Understand how employers will look at your experience

It’s easy to approach applications with your own needs and wants in mind, focusing on what you would like to say about yourself, your qualifications and experience, and your perceptions of your own talents. But for successful job applications your starting point must be what your prospective employer needs and wants.

This section sets out:

  • Key principles of the recruitment process
  • How these principles will make your applications as effective as possible
  • Important ways to get yourself organised now, so that you can complete applications more efficiently.

The employer’s perspective

They have a need

Hiring staff is always about a particular need which serves the goals of the organisation, e.g. replacing someone who has left, growing the team, diversifying their skills, acquiring specific expertise. Even those organisations which have large annual graduate schemes keep them because they meet their business needs, but you shouldn’t assume that any two employers’ needs will be the same.

They are taking a risk

It follows that recruitment always entails risk: if you need something to be done, hiring the wrong person could do damage to you, your team, or your organisation. At best, you will have to let the person go and re-appoint, but recruitment is costly and time-consuming. At worst, you will be stuck with an employee who hampers your work on an ongoing basis. Graduate recruiters may also worry about whether you might turn them down or leave if you get a better offer.

You have a task

Inspire trust

This inherent risk is why employers have to trust you. Your application (and the selection process which follows) must convince the employer that you can do the job, you will do the job, and that you will be a good ‘fit’ with the rest of the team. That’s why you can’t send identical applications to multiple employers: they can’t put their trust in something which is generic and not tailored to their needs. Why should they?

How employers will look at you

How employers select candidates to call to interview can be hugely varied, and selection often involves multiple processes. The factors they are assessing when looking at your application can be organised under the following three headings:

1. Eligibility

Do you meet the requirements to do this job? Do you have the necessary qualifications, experience, and skills? In many job descriptions, these will be listed as ‘essential’. If you don’t meet these criteria, you are simply ineligible and won’t be shortlisted.

2. Suitability

What kind of person are you? Will you fit well with the rest of the team? Do you share the organisation’s values and ethos? The language you use, the experiences you prioritise, what you say about your motivations – these all help give an impression of how suitable you are.

3. Potential

Employers will always be interested in what you might achieve in years to come, and past achievement is regarded as the best predictor of future performance. But do you also have ideas about the role and how it might develop? What’s your plan for ensuring success?


  • Employers are taking a risk when they hire new staff
  • A good application starts with thinking about the employer, not about yourself
  • Generic applications, sent off to lots of prospective employers without being adapted, don’t work because they don’t address the individual employers’ particular needs
  • Make yourself appear less of a risk by targeting your application carefully – show that you are capable of doing the job, you are motivated to do it, and you will fit in well
  • Don’t assume employers will automatically see your potential. Give them a reason to trust it