Killer Applications - Part 1: Have A Gameplan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin

Your application is your key to landing an interview... in many cases, the only way through to landing your dream job.

Don’t underestimate how important it is. You might have the best marks, best achievements and best work experience. But if you can’t sell your story well, your application will end up on the floor.

Welcome to our 5-part post on preparing a knock-out application. In this series, we look at:

  1. Preparation and general tips

  2. Your cover letter

  3. Your CV and transcripts

  4. Online application Qs; and

  5. Video applications.

Today, we run through our tips on what prep you can do ahead of your application, and our top tips to get you a killer application:

Step 1: Prepare

The best candidates start thinking about their application early. Why? Because the more “prep” time you have, the more successful you’ll be through the applications. There are lots of things you can do to get ready in the lead up to application time, here’s our top 3:

Get Networking: Start networking - chat to peers, family friends, friends of friends, school peers, lecturers, HR reps, employees at campus presentations, cold calls on LinkedIn, etc. You’ll get a list of valuable contacts you can call on (and add to your LinkedIn network!), AND by chatting to people, you’ll begin to explore and learn more about the industry you plan on entering. My most valuable “networking” was spent with an old neighbour and family friend, who’d just started working in IB...I learnt a huge amount by chatting to him for an hour, and got a great answer to “so what does an investment bank do?” which I rolled out in all my interviews to much success.

Do Some Research: The more you immerse yourself in the world you’re looking to enter, the more successful you’ll be in your applications - simple. So: start reading the AFR and news about the industry and employers you’re looking to target. Spend time browsing company websites. Trawl the web and read about the industry and key employers - blogs, industry forums, professional groups, etc. Substitute 30 mins of mindless instagram scrolling with some research time instead, a few times a week leading up to applications. It will make you more informed on who you should target, and allow you to think about which industries and companies fit you best - so you can be more focused with your applications.

Skills & Thrills: If you start thinking about your application early enough, you can also spend time building and filling any CV or skills gaps. Get some friends and sign up for a business competition to show evidence of your commercial skills and interest in your chosen industry. Apply for a role with a student society or sporting club to boost your leadership credentials. Do some volunteer work. Just make sure it’s genuine - otherwise you’re wasting your time.

Step 2: Get a Hit List

Armed with research, networking and navel gazing, you’ll now have a much better idea of which industry you want to work in, and which companies you most “click” with. Next up: get together your hit list.

This is YOUR list of targets - not your friends or peers. Ideally a core industry, and four to five top priority employers, along with perhaps another half dozen second order priorities. You need to narrow down a priority list, as the number of campus hiring programs is huge, and the process can quickly become a full time job.

Be disciplined. Get a list together of your companies. Use our Employer List spreadsheet as a starting point. Make sure you have all the details on application dates and criteria, and use it as a to do list or tracker as you progress through the process.

Step 3: Know What You Need to Do

OK, so now you have your list of priorities and tracker spreadsheet. Time to dive in and check out the application process for each company.

This stuff can take longer than you think - sometimes it’s hard to find the application portal for the specific program you’re after (especially global firms!). Or the program has particular application requirements - e.g. a bespoke list of application questions you need to complete online, or an online case study or psychometric test you need to do before the closing date (don’t discover this hours before the deadline!!)

This process should also include identifying the key criteria for the role you’re after - a combination of scrolling the company websites, along with the general research you did in step 1 above.

So jump in, create an applicant profile for your target list, check out the process, download the application preview if there is one. This way, you can ensure you’ll know exactly what you need to do for each application, and can plan for it accordingly.

Step 4: Check off Do’s and Don’ts

So, some simple do’s and don’ts when preparing your application:

Apply Early: why?

  1. You won’t be doing a rush job on your application so quality will be higher, and

  2. Some firms start screening applications early, and you might just see a marginal benefit in applying early when the “yes” pile is still low...

Don’t Exaggerate: yes, sell yourself well, but DO NOT exaggerate or lie in your application. The smarter firms always like to do a random fact check here and there. And it’s a small world - sometimes your reviewer will have a close relationship or knowledge of the role/achievement/prize/accomplishment you claim to have

Use Direct Referrals: if you know someone at your target employer, see whether you can ask them to flag your application with the recruitment team. Most firms will still require you to go through the formal process, but a referral can sometimes tip you into the next review round, if done appropriately and tactfully

Clean Up Your Personal Brand: i.e. use a sensible email address, clean up your social media profiles, get a nice LinkedIn photo, etc.

Good luck!