Emily Gilford

Emily Gilford

200 job applications later: Top Tips for staying determined when applying for jobs

As someone who has just graduated from a postgraduate biosciences degree from a Russell group University, I was always told that I’d be in with a good chance of finding a graduate role. Not to sound snobby or ‘toot my own horn’ about it, but I did feel quite confident with my experience and academic history. However, I probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to graduate and start looking for a job – especially in the environmental sector.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been notably harder to find jobs. With people around the world being made redundant at higher levels, companies appear to be focusing on hiring people who aren’t fresh out of University (or that’s my take on it at least!).

My Masters course was heavily impacted by the pandemic, so I found myself finishing my degree earlier than planned. Since February I’ve applied for over 200 jobs. From this, I’ve been invited to 5 interviews and been offered 3 jobs, one of which I am now working in full time.

I’m the sort of person that takes rejections quite hard, and this summer I’ve had an awful lot of them. But the reality is, I’d rather receive that dreaded rejection email than absolutely nothing at all, which has happened for most of these roles. I’d been keeping track of my job applications using spreadsheets, and I’ve received the “we had so many candidates that we can’t provide you with feedback” line more times than I’d care to admit.

But this post isn’t meant to be negative. At the end of the day I’ve found a job, it’s an ideal role for me and I’m able to safely work at home during a time that I find quite anxious and scary, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way. I want to use this opportunity to give you advice on what I found throughout.


  1. Find common criteria between the jobs that you’re applying for.

For example, skills like “good communication skills”. Write paragraphs about these that you can use for every application. I kept all of these little snippets in a folder so that I could come back to them whenever I started a new application. And in these paragraphs, be as specific as you can. Give figures and statistics, what was the measurable impact of what you have done?

  1. Get someone to read over your application.

I know that this can be embarrassing (I hate the idea of it too), but getting someone to look over your CV and Cover Letter is really helpful to check that you’ve not made any silly errors.

  1. Be honest.

Especially at interviews! At the interview for the job that I’m in now, I told them that their website isn’t user friendly! I’m now helping to fix that as part of my role.

  1. Ask questions and make yourself known – even if you’re not successful!

I didn’t actually originally succeed with my application for my current role. They sent me a rejection email, and then a week or so later contacted me again for an interview, which I wasn’t successful at either! I contacted my interviewer and thanked them for their time. I added that I really wanted the role and that I would appreciate if they could keep me in mind for any other upcoming positions if anything changed. A few weeks later, they called me and offered me a job.

  1. And finally – get experience!

If you’re not quite feeling like you’ve got enough experience to apply for any jobs at the moment then getting some voluntary experience is a good use of your time at the moment. I’m the sort of person that really can’t sit still, so I’d been using my time throughout lockdown to volunteer for different organisations and causes online. Research and see what you can find that interests you. One question that I was asked in every single interview I attended was “What have you been doing during lockdown/the pandemic?” Watching Netflix in your PJs is a great way to spend time, but it’s not what employers want to hear. Make sure you’ve got something worthwhile to mention when it comes to it!

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200 job applications later: Top Tips for staying determined when applying for jobs

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