Fitting the Job Criteria

Some position openings lack a job description and you need to speculate on the job requirements. This article helps you construct your best sales pitch when must make some assumptions about the job criteria. Use STAR statements and action words to convince the reader you have a results-oriented work ethic.

Key Advice

Identify the Job Criteria

Throughout the application process, you should aim to demonstrate evidence of the skills and qualities (competencies) specified in the job description and person specification.

If these are not provided – in, for instance, a job specification, the "what we are looking for" section of the companies website or the graduate competencies – or if you are making a speculative application, then create a list of the skills and qualities you expect the organization is looking for.

You could create this list from your knowledge of the sector, by reading the skills sections of relevant web sites, by networking with professionals, or by reading adverts for similar positions.

Choose Examples from Your Life

Having made the list of job criteria, you should then jot down examples that demonstrate you have the skills or experience they are looking for.

You can demonstrate these by using examples from your academic life, work experience and extracurricular activities: tutorials, team projects, part-time jobs, fieldwork, dissertations, sport, music, and society engagement. Try to find examples from a range of activities.

  • Give specific examples and evidence – do not generalize.
  • Think of evidence that you can quantify: how much, how many, how often.
  • Vary your use of examples, and draw from different areas of your life.
  • Do not undersell weekend jobs or part-time, holiday jobs. Recruiters often tell us that they like to read about these experiences as they can demonstrate many skills. You do not have to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to be impressive!
  • Draw on your most recent relevant experiences and achievements wherever possible.

An Example of the Process

Sample Job Description: The Maximal Group Graduate Openings for Planning Researchers

We are specialist advisers to corporations and high net worth individuals. We have built up a reputation for working with companies and individuals, to enhance their business and personal finances. This has been achieved through the development of highly specialized products and services, designed specifically for those markets.

We offer outstanding opportunities for top quality graduates. Starting as a planning researcher, you will be trained and qualified to advance to the role of planning associate and then the prestigious role of corporate consultant. You will have

  • An upper-second-class college degree (2:1) or above in any college discipline.
  • Solid communication skills.
  • Well-developed IT skills.
  • The ability to manage your workload and responsibilities, either on an individual or teamwork basis.
  • A genuine interest in business, finance and people.

Starting salaries will be in the range £18k–£22k, with share options and unrivaled training and career advancement opportunities. To apply, send your CV and a covering letter to Mr J. Hawes, Recruitment Manager, The Maximal Group, PO Box 3746, Essex, CM19 7HN.

My Evidence

  • An Upper-Second-Class College Degree (2:1)
    • Yes (or on course to receive one)

  • Communication Skills
    • Written: Reports during work experience; Emphasize variety within studies (essays, dissertations, reports, etc); College debating society publicity material
    • Oral: General Certificate of Secondary Education private tutoring; Presentation of final-year project; College debating society

  • IT Skills
    • Microsoft Office (at university and for jobs) Word, Excel, PowerPoint
    • Internet – basic html writing webpage for debating society

  • Managing Workload and Responsibilities
    • Solo: Study at Oxford University. Successful final-year project
    • Self-Starter: Organized useful work experience and tutoring service
    • Team: Debating Society committee; well-attended debates; outside speakers; promotion of society

  • Interest in Business, Finance, People
    • Read Financial Times and The Economist; work experience; tutoring and debating

Presenting Experience

Next use these examples when presenting yourself in your CV and cover letter (or application form) and at interview. At interview, do not be afraid to repeat the examples you have used in your written application, you want to draw on your strongest and most relevant examples.

Structuring Responses: The STAR Technique

In cover letters, application forms and interviews, you may find the STAR approach (situation, task, action, result) helps you to frame a clear structure when providing an example experience.

  • Describe a situation
  • Explain the task you had to do
  • Set out – clearly, specifically, and with detail – the actions you took
  • And finally, describe the result and what you learned

The action should account for about 70% of your answer, with the other parts taking up roughly 10% each.

An Example

Situation: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various events.

Task: I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by 30% over the past three years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.

Action: I designed new promotional materials to go out to local businesses and the community, these included an email campaign designed in Adestra and jpeg imagines put together with InDesign. I included a rating sheet to collect feedback on our events which I analyzed and used to inform adjustments to the current offering. I presented these findings to my management team along with my suggestions for a new series of events. In addition I organized internal round table discussions to raise awareness of the issue with our employees.

Result: We used some of the wonderful ideas we received from the community in the new series of events, made our internal systems more efficient and visible and raised attendance by 25 percent the first year.

Action Verbs

In written applications, you should convey your relevant skills and experience with impact by using action verbs. These can help make an application stand out, particularly if you start bullet-points with them. Here are some examples:

  • Accomplished
  • Achieved
  • Administered
  • Advised
  • Advocated
  • Analyzed
  • Assembled
  • Authorized
  • Awarded
  • Budgeted
  • Captained
  • Chaired
  • Coached
  • Completed
  • Conducted
  • Co-ordinated
  • Counseled
  • Created
  • Decided
  • Delivered
  • Demonstrated
  • Designed
  • Determined
  • Developed
  • Devised
  • Directed
  • Discovered
  • Earned
  • Edited
  • Employed
  • Enabled
  • Encouraged
  • Engineered
  • Enjoyed
  • Ensured
  • Established
  • Evaluated
  • Examined
  • Expanded
  • Explained
  • Facilitated
  • Founded
  • Gained
  • Generated
  • Handled
  • Identified
  • Implemented
  • Improved
  • Increased
  • Initiated
  • Instituted
  • Instructed
  • Interviewed
  • Invented
  • Launched
  • Led
  • Managed
  • Marketed
  • Maximized
  • Mediated
  • Negotiated
  • Obtained
  • Operated
  • Organized
  • Oversaw
  • Performed
  • Planned
  • Prepared
  • Presented
  • Prioritized
  • Produced
  • Promoted
  • Raised
  • Ran
  • Recognized
  • Recommended
  • Reconciled
  • Recruited
  • Represented
  • Responsible
  • Saved
  • Set up
  • Simplified
  • Solved
  • Supervised
  • Targeted
  • Transformed

If You Lack Experience

If you feel you lack experience, and don't have time before an application to gain more, don't panic! You can always reference the knowledge and skills developed during your course at Oxford.

For example, you could:

  • Mention particularly relevant subjects and modules; extended essay, dissertation, thesis; field work; and other research projects.

  • Highlight the tutorial system: ability to see both sides of an argument; thinking on your feet; explaining your views to others; presenting information; and coping with pressure.

  • Remember skills gained from personal study: time management; research skills; analytical and critical thinking; identifying key points; summarizing and synthesizing information; structuring arguments.

Source: University of Oxford,
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Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 12:44 PM