Graduate jobs in the City: how to make your application stand out

Keely Lockhart asked graduate recruiters at a law firm and an investment bank for their advice

Tailor it

Faced with a mound of job applications there is always the temptation to copy and paste. But when you apply for a job at an investment bank or a law firm, it's important to take the time to learn a bit more about the firm and the role you're applying for. "A student that is able to show how their skills can match to the requirements of a job will stand out," says a graduate recruiter at investment bank Goldman Sachs. So it's worth taking that extra time to tailor your application to avoid joining that slush pile.

Be yourself

"It may sound cheesy, but it's important for candidates to be themselves," says a graduate recruiter at global law firm Freshfields. "Those who try to tick boxes on an application form, or use language they think will impress the reader will make their application look and sound like everyone else's." Obviously you shouldn't list watching cat videos on YouTube as a hobby, but don't be afraid to add a bit of personality to your application.

Write clearly

It can be disheartening when you're applying for job after job and receiving no feedback. One way to keep on top of your game is to review your covering letter or CV every few weeks, and weed out any unnecessary phrases. That's especially important when applying for a training contract at a law firm, as our Freshfields graduate recruiter says: "Candidates who write clearly and concisely, persuasively and accurately will make their application form stand out." So remember, when it comes down to your application - either a covering letter or an application form - it's worth reading and re-reading to check for any spelling or grammar mistakes.

Don't just focus on academic achievements

Think about it: everyone else applying for a role at an investment bank or law firm will also have a good degree. To help your application stand out, you will also need to talk about what you got up to in your spare time at university. "Most law firms will want to see that you have balanced your academics with a range of activities to keep you busy," says the graduate recruiter for Freshfields. "They will want to see that you like responsibility, can challenge yourself, juggle different commitments and work loads, and that you like working in teams." That way you can show your potential employer that you have the right work/life balance. "Taking an active role in societies, community and networking opportunities can be enjoyable and useful when looking to apply for a job," says the recruiter at Goldman Sachs. That might mean writing about how you volunteered for a charity, captained a sports team or were treasurer of a society.

Talk about your summer job

While an internship shows your interest in a career, your summer job is important, too. "Work experience, whether it be part time, full time or temporary, can be valuable allowing students to demonstrate skills and enhance their experience," says the graduate recruiter at Goldman Sachs. Freshfields' recruiter adds: "Depending on the nature of the part time work, qualities such as communication skills, team working, time management, customer service could all be developed, all of which are vital to a career in law."