Why being selective is the way to get ahead in the job market

If you’re anything like most graduates your tactic for job applications will probably involve applying for everything that has graduate in the title and happens to be in the right location. This method of blanket applying can feel like the right way to ensure you gain employment as soon as possible, but you might be shooting yourself in the foot.

But won’t blanket applying maximise my chances of getting a job?
The short answer is no and the phrase ‘quality not quantity’ aptly sums up why.

Five great applications will almost definitely see you go further than 50 careless ones. The problem is it’s an inhuman feat to dedicate the required time and brain power to so many applications.

In application forms you need to show evidence of why you’re interested in a particular career/role/industry. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of the sector. At interview you need to demonstrate all this again but in greater detail. Chances are you can’t do this well enough when applying in such mass.

Another issue is how to keep track of all your applications. It’s likely that if the hiring manager/recruitment agent liked your CV they’ll give you a call. When they call they’ll introduce themselves with their name and organisation, from that they’ll expect you to know what position they’re talking about. The correct response is something along the lines of ‘Oh yes, I’ve been looking forward to your call’ not ‘ummm could you just remind me what position that was again?’. If you’re waiting for a response from literally hundreds of applications you’re probably not going to have the faintest idea of whose calling.

The advantages of selective applying
What do we mean by being selective? Well, in basic terms we just mean being careful about what jobs you’re applying for – thinking about each application carefully and applying because you really think it’s right for you not just because it has the word ‘graduate’ in the job description. However if you can go one step further and decide on a specific career/industry your going to give yourself the opportunity to really stand out.

Show off your dedication
Hiring staff is expensive, and entry level candidates need a lot of training. So when an employer is looking at candidates they’re also thinking about staff retention. The last thing they want is to hire you, train you up and then lose you. If you can demonstrate to an employer that you’re dedicated to following a certain career path; you’ve done your research, you know what the job entails and you’re sure it’s what you want to do, then you’re going to stand yourself in much better stead.

Build great industry knowledge
Commercial awareness is a hot topic right now, employers say that their graduate candidates just don’t have it. The UCAS glossary of competencies defines commercial awareness as: ‘understanding the economics of the business and understanding the business benefits and commercial realities from both the organisation’s and the customer’s perspectives.’ By choosing a specific industry you can concentrate on developing your commercial awareness for that sector.

Tailor your CV and develop spot on answers to interview and application questions
Everyone knows you should tailor your CV to each application, but it’s difficult and time consuming. Applying for similar positions means you can fit your CV to that position and just tweak it slightly for different applications. As you go along you can also develop more thoughtful answers to common questions and monitor what works and what doesn’t.

Get more from recruitment agents
Recruitment agents are busy people, they like it when candidates know what they’re looking for. Of course it make their job easier but it also assures them that you’re committed – not only are they more likely to put you forward for positions but they can also give you more specific help with your applications.

We don’t mean this as an absolute. Don’t cut yourself off from interesting opportunities, if you see something that excites you then go for it, but do remember that it pays to specialise.

And finally a shameless plug…

Rachael Smith works for Graduate Rescue, a social enterprise for students and graduates. If your keen on specialisation but just don’t know what career is right for you, we can help. We’ve got a great career matching and advice package from the UK’s leading provider of career software. Not only will it match your interests and skills to job titles it also provides great industry insight.

Come check them out – www.graduate-rescue.co.uk

Graduate Rescue is an employability resource for students and graduates. It costs just £9.99 for a full years membership and provides services such as online interview coaching, professional career advice software, practice psychometric assessments, as well as a whole host of advice and guidance for increasing your employability. Follow us on twitter: @GraduateRescue.

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