Demonstrate you meet the criteria
Before you start writing any application or preparing for an interview, it is important to be clear about what the employer is looking for and how you meet their selection 'criteria'. Spending a little time on this makes it easier to write a strong application and deal with interview questions, meaning you are more likely to be successful.
Identify the criteria
Throughout the selection process you are looking to provide evidence of the skills and experience the employer is looking for. You will usually find these in the job description, but you may also have gathered additional information about what is important to the employer by attending careers events or through your own research or contacts.
If you are making speculative applications to ask about possible jobs, or if the vacancy doesn’t provide you with much detail, you can identify the likely criteria by reading relevant job profiles on careers websites, and/or looking at adverts for similar jobs. Researching the job and industry in this way helps make your application more convincing.
Select your examples
Once you know the employer's requirements, think about examples that demonstrate these skills or experience. These examples can come from your academic work (dissertation, fieldwork and team projects), work experience, voluntary work, student societies, positions of responsibility, sport and music, or anything else!
- Try to think of examples from a range of activities, from different parts of your life
Where possible, draw on recent examples
- Specific examples should include specific detail as this makes them more memorable and persuasive
- Focus on how and why you were successful in the activity involved
- Where relevant, see if you can include a measure of your success e.g., how much money you raised/managed, how many people you led/presented to.
Presenting your examples
Picking examples which best match the criteria means you can tailor your CV, application, cover letter or interview answers to the specific job you are applying to. In written applications presenting your examples using action verbs can convey impact and make your application stand out. Here are some examples:
In cover letters, application forms and interviews, using the STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result) can help give a clear structure for your examples:
- Situation you were in
- Task you had to do
- Actions you took, explained clearly and specifically
- Result – positive outcome and/or what you learned
The actions should be the bulk of your answer (say, 70%) and the rest 10% each, but it will depend a little on your own example. The amount you write will vary according to any word limit and the format of the application (e.g. a paragraph in a covering letter versus a concise bullet point in your CV), but it's a good idea to build up a range of examples of your achievements which you can then modify for different applications. This process saves you time in the long run, and helps develop your confidence too!
Have a go
Here we have a sample job description. We have added a typical question you might get asked on an application form or at interview, and then provided an answer using STAR.