Applications and interviews

Times have changed. And so have applications.

Nowadays, there’s a mystifying range of processes and challenges that you’ll have to jump through to even get to an interview or a place at university or college.

And competition is fierce for every place. That’s why it’s important that they stand out.

Some people say that success is about turning up. That isn’t true. Success is built on preparation.

It’s all about research – looking at the role they’re applying for and shaping their skills to meet the need.

Applying for jobs

It’s reckoned that the average amount of time employers will look at a CV is about nine seconds. They’ll receive lots of CVs, and don’t often sit down to read them for fun.

It's important to get your child to reflect on who they are and what they are good at.  They can then talk confidently to others about themselves when applying for courses and jobs.  See how you can support your child develop their profile on My World of Work Encourage your child to think about their skills and experiences – and have a few stories prepared that’ll demonstrate how they can do the job well. It’s always good to have some examples of successful teamwork up their sleeves.

Employers aren’t always looking for specific qualifications or work experience. Often, they’re looking for ‘core’ skills or talents like numeracy, ICT, or problem-solving.

The best applications are those who’ve understood what the company wanted, that show put in the energy and self-reflection to sell themselves.

An application can get you an interview, but it doesn’t get you a job. It’s not the whole story, only the start of it. When preparing for interviews, it’s important to be aware of the different formats.

Lots of companies use competency-based interviews, which are based on the STAR technique:

• Situation
• Task
• Action
• Result

There’s plenty of guidance on these kinds of interviews on our website, My World of Work.  You can also build a CV together to hand into employers.

Social media and job hunting

Employers will check social media profiles as part of the recruitment process, so it’s very important to consider social media when they’re looking for a job.

No matter how much you talk yourself up in an interview, if you’ve got a public social media account then whatever you do will still be accessible by potential employers.

They’re investing in recruiting someone, and it’s an employer’s market. If they can narrow down the potential recruits, through whatever means necessary, then they will.

If your child has a social media profile – whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a YouTube profile - then they have a public persona.

Encourage them to think and act responsibly about the type of content they share on social media.

Applying for colleges and university

The personal statement is key. And with the UCAS statement, you’re limited to 4000 characters and 47 lines. It’s got to be as punchy and attractive and as hard-hitting as possible. It’s something to be developed, drafted, and re-drafted. It’s something that will take time.

Whilst some people are natural procrastinators who’ll leave things until the last minute, it’s incredibly important that they leave themselves enough time for it. In a sense, a personal statement is like an academic assignment in itself – but the subject is themselves.

The UCAS website has fantastic guidelines on applications, and the SAAS website for funding.

If they’re unsure which university or college they should be applying for, then The Guardian university league table and the University Stats website can help. This takes in things like employability statistics and the Student Satisfaction Survey.

It’s about presentation skills, and preparation, preparation, preparation.


What makes people employable or desirable these days? Skills.

Think beyond qualifications. What does your child do with their free time?

What are their hobbies? Theatrical activities, music and sports will all develop transferable skills to help them to find employment.

Yes, grades do matter. But what if there’s only place available, and ten people who’ve applied?

They’ll look for extra-curricular activities, voluntary or work experience. That’s often the differentiator - things that indicate that you’re a fully-rounded human being.

Encourage your children to think about what they’re learning and developing in their extra-curricular activities. Because often, that can be just as important as how well they’re doing academically.

And remember…

Sometimes, it might be difficult for them to think about what’s good about themselves.

Discussion can help bring it out of them. That’s how you can help, by suggesting ideas and being supportive. Don’t take over, or force them down a certain road that might be wrong for them.

It’s important to empower your child, and to help them be responsible for their own achievements.

The careers talk isn’t just about school – it’s about what they’re doing in their fuller lives.

Go back to career discussions