Posts Tagged ‘Applications’

UCAS Points – Who Needs Them?




It’s probably been a few years since you took your A Levels or BTEC so it can come as a surprise to find out that you won’t only need a 2.1 degree or above to apply for some graduate schemes or sandwich placements. Suzanne Ball from our Careers Adviser team explains why some employers use UCAS points as part of their selection criteria and what you can do if you don’t have enough points to apply for some jobs or placements.

Why do employers want to know my UCAS points score?

It’s common for large companies to include a minimum UCAS points score as one of the entry requirements for their graduate training schemes and sandwich placements.  The theory is that good performance at A Level predicts good performance at university and in the workplace. However employers are starting to recognise that they’re missing out on talented students who are performing well at degree level but underachieved at A Level.  It’s also been noted that focusing on UCAS points skews the selection process in favour of students from more affluent backgrounds. On the positive side some large employers e.g. EY and PwC have recently stopped taking candidates’ UCAS points into account and it’s likely that this trend will spread to other companies.

What should I do if my UCAS points total isn’t high enough?

It’s frustrating if you’re prevented from applying for a job or placement that really interests you because the employer is asking for a minimum of 300 UCAS points and you only have 280.  It’s particularly galling if you’re on track for a good degree and have lots of relevant experience.  However don’t despair, even if you don’t have say 300 or 320 UCAS points it doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to a graduate training scheme or placement.  Try the following tactics:

Check the small print. Some employers make life even more difficult by stating that the 320 points required must be from your best three A Levels (so an additional AS Level won’t count) or from exams taken in one sitting (causing a problem for people who did resits).  However others will accept a points total from all your qualifications so it’s possible that additional courses you took while at college or in the sixth form will boost your points total.

Look at other companies. There is some variation in the number of UCAS points required from company to company so don’t give up your job search – particularly if you are a “near miss”.  You can also target organisations that don’t use UCAS points as selection criteria which will include public sector organisations such as the NHS, some large companies and most smaller companies.

Do you have (genuine) extenuating circumstances? Some (but not all) employers will be flexible if there are genuine, verifiable, reasons for a disappointing performance at A Level. If you can provide evidence, e.g. medical certificates, then you should contact the employer’s recruitment team directly by phone or email to see if they would be prepared to take your circumstances into consideration.  Make sure you do this well before the closing date.  Bear in mind that you will usually need very compelling evidence for the employer to be flexible.

Try a foot-in-the-door approach. If you are a first or second year student then you could try applying for sandwich placements or summer internships at companies that have high UCAS point requirements for their graduate schemes.  Some companies have more flexible entry requirements for placements/internships and it’s possible that if you excel in your placement the company might fast-track you through the application process for its graduate scheme.  Another option, if you are very keen to work for a particular company, is to look for a lower level job within the organisation after you graduate with the aim of working your way up.

Resitting your A Levels is usually not the answer. Resitting one or more A Levels sounds like the obvious solution but there are a few problems with this approach.  Firstly, some employers will only accept points from exams taken in one sitting.  Secondly, you need to think about the impact that time-consuming additional study will have on your university work.  It won’t help you to achieve an A in your Maths A Level resit if it means that your degree classification falls from a 2.1 to a 2.2.  Thirdly, there’s no guarantee that you will improve your points total in a meaningful way even after doing resits.

Finally, it’s important to remember that employers rarely specify UCAS points when recruiting more experienced staff so once you have some graduate employment experience a low UCAS points score will no longer be a problem.

No UCAS points?  Look out for our blog post coming up soon.

Suzanne Ball is the Careers Adviser for the School of Creative Arts and the School of Health & Social Work at the University of Hertfordshire.  She regularly tweets on all things creative via @careerview


Your cover letter – headlining cover story or forgotten footnote?

04/08/2015 1 comment

“To apply for this job send your CV to …” is a familiar line on many job ads and you’d be forgiven for thinking that to apply you only need to polish your CV and send it off with a one line email. However your CV is, in fact, a two part document and the second part, your cover letter, will almost always be expected even if this isn’t specified in the advertisement.  As cover letters aren’t always mentioned in job ads applicants often overlook their importance, however your cover letter needs to be given the same amount of care and attention as your CV.

So what is a cover letter?

A cover letter is where you tell the recruiter what you’re applying for, explain what it is about the content of your CV that should interest them and highlight how you meet the job requirements. It’s also an opportunity to tell the employer why you want to do the job you’re applying for and why you want to work for their organisation.  If you think of your CV and cover letter as two halves of one application this can help you work out what information to include where.  As a general rule you should keep your CV brief and factual and save the explanations and analysis for your cover letter.  For more information on how to structure and write your cover letter see our cover letter guide.

If a job ad just tells me to send my CV, should I include a cover letter too?

Yes, it’s almost always expected that you should send a cover letter (unless explicitly told not to).

What’s the difference between a cover letter and a cover email?

