In today’s fiercely competitive job market, it’s more important than ever to ensure your application is hitting all the right notes with employers.
Today, the Careers service were lucky enough to hear exactly what employers are after from one of Queensland Government’s graduate recruiters.
Shockingly, last year’s application pool for one graduate program turned up 4,100 eligible applicants. Of those, 2,000 were invited to apply for available positions. 1,800 responded to the call and were considered for a grand total of 10 available positions.
The fact there were so many applications for one graduate program may come as a huge surprise to students. However, the competition for highly coveted roles isn’t exclusive to the government sector.
We’ve received feedback from employers across all sectors saying they receive a flood of applications numbering in the hundreds in response to SEEK advertisements. It’s a tough market.
These factors shouldn’t act as a deterrent. Rather, they should inspire students to take a calculated and informed approach to their job search and put in the extra effort to make their application stand out. The recruiter mentioned students often treat the application process as another assignment and as such, are not looked upon as favorably. Luckily, they also outlined what she wants to see from your application and extra steps you can take to hit it out of the park.
Put your application in as early as possible:
Final years take note – the Queensland Government Graduate Portal opens in March and closes in December, so make sure to get your application in as early as possible. Your one application makes you eligible for all available jobs in your discipline. The recruiter notes recent graduates have been contacted about temporary roles before graduate programs even open. Many students who accept short term work within the government often find themselves successful in progressing into the graduate programs. The graduate programs all recruit at different times of the year, so again, the earlier your application is in, the higher the likelihood of success.
Please make sure your VoiceMail is professional and polite. Your outgoing message gives employers a first impression of you and from what we’ve heard – it’s not always positive.
Unprofessional VoiceMail Exhibit A:
“Oi mate it’s Baz, I’m not here, leave a message”
Professional VoiceMail Exhibit B:
“Hello, you’ve reached Barry. Unfortunately, I am unable to take your call right now but please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you and have a nice day”
In the same vein, please be aware of how you come across in your email communications. Sending your cover letter and resume with the body of the email simply stating “documents attached” is not a good example of communication (but we have received emails saying exactly this).
Make sure you are respectful and address the person properly. Don’t abbreviate or use emojis (yes it happens) and be sure to restate the position you are applying for and explain what the email attachments contain. Sign off with a “kind regards” or “yours sincerely”.
The recruiter pointed out that applicants can tend to use crazy fonts to make themselves stand out. A nice old Times New Roman will do the trick (hint: it’s easy to read). They also mentioned that some applicants have included photo spreads as part of their application (like Baz posing with a kangabro to show his commitment to the environment).
Employers give you 6 seconds to make an impression before they decide whether to keep reading or not!
When it comes to roles within the Queensland Government, your education is key. Make sure this is front and center in your resume so the recruiter doesn’t have search in order to find out what your degree is.
*For more information about how to write a killer cover letter and resume, please see our website*
Other employers may value experience above education. Do some digging on the employer and find out what would make your application stand out. Which brings us to our next two points….
Researching the employer:
We cannot stress enough the importance of tailoring your application to suit the specific employer you’re applying for a job with. The recruiter received applications addressed to Brisbane City Council – needless to say, these applicants didn’t top the list.
Employers won’t want to spend time reading your application if you haven’t spent the time making sure your cover letter and resume address the specific company and reflects the research you’ve done to ensure you’re a good fit.
Use your cover letter as an opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills (communication, teamwork, ability to work under difficult circumstances) with specific examples and relate it back to how you could contribute to the company. This should become much easier if you know a bit about the company you’re applying with.
The recruiter notes that soft skills are becoming as, if not more, important than the technical skills gained in your degree. They also say the cover letter is a great way to showcase your elevator pitch i.e. saying in 250 words what you can bring to the role. They say don’t repeat the content in your resume and use your cover letter as a unique opportunity to sell yourself.
*For more information on how to get started on researching employers, please see our website*
Ringing the contact person on the advertisement:
The recruiter says students seem unusually shy when it comes to contacting the person listed on the advertisement. This is the best thing you can do to help you tailor your application – this person is listed because they are happy to talk to you and want to give you more information about the job. You can find out specifics about the company and the position and reflect this in your application.
Furthermore, this person will remember your name and this can do wonders for your application. They will usually be a panel chair during your interview and your proactive efforts will shine a positive light on you during this process.
In the workplace:
Once you have taken on these tips and landed a position (you go Glen Coco!), it’s important to note how you conduct yourself in the workplace. The recruiter says to remember you will often be dealing face to face with many different people from the community, and this communication isn’t always achieved via email or text messages. People won’t always be on your side, so keep that in mind and demonstrate your skills in dealing with difficult people.
They also say a big reason the QLD government employs graduates is for their innovative thinking and invigorated approach to problem solving. If you are faced with a problem, evaluate a few options to address the problem and showcase your great ideas to your new employer!
They say that being work ready is a balancing act and you must be flexible and adaptable to change. The QLD government is a fluid and dynamic environment where your projects can regularly change. They note that not every day is challenging and exciting, although a career in the public sector is certainly fulfilling if you have the right attitude.
You can improve your work readiness by taking on work experience and volunteer opportunities early in your degree. Check CareerBoard for available vacancies within your discipline. Or contact us to find out more about how you can source opportunities.
Why go to all this effort?
A graduate job in the government is a fantastic opportunity and can set you up for a rewarding career. It helps that graduate starting salaries float around the $55,000 mark. The recruiter predicts the government’s commitment to youth employment will see an increase in the demand for graduates and consequently, a rise in available jobs in the public service.
Keep an eye out for new opportunities and remember, employing these techniques will already put you miles ahead of the pack!!
** A key part of the recruitment process for government jobs is the assessment centre. We will have lots of information about this in the coming month, including a story from a final year Criminology student who secured a role in the Queensland Government for 2016. Stay tuned! **