Language Graduates: how to create the right first impression when applying for a job


This time in the academic calendar is a busy one, with revision for exams and final preparation of coursework taking top priority with soon-to-be graduates. Therefore, you might not yet be thinking about applying for jobs and getting your CV out there just yet. However, investing some time in doing this now can be highly beneficial and put you in an incredibly strong position. Doing so and sending it out to recruiters or posting it online on various job-boards can mean that opportunities are being generated in the background, whilst you focus on revision. By getting your profile out there early, recruiters can be seeking you out and looking for opportunities for you with companies that are looking to hire for the post-exam period.

Being proactive in this way can help to ensure that you are going into your exams with potential opportunities already secured, and will help you stand out amongst the flurry of applications that companies will undoubtedly be inundated with after exams are over. Make sure you are ahead of the curve! Imagine what a great feeling it will be, going into your exams and knowing that you don’t have to work as hard after your studies are over!

Here are some key things to include when you are applying for a language orientated position:

  • A strong cover letter. Compiling a compelling cover letter is a key part of the process. Why are you applying for the role? What skills do you have that make you a good fit and that will benefit the employer? Use the job advert/ job description to help you with this: you should be able to pick out the key skills that they are looking for and can then give brief, real-life examples of how you have exemplified these skills.
  • Your contact details. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many candidates leave these off. Make sure your email address and telephone number are clearly displayed on your CV. So many people weaken their chances of success by not doing this- don’t be one of them!
  • Your availability. Give a clear and realistic indication of when you will be looking to start. If you are willing to relocate, but may need some extra time to do this, make this clear. If you do not want to start in a role until after your exams, state your earliest possible start date. Also, think about the monetary side of things: do you have the funds available to travel for interviews and to relocate if necessary? (Particularly worth giving a lot of thought to if the company does not offer assistance with this process).
  • A personal profile. Including this can really help you to stand out. Consider what you are hoping to achieve at the start of your career and align your profile to the culture of the business you are applying to. If you are moving to a new country, demonstrate your previous experience that will assist you when working/ living in that location: adaptability is critical for many non-native applicants. Around 4-5 lines of text should be enough for this.
  • An analysis of your skills. Providing a potential employer with a brief and clear overview of the skills you possess will allow them to assess quickly your core competencies against the criteria of the vacancy they are looking to fill. Make sure you cover both hard skills (like any additional languages, software skills etc.) and soft skills (such as customer service, time management and adaptability).
  • Your achievements. Any achievements you have made in your life, be it professional, educational, or personal, make sure your potential employer knows about them! Employers will always look to hire candidates that can and will make a genuine difference to their business. People who highlight their achievements will be recognised as someone who will push themselves to the top if their chosen career.
  • Your career history. List your jobs in reverse date order- so start with your present or most recent employer and work backwards. Don’t disregard part-time or temporary jobs that you may have had around studying. A lot of these jobs exemplify the sorts of soft-skills that employers look for, such as teamwork, customer service, working under pressure and time management. Employers will also often really value someone who has had to manage this studies alongside employment. All experience is valuable alongside your academic qualifications.
  • The right information for relevant roles. Some candidates will take the time to create multiple versions of their CV that are all tailored for different positions. This is a beneficial thing to do, but if you are doing this, make sure you have one for a generic application as well. If your CV is too specific, you can shoot yourself in the foot as you will limit the chances of a company considering you for different roles or departments.

After you have done all of this, the most important thing of all to do is to proofread your CV and your cover letter through thoroughly before sending it to anyone. Simple spelling and grammatical errors can often mean that otherwise good candidates are disregarded, as they have fallen at this first and avoidable hurdle. With all the online checking tools that are available today, there really isn’t an excuse for them. It is a good idea to have someone else read them through for you, as they may spot things you might have missed, especially if you have been staring at it for a long time. Alternatively, give yourself a respite after writing it before you read it through, as otherwise you are likely to miss things.

Remember: first impressions count for a lot and attention to detail is vital when competing against the many other applicants who are applying for the same jobs as you are.