The Do's and Don't of graduate job applications.

So, you're getting ready to apply for a graduate job but where do you start?

Well, most graduates will start with a quick google search to find out how to write a great application that will increase their chances of landing the job. The more conscientious graduate job seekers might also seek advice from their friends and family, university careers service, their professional network, and the recruitment or hiring manager themselves.

This is only the start - there are many places where graduates can helpful advice on completing job applications (the Let's Talk About Work Instagram and Pinterest accounts included).

But how do you know what advice is good advice?

It's fantastic that there is so much helpful advice out there, but having to decide what advice to listen to and what to ignore can be quite overwhelming - especially when different job roles, companies and industries have different requirements and preferences in terms of their 'perfect' application.

To help you out, I've put together a list of the Dos and Don'ts of graduate job applications.

Let's start with Dos:

Read the job description, again and again and again. By the time you actually sit down to write your job application you should have a really clear picture of what the role involves and the main skills, qualities and experience that the company is looking for. You should also be confident in what your unique selling points are - what makes you different from the thousands of other graduates applying for the role.

Go above and beyond with your research! Although the above point is super important, you won't land the job from knowing the job description inside-out and nothing more. You need to be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the company's mission and the wider industry. Being able to hold a conversation about an area of the company/ industry that you are super interested in and passionate about will not only demonstrate your research and communication skills but will evoke an emotional response in the interviewers that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Speak to the hiring manager (not a recruitment company). You won't get all the information you need about the role, company and industry from secondary research alone. There are some things, such as organisational culture and team dynamics, that you will only get to experience by speaking to people at the organisation you are applying to. You should speak to the hiring manager - somebody at the organisation who is overseeing the recruitment process, and understands the expectation for the role. Before you do this, get prepared and think about some insightful questions to ask, as well as those you genuinely want to know the answer to (more about what questions to ask in my last blog post).

Reflect before you write. If you have ever sat down to write a job application before, you will know that it can be really stressful. This stress makes it feel almost impossible to express your personality and creativity. Try thinking about your application in a less-stressful environment before you sit down to write it - for example, when you are out running or watching TV. You don't need to worry about how you are going to write the application, just get your head about what the company are looking for and your unique selling points.

Get feedback (even when it hurts). Your job applications will not be successful 100% of the time but you will learn far more from those that aren't successful than those that are. Don't be discouraged if the company or recruiter tell you that they are unable to give you feedback on your application, there are lots of other ways to receive helpful feedback (read my blog post on this here). Also, if you don't feel ready to receive feedback straight away, give yourself a few days to let the news sink in and then come back to it. There's no time limit on feedback.

And now for the Don'ts:

Apply for every graduate job advertised. After a few weeks or even months of searching for a graduate job, it can become tempting to lower your standards in a desperate attempt to land any graduate job. But, this will only stop you from finding a happy and fulfilling career in the long term. This isn't to say that you shouldn't compromise. You just need to get clear beforehand about what you are prepared to compromise on and what you aren't. Don't waste your time and energy applying for jobs that you aren't really interested in and that don't align with your values and career ambitions.

Listen to everything recruiters say. 'Hey we have this role that we think you would be perfect for'. I hear this from recruiters all the time - it sounds great and definitely helps to boost graduates ego at a time when they might have experienced a number of unsuccessful job applications previously. But, you need to keep in mind that recruiters are working towards their own goals - for example, they might receive commission based on the number of candidates headhunt, which means they have motivation to put you forward for a role even if they don't really think you will get it or it doesn't align with your career goals.

Submit a generic CV/ application form. When applying for a graduate job, it is super important that you stand out from the crowd, as there may be hundreds if not thousands of other applications. Your CV or online application form is the first opportunity that you have to do this. If you submit a generic CV that doesn't relate to or connect with the recruiter or hiring manager your chances of getting through to the next stage are slim. Also, if the company uses automated technology to scan your application before it is reviewed by a 'real person', your CV might not even be read if you don't include 'buzz words' from the job description.

Include too much detail. Like I said previously, you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd. The way to do this is by focusing on your main achievements - the things that demonstrate your skills, qualities and experience required for the role in a way that 'wow's' the recruiter or hiring manager and gets them excited about interviewing you and potentially welcoming you into their team. If you include too much detail, such as listing every part-time job you've ever had along with all the roles and responsibilities you had, your main achievements might get lost!

Ignore feedback. You probably spend hours (or days) working hard on your CV and you might have sought advice from lots of different people who you respect and admire. This makes it even more difficult when you receive negative feedback on your application. Your natural response might be to defend your CV or application form and carry-on as you were. However, this might not be the best course of action if you are considering applying to similar companies in the future. Even if you aren't sure about the feedback received, try it at least once (perhaps on a job application you are less excited about) and see what response you get. You might be holding the key to your application success in the palm of your hands.

So there you have it - some helpful dos and don'ts for graduate job applications. Start implementing them today and see how they help you to start building a successful career. If you have any thoughts or questions, comment below or email me at

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