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10 things I wish I'd known about applying for a job

Business trainees Flo and Charlotte give you their hints and tips on how you can prepare for applying for a job.

1. Do your research

"Make sure you know what the company does and what is happening in the news - it really impresses!"

Charlotte, EY School Leaver

When it comes to the business you want to work with, it’s certainly a case of the more you know, the better. Employers want to know that you are genuinely interested and have an understanding of their company and industry. Employer career sites are a great starting point, but consider looking at Company Investor pages and recent news stories to increase your commercial awareness and gain a deeper understanding of the business world. Our ‘how to’ video on getting the most out of the FT is a great place to start.

2. Be yourself

“This is the only way you’ll know if the company is right for you and if you are right for the company.”

Flo, EY School Leaver

Interviewers want to see what kind of employee you would be, not just how bright you are, so it’s important to be relaxed and let your personality shine through. You want to be confident yet grounded. The key is to showcase the best things about you, without feeling like you’re pretending to be something you’re not. This way the interviewer will know if you are right for the firm and you will work out if the firm is right for you.

3. Make sure you prepare

"Don't leave it to the last minute to go through everything; it won't do you any favours. Preparation is the key."

Charlotte, EY School Leaver

It's never too early to start planning for upcoming applications, assessment centres and interviews. You might find it helpful to make three/four month plan which shows the key dates: application deadlines, psychometric testing deadlines, the date of assessment centres, interviews and even what you're going to wear. This means that you'll always be on time with everything you deliver - which demonstrates a necessary skill for the workplace and also gives you plenty of time to prepare.

4. Practice makes perfect

"By doing practice psychometric tests, you'll find a technique that suits you and be able to master the questions"

Charlotte, EY School Leaver

There is no substitute for knowing what is best suited to you in terms of technique. Many online websites offer practise tests, and you can see the areas that need to be worked on in order to really hone in on your weaknesses and improve.

5. Gain some work experience

“All work experience is good work experience.”

Flo, EY School Leaver

Any work experience you can gain will teach you something whether it is related to the industry or not. What is important is what you have learnt from it. Skills you have learnt working in one industry can be transferred into any industry. People are more interested in what you have learnt rather than where you have learnt it. Getting a variety of work experience will also help you to decide what kind of industry you want to work in.

6. Know why you are the right person for the job

“The interviewer doesn’t know what characteristics you have that make you right for the job. You need to tell them.”

Flo, EY School Leaver

Thinking about your strengths ahead of an interview or application can help you get a clear sense of what you have to offer a company. Are you great at managing your own time? Does coordinating projects come naturally to you? Are you the kind of person who brings out the best in other people when working in a team? These are the kind of attributes that companies want to see, and it is worth taking the time to think of examples of how you have demonstrated this kind of positive trait in the past and what the successes have been. Find out more and discover your strengths in this article.

7. Know what to expect from group interviews

“The clue is in the word ‘Group’. Show you work well as a group but make sure you stand out.”

Flo, EY School Leaver

Group interviews can seem intimidating, but they are an excellent opportunity to show how well you operate within a team. The key is to avoid coming across as too quiet, without of course appearing to dominate a discussion. This is also a great chance to start networking with other candidates in your position. You can practice by joining in class discussions and asking the teacher for feedback.

8. Talk to people who have been through the process

"Take the opportunity to follow twitter pages and talk to anyone you know who has already done what you are currently in the process of doing - they'll be more than happy to help."

Charlotte, EY School Leaver

They can help you get a clear idea of what to expect, and the strategies they used to secure an offer.

9. Talk to people in the industry

“The best advice you will get is from people who work at the firm. So talk to them.”

Flo, EY School Leaver

There’s no substitute for first-hand advice from someone in the know – speak to people who already work at the company you’re applying to or equally the industry that you want to go into, they can provide insights into the skills required for the job, the culture of the company and information on the organisation and sector that could make you stand out. Contact the recruitment team who will be able to point you in the right direction or follow the business’ twitter/facebook/LinkedIn account. The EY recruitment team are always on hand at eyschools@uk.ey.com.

10. Take your time, and try to relax

"If you get offered water at the start of your interview - take it. Not sure of an answer? Take a sip and collect your thoughts."

Charlotte, EY School Leaver

The application and interview process can seem daunting, but by planning ahead you can avoid feeling pressured into turning something in at the last minute. It might feel like others are ahead of the game, but remember that this can be a nerve-wracking process for everybody: you are not alone.

During interviews and Assessment Centre’s, don’t be afraid to be yourself, and don’t speak for the sake of speaking in an assessment centre just because others are contributing. Assessors and interviewers will remember the candidate who delivers one considered, relevant and well delivered point over the one who talks constantly but doesn’t say anything of meaning.

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