Here in the C+P team we see a lot of applications for roles, and the same mistakes keep cropping up again and again. Competition for roles is fierce, and in an effort to get you standing out for all the right reasons, we thought we’d share some of the common mistakes so you can check you’re not making them.
All these mistakes are by real Aston students, however Jim, Janet and Jasper are fictional characters. Any resemblance to actual students is purely coincidental.
1. Starting emails to employers or recruiters with ‘hi there’.
It’s great you’re friendly, but it’s not very professional. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ would create a much better impression. Even better? Find out the name of the person you’re writing to. ‘Dear Ms Lion’ would be the best way to start an email (assuming their name is Ms Lion).
2. Sending emails with no text in the body.
If you’re sending an email with nothing in it other than a CV attached, you can guarantee it’ll go straight into the bin without a second glance. Employers are busy, and if you can’t make the time to send a proper email, why should they make the time to consider your application? Try the following:
Dear Ms Lion,
I would like to express my interest for the role of Business Development Assistant at Lions Incorporated. Please find attached a copy of my CV and a covering letter for your consideration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
3. Not actually attaching your application documents.
You’ve taken the time to write a wonderful email like Jim Collins did, but you forgot to attach your documents. It’s easily done, but it looks sloppy to employers. Take the time to carefully check what you’ve written (both in the subject box and the main body of the email) and make sure you attach the correct documents. All good? Now you can hit the send button.
4. Sending an application to HSBC with Santander in the covering letter.
You’d never do that, right? Wrong. Time and time again we’re seeing bad copy and paste jobs. Always sense-check and proof-read your applications. We cannot stress this enough. It’ll only take a few minutes to make sure you’ve changed everything you need to change before you send in the application. Trust us, HSBC will not be impressed if you send them an application for another bank.
5. Not researching the company or the role.
This comes up a lot when you’re applying speculatively. Janet emailed a teaching group and asked for a placement in supply chain management. Not so professional. Applying speculatively is a great way to source your own opportunities, but please make sure you research the company first, along with the sort of roles they have. Use Google and LinkedIn to get to grips with the company you’re reaching out to.
6. Using slang.
It’s absolutely fine to use slang when you’re WhatsApping Jim about drinks on Friday night. You can use peak, sweet, sick, bare and lit to your heart’s content. But when emailing an employer, you must use professional language. Do not, we repeat do not, use slang or text speak. This is something we see all the time, and it makes a difference as to whether you’re considered for a role or not. Use formal English at all times.
7. Not tailoring CVs to roles.
Jasper once sent his CV to a finance company. His CV was pretty great, but sadly it was all about his desire to work in marketing, not finance. If you’ve got lots of different interests and you’d like to apply for a variety of roles, that’s not a problem. But it’s a good idea to have a few different versions of your CV, each one tailored to the sector you’re interested in. You could save them as ‘Jasper Jones – Marketing CV 2019’ or ‘Jasper Jones – Finance CV 2019’ for example, so you can easily identify which one you need to send to the employer.
8. Ignoring emails from employers.
Jim once received an email from Penguins Limited offering him a placement. He had another interview lined up at Lions Incorporated and wanted to see what happened with that one. So, he ignored the email. This creates a bad impression for the employer as it looks like you’re not serious about the role. It’s always best to be honest and upfront with the employers. Let them know that you’re very grateful for the offer, but you have another interview lined up that you’d also like to consider, and you’ll get back in touch with them. Remember, it’s a small world and employers talk to each other. So don’t annoy them.
9. Accepting an offer and then trying to get out of the contract.
If you have a genuine reason for wanting to break a contract (such a family emergency that means your circumstances have changed), that’s fair enough. But if you keep searching for a placement after you’ve already accepted one, just because you’re keeping your options open, it’s extremely rude and unprofessional to then try and pull out of the original one you’ve accepted. This is a waste of the employer’s time, you’re taking an opportunity that could have gone to another student, and you’re damaging your own reputation.
10. Not proof-reading your application.
Attention to detail is a must when applying for roles. There will likely be lots of people applying for the same role, so you need to ensure that your application is as close to perfect as possible. Spend ten minutes checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. Believe it or not, some people spell their names wrong on applications. Is it Janet, or Jnaet? Ask someone to check it for you, like a family member or a Placement Coordinator/Careers Consultant from the C+P team.