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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Win a state-of-the-art Lexmark printer!

It’s back! Our latest competition to win a printer, very kindly donated by the nice people at Lexmark International, has just launched.

It’s so easy to enter, there’s really no excuse. Just go to our competition page, fill in your details, and tell us why you should win. That's it!

The printer is the latest up-to-datest vertical all-in-one printer and it looks cool too. You can set it up just how you want it and use it to download apps like Facebook, to make life easy.

No more rushing to the library to get your printing done, an end to begging friends to do your printing… get your very own smart printer, with a supply of ink… enter now!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Application forms part two: Preparation, research and answering long questions

Preparation, preparation, preparation – the key to a successful application form. In order to do yourself justice you will need to put in a good deal of effort. You will also need to show that you have researched and understand the role you are applying for.

Research the role
Use the company’s job description and person spec to learn about the job. You can also have a look at their website to see if they offer any sort of advice to potential employees or further information on jobs and graduate schemes. Try reading the ‘about us’ section to see what information you can gather about the company values and look for phrases such as ‘fast moving’ or ‘high expectations’ which may help to indicate the true demands of the job.

Research the company
Not only will this help to identify relevant information to include in the application form, but it will also give you an idea of what it might be like to work there. Try and find its mission statement or marketing slogan, and look for information on its customer service standards. What is the company culture like? Is there anything you need to know about working hours etc.?

This will all help with answering some of the longer questions on the form, such as: “What do you think are the main challenges facing our company over the next three years? Please answer with specific reference to your chosen function.”

It’s also worth seeing what articles have been in the news recently, both about the company specifically and also the sector in which they operate.

Excellent – you’re now much better informed!

Filling in the form
As you are working on a copy, rather than the original (see Part 1 of this blog) you can make sure all of your information fits neatly. Above all else you must be honest and truthful in all of your answers – stretching the truth (is lying!) is not acceptable, and will do you more harm than good in the long run. Also make sure you have read through all of the instructions, so you know which parts of the form are applicable to you, whether or not to attach a CV, application deadline, etc.

After you have completed all of the basic info about yourself, you will probably be left with a few ‘long questions’ which are more concerned with your skills and experience. What they are really asking is ‘Can you do the job?’ Got no skills? Wrong! Have a look here to see why.

You can also use examples of your time at uni to demonstrate your skills. Throughout your studies you will most likely have developed skills in communication, teamwork, organisation, research and problem solving. As a student/recent graduate it is perfectly acceptable to use examples from your studies to demonstrate how you have developed these skills.

A blank box
What you may view as the most daunting part of an application form should actually be the best bit. You know, that part that says ‘Any other information in support of your application.’ What better than the chance to tell them exactly why you passionately want this job and why you are a good fit? This is where you can really demonstrate how you have done your homework, you know just what they are looking for, and why you’re the best person for the job.

Keep your answer structured and in a logical order and include as many relevant examples as evidence of your claims. Think about including:
  • Your interest in this job/company and why it fits with your career plans
  • What skills and experience you have and why/how they are relevant, with examples
  • IT and technical skills, if relevant
  • Your personal attributes and values
Keep all of this information balanced and never assume that the employer will know you have 'xyz' skills because of the degree you have studied. Spell it out for them very clearly!

Remember, employers are looking for the person who:
Can do the job...
Will do the job...
Will fit in!

Good luck!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Application forms part one: Easier than writing a CV?

What does September mean to you? A new term and a week or two of fresher’s parties? Fond memories of returning to uni when you were still a student? Or maybe it brings the excitement of moving on to the next stage in your career.

Whatever you are planning this Autumn, if it involves looking for a job (of any sort) then it may well mean filling in an application form. Yippee, that means you don’t need to bother updating your CV, that’s good news, right?

Actually it may not be the good news you first think. The advantages of an application form are:

But what about the downside:

  • Everyone becomes standardised by completing the same form, so you have less chance to stand out from the crowd.
  • You have to answer the questions asked on the form, even if that means talking about something you’d rather not.
  • The order of the questions is dictated by the form – whereas on your CV you can change the order around to suit you and your personal strengths.
  • You can’t always see all of the questions on an online application form, so planning your answers is not always easy.

If you are faced with completing any sort of application form, here are a few tips to help you:

1. Take a copy of the blank form and keep the original safely for the final version. If it’s an online form, see if you can copy all of the headings into a Word document so you can work on the form in your own time before committing your answers.
2. Check the instructions carefully. If it says ‘complete with a black pen’ don’t use a blue one!!
3. Make sure you get the details right, especially if you are copying and pasting from a previous form – you don’t want to mention XYZ Ltd if this is an application form for ABC Ltd!
4. Write neatly or word process, depending on what the instructions say. Black ink is better than blue.
5. Answer all questions. If you think a question is definitely not relevant to you mark the section N/A. Use with caution!
6. Think about why a question is being asked before you leap right in and start answering.
7. Draft your answers first so you can be sure they will fit in the space provided or be the required number of words.
8. Write succinctly and formally, eg. write ‘did not’ rather than ‘didn’t’.
9. Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. Yes, yes, we go on about that a lot, but it’s really important! Don’t trust a spell checker and always ask someone else to proofread your answers as an extra check.
10. Copy your draft answers on to the real form. Check again that you have followed all the instructions. If you are including any extra sheets they should be clearly marked with your name, job title and reference number.

Remember to keep a copy of the completed form, so if (when?!) the next stage is an interview, you can remember what you said!

Coming soon – Application forms part two: Preparation, research and answering long questions.