Not much!  If you’re emailing your CV to an employer then you can either attach your cover letter as a PDF or Word document or you can submit the contents in your email.  Always follow instructions – if the employer has asked you to email a CV and cover letter then it’s safer to send your letter as an additional attachment rather than write a cover email.  On the other hand, if you’re emailing an employer speculatively to ask for a job or work experience it might make more sense to write a cover email as there’s more chance that the recipient (who hasn’t asked for your application) will actually read it.  When sending your CV and cover letter as attachments you only need to write a very short email – a couple of lines stating which job you’re applying for and telling the reader that your CV and cover letter are attached.

Can I use a standard cover letter?

It’s never a good idea to use a standard cover letter.  Your letter needs to be rewritten for each job application and employers will be able to tell if you’re using a generic cover letter (particularly if you’re applying for more than one job at the same company).  Of course, if you’re applying for similar roles, you can cut and paste from one letter to another although be careful to change any employer or job-specific information.

 Are there any times when I’d just need a CV?

Sometimes you won’t need a cover letter – usually when you’re handing your CV to employers in person.  This could be when you’re attending events such as recruitment fairs or degree shows or if you’re calling into local businesses or recruitment agencies looking for part-time or full-time work.

 Want to know more about how to write a winning cover letter? Check out our resources on Careerhub and sign up for our webinar Cover Letters Demystified on Friday 7 August at 12.00.

Suzanne Ball is Careers Adviser for the Schools of Creative Arts and Health & Social Work at the University of Hertfordshire. She regularly tweets about all things creative via @careerview.

Time manage your Easter break

easterFinally! Time off, you submitted that last assignment five minutes before the deadline, so now you can relax and have some time to socialise and forget about studying for a while. Or are you going to make good use of your free time and think about what is to come after your exams in May?

If you’re a first year then perhaps it is time to think about the summer and what you could be doing, not what you could not be doing! There are numerous companies that offer work experience and summer internships which can provide you with great experience to take into your second year of study and support your future job applications.  Come into Careers, Employment and Enterprise and get your CV checked and start applying, then tuck into your Easter eggs.

If you are in second year and you haven’t found a placement yet, don’t worry, you still have plenty of time and now would be a great time to start looking again. You want to give yourself the best chance of getting a graduate job when you come out of university and a placement will do exactly that. Use numerous websites to help you find the right placement for you such as RatemyPlacement, Prospects and Inspiring Interns. I found that a successful way to look for particular employers was to use Google, which sounds simple but it can be extremely effective. Just typing ‘placements at’ will show you a drop down of the most searched organisations and their placement opportunities, and then you can just go through the ones that you would consider applying for.

easter 2
If you’re in final year this is the perfect opportunity to search for graduate jobs and schemes. There are still plenty of top of employers who are starting their application processes in the spring, so get onto CareerHub and see some of the amazing job opportunities available to you. Make good use of your time off over Easter and the benefits will show in the future.

Happy Easter!

By Jack Regan, Graduate Intern

In it to Win it! 5 Reasons to Try and to Apply!

Feel lost in a maze? - image

Want to give yourself an opportunity? (If you have an idea that could become a product, business or self-employment the deadline for flare 2015 has been extended to Friday 6 March.) However, even if you’re thinking of doing something else to forward your career, whether it is applying for graduate employment, placements or part-time work, it can be disheartening to look around and see so many others competing for the same opportunities. Here are 5 tips to keep you on track.

There are so many applications. Why should I bother?
It’s true that there is a huge number of applications for graduate schemes and placements, but the Association of Graduate Recruiters has some positive research. Despite an average of 75 applications for a role, nearly half of all employers have to re-advertise graduate positions each year, because so many of those applications are copied and pasted. If you put effort into your application and tailor it, you are competing with far fewer people than you think.

I never get past a certain stage.
By applying for positions you are already ahead of people who aren’t job searching, but it is disheartening to work on an application and not hear back, or go to interviews and never quite get the position. Wherever you find you are getting ‘stuck’ in the process, don’t take it to heart – it is not a rejection of you personally, but it might mean that you could review how you go about that stage of the process. Rethink how you are approaching that application, or finding that job, and see if there is a new approach you could take.

Everyone keeps telling me I need work experience to get work experience!
There are many organisations and charities who would love you to approach them and offer them two hours’ volunteering or shadowing a week (even for only a short time). If you can’t find exactly what you want, see if you can find something with transferable aspects. Student societies and hobbies can reveal a lot of skills. Structured sports or drama can show you can work in a team. You can organise events, marketing or finances for a society. You can build, create, write and engineer as a hobby. If you can demonstrate and value the specific skills you have shown, employers will too.

