Career Advice: How to succeed in applications and interviews

11 February 2015 By Alastair Cleland

1465 Original

​Whether you're new to the world of work, or have been out of the market for a while, searching for a job can be overwhelming. So how can you give yourself the best odds of being successful?

Since the dawn of time, man has felt daunted by the job search process. But never fear - there are some fundamental principles of applying and interviewing which (in our experience!) will serve you in great stead. 

Having the right mindset and understanding the different elements of the application process will go a long way. Approaching the application process with your USP’s in mind and knowing what makes you stand out is the key to improving your chances.

Determine your personal 'USP' before approaching the market

Your ‘Unique Selling Point’ (or USP) is a marketing idea developed for businesses to identify their unique strengths to help achieve their goals. As a job-seeker you also have a goal to achieve; selling yourself! By recognising your USPs, you’ll be in a much better position to sell yourself when applying for a job, allowing you stand out from the crowd.

The application process: CVs, positioning, choosing the right role and making introductions

This is where you market yourself. The idea is to ensure you appear strong on paper. The first thing employers will look at on your CV is your most recent or relevant work experience. So, make certain you’re very specific in describing your role and responsibilities. Your key accomplishments and achievements is what employers really want to see, they want proof of your capabilities, they want to know what you can bring to the company. Listing figures and achievements can be the difference between being brushed to the side and getting a call back. Employers don’t have time to read every CV, so they skim them picking out the main bullet points.

When you’re marketing yourself to a prospective employer or recruiter, it’s all about positioning. Positioning yourself is about knowing your audience, which will of course depend on your industry. So once you’ve defined your position and what you want, you can then begin to target companies you’re interested in. it’s beneficial to have a general CV template that you can easily amend according to each specific job you apply for.

When applying for your next opportunity, you should always try to go for a job that’s a step up from your last role. Organisations don’t want to hire someone who’s done the same level role for many year’s as they are likely to want a higher salary or might get bored of the job quickly. Employers want people that will grow into a role and be engaged in what they’re doing.

Once you’ve identified your self-marketing stance you can optimise your CV, ensuring it flows and everything is relevant to one another. Using the right language, like industry specific terms shows your knowledgeable in your chosen field. Another key point is making certain there are no gaps in your CV as this can be a major warning sign for employers. All the dates listed on your CV should be double checked and if there is a gap, you should note as to why e.g. gap year, travelled abroad..

Cover letters should be short, concise and straight to the point. Using keywords and buzzwords can be really important especially if you’re applying to a large corporation. Larger companies might use a ‘recruitment software system’ that checks CV’s and cover letters for the correct keywords and rules out the ones that haven’t ‘passed.’ Some candidates try to cheat the system by adding in keywords at the bottom of their CV/ cover letter in white font so it doesn’t appear on paper, as they believe it will improve their chances of winning an interview. However, the system will pick it up, and if it is discovered your application will be disregarded. It would be strongly recommended not to try it.

Acing your interview: Selling yourself and your skills, backed up with proof


This is where you sell yourself; in effect you are trying to convince the employer to invest time and money in you. They want to see how you can add value to the organisation; they want to see a glimpse of your potential. The thing is, you can’t really prepare for an interview, it’s not a test. However, you can do research on the company and practice likely asked questions to prepare some answers. Other than that, they just have to like you.

Bringing proof to the interview - some facts and figures never hurts, such as, how you won over new business, helped to hit targets, won an award, completed a course etc. Also, staying up to date and knowing current affairs and trends within the industry will be crucial to staying competitive, as you will rarely be the only interviewee. The idea is to be original and try to go beyond what’s expected, if you can really impress an interviewer then your chances are going to greatly improve.

Good advice to applicants would be to really have a good think about what you can bring to the table, your capabilities, and what makes you different from everyone else. If you were the interviewer, why would you choose you?