10 hours a day. For example, our last hire was captain of her university fencing team. You could tell she had a passion towards both the sport and her teammates when she spoke about it.
Louisa Carpenter – Office Manager
One of the most common things is typos – we try not to be too harsh but when the job has writing as one of the main functions it is absolutely vital that the English language and grammar are spot on and the text reads well – and not in a ‘robotic’ job application jargon-way either, but with some sense of personality!
Another thing that makes applications stand out is when it is clear they are very familiar with the organisation and the work we do so if they refer to a particular project we’ve done and describe how their skills/interests are relevant that is usually a winner.
Finally, I’d say that it is really obvious when someone has spent time on the application and really thought about what the job entails and what they can bring to it (as much as what they can get out of it). We often get very short cover letters with 1-2 paragraphs and little to no detail of a person’s experience and these always go straight to the rejection pile. It’s much better if they’ve used the person specification as their guideline and written a short paragraph on each requirement.
Claire Powers – Talent Attraction
We are looking for candidates with a strong grasp of where their career is headed. We don’t expect candidates to have a clear ten year plan, but we need to see that they have understood why a commercial role is right for them. This will require them to develop a strong understanding of their skillset eg. analytical, communication-based, strategic, creative etc. and career motivations prior to making applications.
Vicky Sanghera – Graduate Recruiter
As recruiters we try our best to be mind-readers however, this is always difficult when we have limited detail of your achievements and successes. It’s important to tell us what you did, a lot of people use the term ‘we’ – this does not tell us much! I need to know what your individual contribution was to the situation, what task and actions you took to get the result. Also the result doesn’t always have to be positive. It’s important to reflect on what you learnt, and how would you approach it differently next time.
Check! Check and check again! Ensure you’ve proof read your application! Also ask yourself if you had to review your application would you progress it to the next stage? If it’s a no, ask why not and action the feedback. Think like the recruiter!
Emma Barker, HR Consultant
When applying and writing your cover letter, you need to show that you have paid attention to detail. Ensure it is free of mistakes by getting a second opinion and having someone else read it.
Also beware of the generic cover letter, you want it to sound authentic so writing it from the beginning will create a warmer, more engaging tone.
Emma Scott – Early Career Recruitment Consultant
Look at your application as a whole – do you have good examples of your skills, work experiences, academic achievements etc., as well as positions in extra-curricular activities and travelling experiences? It’s good to show how rounded you are as a person, and all the many different things you can bring to the company!
Maria Asemah – Graduate Recruiter
For myself and Optiver, we appreciate seeing a well written cover/motivational letter that links why the applicant is applying to Optiver and why they feel that it would be a good match between themselves and us. A compelling case being presented can often sway a decision to proceed with a candidate. A borderline CV would have more credibility and be strengthened by a convincing cover letter that has had some good thought put into it. A borderline CV with no cover letter would likely be rejected.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Henrik Bliddal – Director, Research Assistant Programme
Demonstrate that you have researched the job and organisation you are applying for. Cover letters should not be generic to any old job. Also, demonstrate how skills, knowledge and experience gained in university or work relate to the job you’re applying for. Cover letters should not simply list what’s on the CV – that’s what the CV is there for.
McKinsey & Company
Marta Zielinska – UK Campus Recruiting
When submitting an application make sure to include your grades from school and university as well as all of your extra-curricular commitments and part-time work you might have undertaken whilst at university. Show us your actual role, impact and achievements. You don’t need to limit yourself to a one-page CV, we are interested to see all of your experiences!
Simmons & Simmons
Gina Dolan – Graduate Recruitment Assistant
Make your application as personal to you as possible. No matter what job you’re applying for, make sure you convince them in your application that you are committed to a career in that area and with their company. It doesn’t matter if it’s work experience or personal experience but make sure you include whatever led you to make a decision to apply for that role. Once you have finished your application read it again and ask yourself: ‘Could this have been written by anyone?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’ then you need to think of more personal experiences to add to make it specific to you.