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Application Do’s and Dont’s

CV advice, General advice, Job hunting, Work Experience October 28, 2008

Application Do's and Dont's



Work experience can make you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs, but how do you get ahead when going for placements? Real World has some tips on how to get noticed:



  • apply early. Places get filled quickly so do some research early in the year and be ready to apply ahead of the spring term rush. That way your application will be on the top of the pile and you can concentrate on your exams.
  • be available. Summer holiday dates vary from institution to institution so make sure you let them know exactly when you are free. Try to give as many date options as you can. Remember, you will be more likely to get a placement if you are free for a couple of months rather than for a couple of weeks.
  • get informed. Competition for places is fierce, so make sure you are clued up on the companies you are applying to. They want to know why you are applying, so make it clear that you have done your research, and try to include something interesting in your application about why you are specifically interested in each company.
  • be persistent. If you don’t hear back after your postal application, follow it up with an email or a phone call. This will make it clear that you are keen, and may accelerate the application process.
  • take some time. Applying for work experience can take just as long as filling in job applications. Make sure you leave yourself time to tailor your CV and covering letter to different companies within your target industry.
  • do as you are told. Go to the careers section of the employer’s website and find out how they recommend work experience candidates should apply. If there’s an online application form, fill it in rather than just sending your CV. If there is a specific contact, make a note of the name, phone number and email address so that you can target the right person and track your application accordingly.
  • structure your CV. Make sure the layout of your CV is professional and user friendly. Display information chronologically, with the most recent first. Your higher education is more relevant to the employer than your school sports teams so be logical and don’t go any further back than GCSEs.

·  list your achievements. According to research by, jobseekers (and that includes those looking for work experience) tend to focus on listing general responsibilities rather than their own personal achievements on their resumes. According to iprofile’s Karl Gregory: ‘Most people think a quirky CV style or generic responsibilities are what employers are looking for, but the research shows the specific achievements of individuals are what make the difference. We work with some of the biggest recruiters in the UK and they tell us that candidates regularly undersell their achievements.’ If you’ve joined a university club or society, do voluntary work, or have had experiences that show you can take responsibility and lead others, or operate as part of an effective team, then include them on your CV – they could be what sets you apart from other candidates.


  • do blanket applications. You shouldn’t apply for work experience just anywhere to get CV points. Employers can tell if you are really interested in their company and you are unlikely to be successful if you fail to demonstrate any genuine motivation. You are also more likely to find your experience enjoyable and useful if you do your research and apply for something you are truly interested in.
  • make avoidable mistakes. There is no excuse for spelling and grammar mistakes in CVs and covering letters. Make use of computer software and do a spelling and grammar check before sending anything. If in doubt, you can always reach for a good, old-fashioned dictionary, or ask a friend to read over your application before you send it.
  • follow the crowd. Try and be interesting in your application letter by starting off with attention grabbing information rather than just introducing yourself with your name, age and university. Employers will read hundreds of these applications so try and do something a bit different to make your application stand out.
  • write an essay. This is not an academic assignment, and no employer has the time or the inclination to sift through pages of information just to find what is relevant to the application process. A good CV should be no longer than two A4 sides and type should be well spaced out to allow easy access. Make sure your contact details are at the top of the page.
  • be scared to say what you want. Employers want to know what you expect to get out of your time on a work experience placement. You can be honest about what you hope to learn as well as what you think you have to offer, and this will make the experience more rewarding for you and your employer.

If at first you don’t succeed…

·       don’t take it personally. So many people apply for these places every year that it’s impossible for employers to take on everyone they would like.

·       re-write your covering letter. It may be that your style wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Re-working your application can make a huge difference.

·       try, try again. Don’t be put off by negative experiences. Chances are if you keep trying you will eventually find something and, in the mean time, making applications is great practice for when you come to apply for jobs.

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