I want to be self-employed, sell my product or promote my services, but I don’t know where to start.
There are so many stories of inventors and start-ups who nearly didn’t begin. It can be daunting to think about yourself as an entrepreneur, but comforting to think that every start-up has to develop skills and face obstacles on the way. Despite years of setbacks completing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell only continued working on it because of his friend’s encouragement, only to be told it was ‘an electrical toy’ by big business. Your idea may also face setbacks, but as Bell said, “Successful ideas are the result of slow growth. Ideas do not reach perfection in a day.” There are lots of opportunities to grow your idea in UH, and extra support from Careers, Employment and Enterprise to help you develop, from structuring your idea to financing and presentation skills. Please book an Enterprise appointment or think about attending the Enterprise bootcamp in the summer. Every idea has to start somewhere!

I don’t know what I want to do…
A lot of people stop before they get started because they worry about not feeling passionate for a particular career. Take a look at online resources like Prospects Planner and Target Careers Report for a starting point. Both are questionnaire based tools that will help you identify your skills and what sorts of roles would match your preferences. As well as identifying suitable roles, these tools will also show you sources of vacancies, case studies and training routes. Even if you are still unsure, try something out. You will soon find what aspects you enjoy whilst gaining experience, which will help inform your next steps.

Don’t count yourself out of the running before you apply for flare 2015! Believe in yourself and make the most of your chances, as there are separate prizes for ideas and for trading businesses.

n00b to 1337 – Power up your career!

01/04/2014 2 comments

Man chased by InvaderI heard a great bit of advice last week – from the hip hop artist Joey Bada$$ – which lent itself really well to when you think about your career search. In an interview with Radio 1’s Alice Levine, Joey mentioned that he takes every opportunity to gain ‘experience points’ in order to help him advance in his life and career. I think you can take it further and look at the whole career journey this way…

Level 1 Begin
HeartWhen you first set out to job hunt or look at your career you will be a beginner. Just like on the first level of a game, you’re not sure what’s going to come next. But you don’t head into a game expecting to win it first time, do you? Cautiously you head into the game world expecting to be surprised and probably having to re-start at some point. So what can you do to continue? Read some reviews of the game to see what you can expect and use that to help you get started.

Training Mode
In games like Call of Duty, where you play online against lots of different people, you can practice first in a training mode. Here you can get an understanding of how the game works and what you need to do. Work experience, like internships and volunteering, is a great way to build your skills in training mode. You’ll gain experience points which you can use when you get into the game properly.

level Up
MedalLike all games, you need to up your game at some point; you can’t stay a n00b for ever. The next levels of the game you need to refine your skills and start learning how the game works. The world of work is the same thing; knowing that you need a magic scroll (CV) before you can ask the gatekeeper (employer) for entrance to the silver castle (…you get the idea). These are your experience points, start racking them up now.

Read more…

Getting to Grips with Job Descriptions – Part Two

22/01/2014 2 comments

In part two I aim to highlight some of the most common phrases used within job descriptions. I’ll look at the main attributes employers are looking for and how we can express them in an application.


When I looked through job descriptions, from lot of different sources, there was one attribute that almost every employer was looking for in a candidate and that was enthusiasm. It is not hard to see why employers emphasise this in their descriptions. It’s is clear that a candidate that is enthusiastic about a job is going to be much more of a benefit to an employer than someone who is just simply going through the motions. One of the best ways to show enthusiasm is through displaying your pre-interview preparation. It is always good practice to research an industry and employer before applying for a job but this also goes some way towards expressing your enthusiasm. Showing an understanding of the business and how you can benefit it with your skills and knowledge is a sure sign that you have put time and effort in.

Crowd image

Other common phrases that appear in job descriptions include those mentioned in part one; interpersonal skills, self-motivation and organisational skills. When a job description outlines the desire for good interpersonal skills it applies to a number of areas. It’s a broad term for your communication skills, whether that be oral or written, and in order to show these skills off you can apply them to your University work or other employment experiences. Communication is vital within any job; from communication with colleagues or employers, to liaising with clients. Self-motivation and organisational skills can also be expressed through your experiences. Although sometimes it is easy to overlook experiences that relate to these requirements, on further examination you may find you have used these skills in the most unlikely of areas.

Giving evidence of skills Read more…

Getting to Grips with Job Descriptions – Part One

15/01/2014 4 comments

This week Jonathan walks us through one of the challenges of finding jobs to apply for; how to decipher a job description to find out what an employer is after.

The hunt for a job always throws up challenges and the overall task can be an overwhelming one at times; however there are a number of ways to become more confident when searching for work. One of these ways is to gain a better understanding of job descriptions. They are the first thing we see when looking at a job prospect and they are filled with clues which can be used to our advantage when applying for the position. The question then becomes how we can use these clues to help us.


Firstly, it is important to consider the idea of context when it comes to job descriptions. There are many repeated phrases and trends across plenty of job descriptions and while it may seem simple to some on how to decipher and use these phrases when it comes to the application process the idea of context can often be overlooked. Suzanne Ball, Careers Adviser at the University of Hertfordshire, explains that we should always take into account the title of the job that is being applied for. Two completely different jobs may ask for the same traits or skills, however the title of the job tells us more about how they want you to apply those skills or incorporate your traits.

If the job description is the question, then the application is the answer. Read more…

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