Applying for work

When you're applying for work, a CV (or resumé) and cover letter are needed for most roles. You may also need to complete an application form. It's important to show that your skills, strengths, achievements and experiences match with what the employer is looking for. Your aim is to be shortlisted for the next stage of the selection process.

Three key steps when applying for work:

  1. Keep applying for jobs while you're waiting to hear about ones you applied for earlier.
  2. Keep accurate records of the jobs you applied for.
  3. Save each CV and cover letter so you can refer to it when you prepare for the interview.

If you're a Massey student or recent graduate, you can access more information on CVs and cover letters under the 'Resources' tab on Massey CareerHub.

Writing your CV and cover letter

Research the skills required for the job by using the job ad, job description, person specification, employer’s website and social media. Look for information that will enable you to tailor your CV, cover letter and interview answers to the role:

  • What evidence will you use to show that you have the skills they are looking for? Or the potential to develop them?
  • What connections can you make between what you have done (e.g. at university, in a club, through paid or voluntary work and elsewhere) and the employer’s description of their ideal applicant?

Employers will expect you to be able to show how you will add value to them, and to make a positive contribution to them early on. So:

  • Apply only for roles that you know require skills that you have and wish to use.
  • Identify any skills gaps that you have for the careers that interest you, and ways in which you might fill those gaps.

Skills may be named and grouped in different ways. Some are job-specific, others are transferable and apply to many different roles. Examples of transferable skills include:

  • adaptability and flexibility, analytical
  • business acumen/commercial awareness
  • creativity and innovation, communication, customer service
  • decision making,determination and drive
  • influencing, initiative, interpersonal
  • leadership
  • maturity, motivation
  • negotiating and persuading, numeracy
  • persistence, problem solving
  • research
  • teamwork, time management.

Further information on the skills required for particular roles, and on CV and cover letter development can be accessed from Careers NZ.

Preparing for interviews

Your interview may be face-to-face, by Skype, or may require you to record a timed segment online straight to camera. You have reached this stage because the employer, or recruitment agency, likes your application. However, it’s crucial that you prepare well for your interview. Panel of three people interviewing a job candidate.

What type of interview have you been invited to:

  • With one interviewer, or a panel of people?
  • Structured around behavioural/competency questions?
  • Likely to include academic or technical questions?
  • Part of an assessment centre?

How would you answer questions that are aimed at assessing:

  • Your ability to do the job?
  • Your motivation for the role and sector?
  • Your interest in working for the organisation?
  • Your “fit” within the team?

Before the interview

Think about what you want them to remember about you when the interview is over, based on what can you offer. Make sure that you have professional, clean and neat clothing to wear, and plan how you are going to get to the location.

In the interview

First impressions count, and at face to face interviews these impressions start from the moment you arrive. Be friendly to everyone you meet, and be aware that your body language and tone of voice will be assessed.

  • Introduce yourself clearly
  • Make eye contact and smile
  • Use a firm handshake
  • Walk tall and sit upright
  • Breathe
  • Keep an open posture
  • Be aware of any habits that you have
  • Look interested

Interview questions and answers

Most interviews will involve a combination of general questions such as – tell me about yourself, or what are your strengths and weaknesses - and behavioural or competency based questions asking for examples of occasions when you have shown certain skills or behaviours. One way to structure your competency examples is by using the STAR technique:

  • Situation – briefly outline the context
  • Task – give details of what you hoped to achieve
  • Action – describe what you did, using active verbs
  • Result – explain the outcome and anything you have learned as a result.

At the end of the interview

In most interviews you will be given the opportunity to ask questions of your own. It is important that you have two or three ready. Think of these in advance of the interview. Typical questions could include:

  • What challenges does our organisation face in the next five years?
  • What would an average day be like for this role?
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • What career paths have other graduates followed in the organisation?
  • What happens next? When might I hear back from you?

Assessment centres and psychometric/selection tests

Employers may want you to sit selection tests either individually or in a group situation. They are testing abilities that are most relevant to the role. Most tests are timed, and may be assessing your verbal and logical reasoning, maths abilities, spatial awareness or IT skills.

  • Find out as much as you can about the tests you face
  • Practice similar tests under timed conditions
  • Revise the factors being tested, for example maths or IT skills
  • Ensure that the employer knows if you need any special provisions (they may allow extra time or be able to make adjustments)
  • Ask if you are unclear about anything
  • Keep calm and work accurately
  • Move on the next question if you get stuck.

Employers may also use personality questions. These aim to determine your preferences, interests and working style.

Note that many providers of psychometric and selection tests offer practice questions on their websites.

Assessment centres

Large organisations may run extended selection procedures that take the form of assessment centres.

These may take place after first interviews and before final selection and may include:

  • Selection exercises – working individually or in groups you will have to answer questions, cope with problems, make decisions and extract information from different sources. If you are required to lead or chair a group ensure that you get everyone involved.
  • Giving a presentation – speak to your audience, keep to the time limit, speak clearly and confidently
  • Social/informal events – these are opportunities to find out more about the employer in a more casual way. Make sure your behaviour reflects well on you.

If you're participating in an assessment centre, consider carefully what is being assessed:

  • The skills the employers asked for in the job description.
  • How you interact with others and your ability to fit in.

Show that you're enthusiastic, motivated and interested. Join in as fully as you can, speak clearly and maintain eye contact. In group activities avoid dominating and think before you speak.

As a range of assessment types are involved, you may excel at some but not others. However, you are being assessed against the employer's criteria not competing against other candidates.

Find out more about assessment centres and psychometric selection tests

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