The Application Season Survival Kit

The leaves are browning, the days are getting shorter and Starbucks are bringing back their Pumpkin Spiced Latte; summer is officially over. It is time to welcome the season renowned for the harshest conditions and the most unpredictable forecasts: the application season.

The diversion from workplace normality and the economic downturn has made navigating this season more challenging for aspiring corporate professionals. This year, many companies are restricting their trainee intake or skipping recruitment entirely; thus, applications have become even more competitive than the season prior. This article will equip you with the tools to strengthen your chances of success and help you survive the scariest season of them all.

Survival tool: An ordered shortlist of companies to apply to

Protection from: Sending applications which are rushed and ineffective

Create a document containing a list of all the potential companies you may apply to. In a few words, briefly summarise each company: who they are, what industry they are in, whether they recruit on a rolling basis and their application deadlines. Ensure that you take any relevant entry requirements into account when searching for firms (these would typically include minimum expected a-level grades and degree predictions). Once the document is complete to your satisfaction, read through each brief explanation and shortlist the companies which appeal to you the most. Aiming to shortlist approximately 10 firms will ensure that you can invest a large and adequate amount of time into each application. Sort the remaining companies in accordance with their deadlines, the earliest being first and the latest being last. This means that you can plan how much time you will spend on each without missing deadlines. Colour coding each company’s name to signify how far into the application you are will provide you with added protection.

Survival tool: Research folder

Protection from: Answers which lack depth and are not tailored to the individual firm

Research is the most crucial element of your application, as this is what will differentiate you as a candidate. A good starting point would be to read websites which give a summary of the company, for example, chamber student and legal cheek offer a reliable and detailed overview of various law firms. Putting together a checklist of questions and printing this as a template for each company is useful in ensuring your research is consistent, detailed and comparable. Useful topics to investigate would be the company’s background, history, clients/alliances, USP, training structure, culture and values. This serves as a good cover page for each company section of a research folder (which you NEED to create). Further insights about the company can be taken from their website. Breaking down the semantics behind the company motto will provide information about their culture and reading any articles published by the organisation or financial statements will inform you about their internal affairs. Once completed, this research folder will be the reference point for when you are answering application questions because this will enable you to link your writing to the individual company.

Survival tool: Careers fairs

Protection from: Gaps in your research and being an average candidate

Networking with company employees at careers fairs will show you to be a keen and proactive candidate. You are able to ask anything you were unable to find out online in your research at these events. In addition, graduate recruitment are usually present at the event, enabling you to ask questions about the application process and find out their preference for the structure of answers. Most importantly, this gives you an opportunity to get your name out there and your foot in the door. However, your name will not be remembered after one interaction; thus, it is essential that you connect with these professionals on LinkedIn after the event.

Survival tool: Mind mapping your experiences 

Protection from: Answers which do not demonstrate why YOU are an ideal candidate

In addition to linking your application question answers to the company, you must refer to your own experiences to prove why you would be a great fit for the business. Create a document and list some experiences which have transferable skills to the career/scheme you are applying to. This will provide you with a bank of references which can be written about in depth in your answers. These experiences are not restricted to relevant work experience, it can also include activities such as part-time work, volunteering, sports teams and any other positions of responsibility. Writing down the transferable skills which can be extracted from each example will help you answer competency based questions. This also highlights any gaps in experience you may have, giving the opportunity to attempt to fill these before you apply.

Survival tool: Resilience

Protection from: Rejection

Rejection is inevitable, so it is important to not let this dishearten you. Aim to celebrate the small successes, such as gaining experience answering questions or making it past the first stage.

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