Wherever you are in the world, the process of looking for your dream job – or even just something to pay the bills - brings with it some universal challenges: nerves, self-doubt, excitement, putting difficult things off (perhaps until you’ve done the ironing/cleaned the loo/ written a thank-you letter to your auntie and all those other things that suddenly become more appealing?) and maybe more than the odd late night poring over the tenth version of your CV or cover letter.
So I’ve been asking my colleagues here in the Careers Service what top tips they would give to students unfamiliar with the UK recruitment system who want to apply to UK jobs or graduate schemes. Plenty of it is just the same as anywhere in the world, but there may be some slight nuances to consider if you want to impress a UK-based recruiter. Here’s what we advise:
- DON’T….put your photo on the CV. There are strict Equal Opportunities laws in the UK which mean employers don’t want to be laid open to accusations of discrimination – if they can’t see what an applicant looks like then it keeps it more straightforward and “above board”. And for the same reason …
- DON’T …. include your date of birth or marital status
- DON’T …include a long list of random awards, certificates or class rankings. If there are any that are super-relevant that’s different, but you need to explain clearly how it demonstrates that you’re perfect for the job. Harsh I know as you’re obviously very proud of all those achievements - as are your family no doubt! - but it’s not really the UK way simply to list them all
- DON’T…. use “Yours sincerely” at the end of a letter if you don’t know the recipient’s name – always “Yours faithfully” in that case
And now for the positive "should do's"...
- DO …avoid being be modest!! . I come across lots of students who say “I don’t feel comfortable boasting about myself”. But, if you don’t showcase all your amazing qualifications, skills and experience then who will?? And how will the employer know what an excellent recruit you would be? Sadly they are not psychic…so you’re just going to have to spell it out for them. Think of it another way; a CV is simply a statement of facts about your education, work experience and transferable skills which is presented in a way that it ticks off the criteria the employer is looking for. A fact does not = a boast😊. And anyway, you’re not being kind to the employer - or the world - if you don’t use those amazing attributes you’ve worked so hard to acquire. You owe it to them to tell them how unique you are!
- DO….include your first degree even if you have a post-grad degree in a very different field. There are always connections and transferable skills and knowledge you can highlight. And in the same vein…
- DO… include your work experience in a different sector or specialism. It’s important to showcase the breadth of your skills if they are relevant to the job you’re applying for. That’s why they’re called transferable skills!
And finally one last really important "Don’t.."
- DON’T….use online CV templates. It’s extremely likely these days that for popular grad schemes and jobs the employers will be using algorithms (Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS) to screen CVs before an actual human being claps eyes on them. Unfortunately as things stand we have to assume that these algorithms aren’t sophisticated enough to cope with: columns, graphics, images or embedded/invisible tables etc. Online templates will have many of these coded into them even if you as a mere human can’t see them! Stick to a plain (yes boring, but safe) Word document saved as a pdf. It’s just not worth the risk of falling at the first CV screen hurdle. Unless you’re applying to be a graphic artist obvs…
So there you have it. Follow the rules above and you’ll proudly be producing high quality, persuasive and impressive applications for UK employers. Don’t forget that there are plenty of useful resources on MyFuture, for example this “All you need to know about CVs” Video (bath.ac.uk) and our most popular resource, the applications-cv-and-cover-letter-guide.pdf (bath.ac.uk).
If you’d like more personal help with your CV, cover letter or application form we offer Application Advice appointments all year round too. Book here: Info Page (bath.ac.uk). A recent survey of our students using this service gave us a not too shabby 99.6% satisfaction rating!
This blog is written as part of the Get UK Career Ready week, have a look here for what events are on offer and to book a place.