4.1 Making my application stand out
The key to grabbing an employer’s attention is tailoring your covering letter, CV or application form, and the way to do that is by thoroughly researching the employer you are targeting.
If you are making a speculative application, it is even more important that you are able to grab the employer’s attention as they won’t necessarily be recruiting.
Rolfe (no date) recommends finding answers to 10 key questions about an employer listed in Box 2.
Box 2 Key questions to answer before making a speculative application
- What do they do? Find out everything you can about their products and services, along with who their target audience is.
- What are they looking for in an employee? Check their job advert, careers page and social media profiles to find out what skills, attributes and experience they value most.
- What’s new within the organisation? From news stories to ‘About us’ pages, you’ll be able to gain a good idea of a company’s recent developments, successes and failures.
- What are the company values? Find out what they’re passionate about and what their goals are as a company. If you can find a mission statement, that’s even better.
- What is their company culture like? A company’s culture is demonstrated in everything they do, so look out for indicators of work–life balance, work environment, examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and any social schemes they might offer.
- Are there good opportunities for progression? By finding out more about the company structure, and any senior vacancies coming up, you’ll be able to get a rough idea of whether progression is an option. (When you’re looking for work experience, this might involve finding out how often they take their work experience interns onto permanent contracts).
- What are their employee benefits? Do they offer flexi-time hours? How much holiday will you get? This is often stated in a job description, but may also be referenced on review sites and on a company’s career page. (For work experience, there might be other more relevant benefits to investigate, such as whether you will receive a reference on completion).
- Who are their professional contacts? Check their social media pages to find out how well-linked they are within their industry.
- Who will you be interviewed by? Learning about their background, position, and common interests means less surprises if you’re invited to interview.
- Who are their competitors? Make notes on how their competitors differ and what makes the company you’re applying to stand out.
Once you have found out as much as you can about an employer, you can think about what you have to offer and where the links are. For example, their values might align particularly well with yours or they might prioritise skills and attributes that you have.
When you answer their application-form questions or write your covering letter and CV, you can tailor your content to what you now understand about their priorities and interests based on your research.
Some of this information will also be really useful at interview stage. You’ll find out more about interviews in Week 6, but first you’ll consider what should be included in your covering letter as part of your application.