Competition for both graduate roles and placements/internships has arguably never been greater. Unfortunately this means there is a high chance that at some point your application will get rejected in your search for employment...
However good your CV, application or interview, there are many potential reasons preventing your progress. But after hearing a "thanks, but no thanks" (or in some cases hearing nothing at all!), what should you do next?
It is difficult going from spending most of your university life enjoying yourself, to suddenly having to think about a career and having to create a CV and Cover letter or filling in lengthy online applications. If you're lucky - like I was - you have a mandatory module in your first year with the sole aim of creating a CV and answering interview questions. If you're an idiot - like I was - you don't turn up to these sessions as they were inconveniently timetabled at 9am on a Thursday morning.
This put me at a huge disadvantage when it came to applying for placement and internship roles for my industrial placement year and the first term I was met with rejection after rejection. So what do you do if your application gets rejected? Well the first thing is not to get dejected, it happens to everyone, and just because you didn't get offered the first few jobs your applied for, it certainly doesn't mean you aren't going to get a job at all! Persistence is key.
What was the best thing I did? I tried not to get too dejected and learnt from my failures. Good move. Here are a couple of things I did along with some nifty advice that I have picked up since.
Get some feedback
It does take some guts to pick up the phone and ask for someone to tell you why you failed, but it can be really useful. Some companies have a policy of not providing feedback (usually the large popular companies who have loads of applications) but some companies will be more than happy to dish out the feedback. If you do manage to get some proper feedback, make sure you take it on board and do something about it. It can be as simple as reformatting your CV or improving your range of examples for use in the interview. Either way, you know a little more about what graduate recruiters are looking for. Also, you never know - someone they initially make an offer to might not accept and they will look to offer to other applicants. By showing your interest and enthusiasm, and by picking the phone up you may call at exactly the right time...
Keep getting rejected at the same stage?
Is it always the CV and Cover Letter that lets you down, or is it the interviews that you struggle with? If it is always one thing that you struggle with, try and get help and advice. Take your CV to the careers service or ask them for a mock interview. Their skills lie in career counselling and they are paid to help you - so use them!
One of the best things you can do here is practice. Graduate recruiters know you are at university and haven't got this amazingly broad and diverse working background from which to refer to, so you need to hone the stories and skills you have.
The next CV and Cover Letter will be better; your next interview or assessment centre will be easier. As with most things, the more you do it, the better you become as you have experience to refer back to. If you think it's boring repeating the same story about how job X or coursework Y has made you more confident in working with people, then mix it up a bit, come up with some new examples to use.
If you really are struggling, why not consider different industries? Whilst some industries have reduced the amount of students they are going to take on next year, others are increasing. A recent survey said the FMCG industry is increasing their graduate vacancies by 12.9%...
OK it's a really corny thing to say, but don't be frightened or scared of interviews or assessment centres. I liked to see them as a challenge. It was a challenge trying to persuade someone to want to employ you and a challenge working with people you are competing against for the same job! If you are constantly trying to learn and improve yourself then over time, this will definitely be reflected in your CV, applications and interviews.
Nope, but you can make life a lot easier for yourself. What made my graduate job offer one out of one was the work experience on my CV. I did a 12 month placement which gave me so many examples to refer to when asked the typical "Give me an example of when you worked in a team?" I also had two very different part time jobs to talk about; a job in a pub and sports coaching. Add the six months experience of setting up www.RateMyPlacement.co.uk whilst at university and I was able to get the interview in the first place, and give REAL examples in answer to questions in my interview.
So, what advice would I give to anyone looking to be more successful and employable? Work experience, and the more the better! Graduate recruiters consistently complain that the biggest challenge they face is that graduates are lacking the skills required for the work place. Work experience for me is the most important thing on your CV so it is worth slogging for. Let's face it; you will be so much more employable if you have a 2.1 with relevant work experience under your belt rather than a 2.1 with no experience.
Having founded a work placement and internship website I am obviously biased, but if you were applying for a job at RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the first thing I would look at on your CV is your work experience...