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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to make your applications stand out using your experience, by Alice Marriott

Cardiff University student Alice Marriott writes for TARGETjobs on how to make your experience make your skills stand out in applications

When reading career advice we are consistently told to maintain professionalism by setting personal social networks to private and avoiding colloquial email addresses and user names. But when it comes to the media industry, I found there was a large grey area between showing personality and charisma, without putting employers off. How do you sound different from others but manage to show off the skills that you know they are looking for?

For example, this summer I have been filling out endless applications to PR agencies and print media companies. Sending off the CVs hasn’t been too taxing because it is essentially listing the skills you have already gained. Even interviews can be a good way to show personality because you get to meet the employer or company representative face to face. However, writing the cover letter is the hard part. Through the cover letter, companies will be able to tell if you are right for the job unlike your CV where you may just look good on paper. But how do you stand out?

So many times I have found myself writing ‘good communicator’ or ‘proficient at Microsoft Office’, but what does that actually tell them? How many other people in the world will also have these skills and what sets them apart? This is when I realised that it isn’t even all about the skills. It is an essential requirement to have skills such as communication, commercial awareness and teamwork. But it is how you gained these skills that will make you sound different from everybody else. 

For example, I recently applied for a work taster at Buzz Magazine (fingers crossed!). It literally took me ages to consider what to put in the cover letter. Having done various other applications, I found myself repeating the same lines and trying to get them to fit the job description. Two hours later… I realised that this was completely the wrong approach. So thinking of a fresh way to attempt the letter, I bullet-pointed all of my skills. Then I thought back right through all of my experiences of working and as an intern, and thought of specific examples of how the work actually helped me to gain these skills. People may write ‘good communicator’ but what proof do they actually have to back that up?

I found this to be one way of showing personality and individuality, while maintaining talk about the job itself. Although this may sound obvious, I have also always struggled with what to put in the ‘interests’ section of applications. After all, they are asking for your interests and you don’t want to lie, but will writing ‘I like to shop’ cut it? Again, I bullet pointed all the things I like doing in a kind of brainstorm-style list. Looking back over it, I realised only half were suitable to put on an application. Nothing too alarming, but even ‘attending parties’ sounded completely inappropriate for an employer to read. Just like before, I thought of the things that I learned from my interests and how they were relevant to the job. For example, reading wouldn’t sound great if you were applying to a building firm, but reading classic literature such as Charles Dickens Great Expectations could look great on an application for a publishing post because it shows genuine interest in the topic area. For myself, I discussed my gap year and how I had to be really committed and determined to save my weekend wages for two years in order to go to Kenya. Also, while I was there, I experienced a completely different culture and way of living that has given me a different perspective.  


Showing personality in job applications is a tricky area, but hopefully from my experience I have shown that even just in the ‘interests’ section of an application or in a small paragraph of a cover letter, you can tell employers about your social life, providing it is relevant to the job.

Need more tips on how to make your applications stand out  - read the 'Graduates guide to job applications"