Posted: December 03, 2012
Despite the challenging global labor market, some candidates are not taking full advantage of their opportunity to standout from others. Whether you’re a recent grad or are still early in your career, making a good first impression with a potential employer is crucial to landing your next job.
Do your research
If you’re applying for a role at KPMG, you probably know something about the firm’s values and culture already – so make this clear. “Mention what’s attractive to you about the organization,” says Rachel Collins, talent attraction manager, KPMG in Canada. “If someone’s gone to that level of research, it really stands out.” Before applying, you may also want to use LinkedIn to maintain any connections you may already have at KPMG, and follow the company on the site to find out about current vacancies.
Make sure you research the role - your cover letter should explain why it appeals to you. Looking into things more deeply could prevent you applying for a job that isn’t right for you. “If you’re a graduate, ask yourself: is this what I want to do at the start of my career?” says Matt Parker, graduate recruitment manager, KPMG in the UK. “You may self-select out of the process, but better to do that at the early application stages.”
While it might be tempting to apply for lots of roles in the hope of increasing your chances, Collins advises against it: “Multiple applications create confusion and it conveys that the candidate isn’t serious about any of the positions.” Instead, be selective about what you go for and tailor your application accordingly. The cover letter should share why you’re interested in a particular opportunity and detail how you meet the job description, which you should read closely and address point by point.
“I’m looking to see a candidate has applied for a position that is appropriate to their skill-set at any level,” says Collins. “As long as I see that, I’m likely to reach out to them.”
What makes you stand out?
Think about what makes you special. Any skills, languages, voluntary work or special interests should be included to give recruiters a flavor of what you would be like as an employee, and what you could bring to the business. And this is not just the case for graduates with short career histories. “I like candidates for executive roles to include interests on their CV because it gives an insight into their personality,” says Janine Clifford, senior manager executive search and recruitment, KPMG in Australia.
If you are considering applying for a graduate position, use any downtime at university to learn new skills, get extra work experience or volunteer. Competition is fierce and doing so will help boost your application.
Mind the gap
For recent graduates, Parker recommends including all achievements, academic or otherwise. “You might think working in a retail environment part-time isn’t relevant to the job, but it gives the interviewer the chance to question you about that role,” he says. “If you’ve volunteered for a week at a local charity, include it. It’s relevant, as we work for public sector and charity clients also.”
More experienced hires need to make sure their CV shows clear career progression and includes detailed, accurate dates. “Look closely at the job requirements and make sure the experience required is covered in your application,” says Collins. If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure it’s fully up to date and as comprehensive as possible in case the recruiter decides to look you up.:
If you are missing a qualification, changing career or there is a gap in your CV, be sure to explain it in your covering letter. “Acknowledge any gaps and let us know what you are prepared to do to get up to speed,” says Collins.
Keep it professional
KPMG is a professional services firm, so applications need to be suitably professional. CVs and cover letters from experienced hires should be clearly presented with an articulate structure. “If a CV is messy and doesn’t have a clear narrative of the candidate’s career path, I won’t spend time reading it,” says Clifford.
If you’re a recent graduate and still have the same ‘quirky’ email address you registered aged 15, it’s definitely time for a rethink. “I’ve seen some really inappropriate email addresses,” says Parker. “Avoid trying to be the funny guy or a bit wacky. Keep it simple.”
Check, check and check again
“Spelling and grammatical mistakes make an application stand out for the wrong reasons,” says Clifford. Avoid these errors at all costs – they could mean that the hours you spend slaving over an application are in vain. And beware of the temptation to copy and paste from other applications. “I’ve seen letters with the wrong company name in them,” says Clifford.
Before submitting your application, make sure you proofread it carefully, or ask a friend or relative to look over it for you. As Parker says: “Don’t let sloppiness get in the way of being considered for the job you want.”
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Sample cover letter for Internship position at KPMG
I am a first-year student at (omitted) School of Law and I write to apply for a summer internship. I am particularly drawn to KPMG because I have a strong interest in taxation and corporate finance law, long fostered by constant exposure to personal wealth management, my family’s business. Through my work with my family’s company and as a banking policy analyst in Washington DC, I developed a keen interest in tax and financial law. I plan on beginning the MBA portion of the JD/MBA degree next fall, and my goal is to work in tax with a focus on mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring.
As I entered law school with the purpose of practicing taxation and financial law, I sought opportunities to learn all I can in these practice areas. During my first month of school, I helped found the (omitted) Law Society, and I currently serve as secretary, providing an excellent avenue to interact with tax lawyers and professors and gain their insights into the practice area.
I realize it is atypical for a first-year law student lacking an educational background in accounting or business to seek an internship with your company. While my legal education will serve me well, it is my interest in business that drives me. I wish to be surrounded by and learn from professionals at your company, because I will gain a great deal of knowledge and experience in the taxation field, and also be able to explore other areas within the industry.
I enclose a copy of my resume and appreciate your consideration. I hope to have the opportunity to visit with KMPG in person to explore internship possibilities. Thank you, in advance, for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
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