The graduate employment market is highly competitive—and getting accepted onto the graduate scheme of your choice is, naturally, quite a challenge. For ambitious, proactive and hardworking final year students, though, it’s an exciting challenge and one that all starts with writing an outstanding application. So, let’s take a look at how to best go about it.
Contents

Put your authentic self on the page

Pay attention to the details

Demonstrate your knowledge of the employer

Avoid egotism

Focus on the unique value you’ll bring

Put your authentic self on the page

You hear a lot of graduate employers nowadays talking about the idea of an ‘authentic self’, but what’s behind the phrase? Well, here at Nestlé, for instance, it means seeing who a candidate really is—their differences, their backgrounds... It’s a snapshot of people’s lives right there on a page. It helps to give shape to a graduate’s character before we ever meet them so that we get a sense of what they’ll bring to the business.

So, when writing your application, make sure to craft the narrative of you. Obviously, that doesn’t mean going into every last detail about yourself. Rather, think about things like:

  • What got you interested in this area of work—how your interest was sparked and at what point in life
  • The story of your journey toward this specific graduate scheme—how you’ve worked to pursue your dream. The challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them...
  • Your relationship to the company to which you’re applying—a reflection of your experience with their brand and how it has impacted on you, personally
  • How your unique educational experience has prepared you for this line of work
  • What areas of the scheme appeal to you—and why they’re important to you
  • Your own personal mission, vision and values in life—where they come from and how they relate to the company to which you’re applying [Note—don’t just repeat the company’s mission, vision and values]

Personality goes a long way in life, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Put yours on the page and show your future graduate employer why you’re such a uniquely exciting prospect.

Pay attention to the details

It might be an obvious thing to say, but make sure your application answers the requirements of the graduate scheme in question. Here at Nestlé, if we were to say we want a particular type of graduate to be “resilient”, for example, we’d expect to look at their application and see that they’ve not only addressed that requirement, but also shown us a real-life example and how that might translate to the working environment.

The other details you should look out for are, of course, spelling, grammar, sentence structure and sense. Proofread your application multiple times and get someone else to do so before you send it. It should be crafted with the same attention to detail as a published piece of work. If you have certain barriers to achieving this, such as dyslexia, make sure to address them, so your future employer is able to identify them—it’s all a part of that authentic narrative, remember. It doesn’t all have to be about identifying your strengths.

Demonstrate your knowledge of the employer

Graduate employers receive a lot of applications from people who’ve just fired them out randomly without doing much homework. These are the kind of applications that get rejected early on into the process.

Researching your graduate employer will give you loads of useful knowledge that you can pull into the personal statement on your application. Show what you know, but don’t just blurt out everything in a list. Make it relevant to the programme to which you’re applying.

For example, if someone was applying for the Nutrition Graduate Scheme at Nestlé, we’d hope that they would know about things like our ambition to help 50 million children to lead healthier lives. Not to mention how they believe, as a graduate Nutritionist, they would play a part in that.

Showing that you not only know about detailed aspects of the company, but also that you understand how they connect to your graduate scheme of choice and how you intend to develop them when you get there... That’s the kind of thing employers love to see.

Avoid egotism

Depicting the best version of yourself in a graduate job application is, of course, the way to get yourself noticed from amongst the many hundreds (or even thousands) of applicants.

Ask yourself this, though—is being a show-off really the best version of yourself? The answer is, of course, no. Great graduate applications are not simply final year students listing how great they are because they did this or that—bragging is unattractive.

The graduate statements we love here at Nestlé, for instance, are factual and without fanfare. They look at the requirements of the programme, they detail the experiences the graduate has had that meet the requirements and they show a passion for learning more.

In fact, detailing your knowledge gaps and the things you’re keen to learn more about (and why) is a great way to show your future employer that you really are genuinely committed.

Focus on the unique value you’ll bring

Working out how you—and your individual, unique self—are going to positively impact on the company to which you’re applying is a great idea, full stop. It will help you to feel prepared for the Assessment Centre process that comes next, if your application is successful—showing that you stand out from the crowd. The first place you need to demonstrate it, though, is in your application form.

Don’t fall into the trap of reeling off typical job application phrases like:

  • I’m a self-starter
  • I’m hardworking and reliable
  • I have exceptional written and verbal communication skills
  • I think outside the box
  • I’m a fast learner
  • I work well independently and as part of a team
  • I am the ideal person for this role
  • This is exactly the kind of role I have been looking for

Focus on what your actual skills are, where they came from, how they were developed and how they will apply to the graduate scheme in question. If, for instance, we received an application to the Product Development Graduate Scheme that detailed the first time the candidate ever tried a KitKat and how they’ve become obsessed with the idea of making a version that tastes just as amazing but with half the calorie content and only natural ingredients and where they think their studies to date might lead them in pursuit of that goal... Well, needless to say, we’d be pretty blown away.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, what start you got in life or if you went to “the right kind” of educational establishment. If you can write a brilliant application that shows who you are and why you’d be invaluable to a graduate employer, you should be in with a strong chance of getting through to the next round.


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