List the skills sought by the employer so you can show how your skills and experience match these.
Review your part-time work / vacation work to highlight skills gained through work experience.
As a mature student, don't try to hide your age but use your application to highlight the skills and experience you have gained. E.g. balancing family life and study involves organisation, flexibility, commitment and the ability to remain focused. These are all skills, which are highly valued by employers.
Read the instructions carefully. If you are asked for an application form do not send a CV instead.
When completing the form on-line make note of your username and password to enable you to return to complete the form later.
Download the form and practice completing it off-line. NB: the amount of space allocated to a question reflects its importance.
Always give concise answers - avoid 'padding'. Use a positive 'telegram' style with action words. Action words strengthen and enliven your application.
Promote your personal selling points - academic strengths, work skills, personal achievements.
Make sure to provide the evidence on how your personal selling points were developed.
A standard form contains the headings below.
Be accurate, truthful and clear, remembering that initially each form will be read in two to five minutes.
Ensure you have a professional email address - avoid an email address such as Ilovegirls@hotmail.com
Your Careers Adviser is happy to talk through these issues with you or you can check relevant websites.
Education and qualifications
Highlight the content of your course, learning experiences and skills gained. Think again about what the employer is looking for. If your grades are not as strong as you would wish, for whatever reason, your Careers Adviser will have some suggestions of how best to present this information to an employer.
Your Project / Dissertation
State the title on the first line. Mention the skills acquired e.g. time and plan management, team skills. This can be an important item, especially if you can show its relevance to the job you are applying for. Describe and summarise it clearly.
Employment and work experience
Think of the skills you have gained, i.e. dealing with people, communicating, taking responsibility, being trusted with money, etc. Be specific about your achievements - an opportunity for mature students to highlight how time in College is being integrated into their career overall. Focus on those most pertinent for the job to which you are applying.
Be as flexible as possible, but if you have a location preference state it.
Do your activities and interests show you as self-sufficient, confident, a good communicator, a team worker or an individual?
An achievement can be any activity or task satisfactorily concluded, such as combining study and family responsibilities, getting an article published, participating in the SOCRATES programme, organising an activity, winning at a sport or acquiring computer skills, overcoming difficulties e.g. student with disabilities might shine here. Try listing your own achievements and then listing the SKILLS developed by each one.
You could mention skills derived from unpaid or voluntary work here. Deal with 'gaps' in your record - always present in a most positive light e.g. what you gained in the time out.
Point out your relevant abilities for this job and provide evidence of how they were developed.
Explain why you have applied for the job function that you listed on the first page. Offer evidence of your suitability. Look again at the job description or employer's brochure and say why you are the ideal candidate. Sell your achievements, abilities, leadership qualities, and interpersonal skills here.
Include one academic and one employer reference. Don't forget to ask their permission.
All application forms contain 'difficult' questions - they often relate to your motivation and personal competencies. Use these to provide specific evidence of your skills and suitability for the job. In answering these questions it is important to think positive and to be confident in your abilities.
Motivational questions e.g.:
What attracts you to this job? What qualities do you think you can offer?
Explain how your interests and experiences might make you a better...?
What criteria would make you decide to accept a job?
How to answer these
These all require you to demonstrate motivation, job knowledge and to match your abilities to the employer's requirements. Use the advice in 'Before you Apply' to research the job, the organisation and know your own requirements so as to provide a winning response.
Competency-based Question & Sample Answers
These questions require you to demonstrate qualities such as 'leadership & planning' & 'organisation'.
A useful framework to help you with answering these is the STAR approach
Situation - What was the context? Describe the situation briefly.
Task - What was your objective? What was the problem or challenge?
Action - What action did you take? Be explicit about your role and the skills used.
Result - What was the outcome and how did you improve the situation? What would you do differently the next time?
Sample question ('Leadership'):
'Describe a situation where you held a position of leadership and what you achieved in the position'?
"I was elected to the position of Auditor in the German Society during my last year at University. The Society consisted of 50 members and a Committee of 5. My objectives were to double the number of members and increase the number of social events, and increase the awareness of German lifestyle among University students. In order to meet these targets I had to motivate the Committee and hold regular team meetings to check we were achieving our objectives. By the end of the year I was pleased that the membership had risen to 120."
Sample question ('Planning & Organisation'):
'Provide an example of a situation where you displayed a competency in planning and organising and describe the results'?
"As a member of the College's St Vincent de Paul Society, I organised an 'Activities Week' for inner-city children. My objectives were to recruit a team of 10 volunteers and provide interesting activities. Issues I had to consider included: safety, costs, locations and the skills required in team members to make it a success. In order to plan my time I prepared an Excel spreadsheet, which included critical dates, which had to be met in order that the event would run smoothly. I also formed a contingency plan, including alternative indoor activities in case of rain!"
These responses succeed because they illustrate your competencies with specific evidence and yet are not overly detailed.
Sample question ('Team Work - Mature Student')
'Give an example of a situation where you worked as part of a team and describe the role you played.'
"As a member of the local school's Board of Management I suggested that we set up a fundraising committee to raise €5000 to develop a school library. As chairperson of the committee I asked a number of parents to assist with the fund raising activities. I organised a brainstorming session to come up with suggestions for possible events and we finally decided to run a race night in the school. I facilitated the meetings and took responsibility for marketing the event. I delegated and coordinated the activities associated with the race night. We sought advice from the local bookmakers and contacted local companies to ask if they would be prepared to provide sponsorship. I asked the local print shop to do an advertisement, which we put in all the local shops and distributed amongst the schoolchildren and I contacted the local radio who gave us a mention on their events of the week slot. The night was very successful and we exceeded our goal by raising €5500.
Bank of New York
Hear what Bank of New York has to say on completing these questions. (Source: YouTube from University of Manchester Careers Service).
Remember your objective is to get an interview!
Familiarise yourself with what is needed in each section so you can decide what evidence or example is best suited
Answer all questions. If a question does not apply to you, make this clear by writing n/a (not applicable) in the box.
Reflect on why a question is being asked and answer it accordingly.
Draft your answers first to make sure they fit in the space available.
Write formally, avoid abbreviations and especially text speak.
Get someone to read over your answers and give you feedback - know that the form is the employers first impression of you.
Keep a copy of your form.
- Lorraine Toole, Graduate Recruitment Manager, PwC
- Anne O'Connor, Graduate Recruitment and Development, Kerry Group
- Austin Boyle, Senior Manager, Accenture
- Cara Fallon (Ex BDO) Recruitment Expert
- Ciara McDevitt, Senior Brand Manager, Jameson
- Paul Vance KPMG, Head of Resourcing
- Ann Wiseman, Group HR, Musgrave Group