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Careers and employability: your questions answered

Careers and employability: your questions answeredWe answered some of your careers questions in a webchat with Telegraph Education. Now, we're answering the ones there wasn't time for on the day.

What qualities make a job applicant stand out?

This will depend on the job you are going for, but there are a few things that most employers will be impressed by. These include:

  • Work experience, especially if it's highly relevant to the job
  • Having a good understanding of the organization and the industry
  • Being able to demonstrate 'soft skills' like time management and communication
  • Giving specific examples of things you have achieved, rather than just describing your strengths and skills.

Find out more about how to impress with your CV, cover letter and application form, as well as how to stand out at a job interview.

Do employers prefer long-term voluntary work or a wider range of work for a shorter time?

There is no fixed answer to this. What really matters is what you experience and achieve during your work, and how relevant it is to the job you are applying for. A long period of volunteering gives you the opportunity to achieve more and develop different skills, such as planning, but there's a risk that you could end up repeating the same kind of work instead of pursuing new experiences.

A long-term commitment that doesn't take up too much time, such as volunteering once a week, can help you to get some of the benefits while still having time for other, shorter work experience opportunities.

Is the importance of a degree decreasing with extremely high tuition fees or increasing?

So far, higher fees don't seem to have made much difference to the number of people going to university, which suggests there won't be much impact on competition for graduate jobs.

The other side of the question is whether getting a degree is still worth it financially. This is a little bit complicated because of the way the repayments system works. After you graduate, 9% of your earnings over £21,000 go towards repaying your student loan. If you earn less than £21,000, you don't repay anything. This figure was increased when fees went up, so when you first start work you'll actually have more money in your pocket than under the old fees system. However, if you earn enough to repay a decent amount of your loan, you'll end up paying more in the long run.

Ultimately, though, comparing the new system to the old one isn't what matters: after all, you can't go back in time to the days before fees. Instead, you need to consider how university study compares to the other options available, such as apprenticeships, which don't involve fees and allow you to earn a wage while you are studying. Find out more about your options after A-level.

What makes individuals stand out on a CV if they all have the appropriate qualifications and work experience?

While qualifications and work experience are the core of your CV, you can include other achievements if they are relevant to the job. For example, if you were part of a sports team, you could mention this as a demonstration of your teamwork skills. If you have taught yourself a valuable skill, such as programming, you can mention this even if you don't have a formal qualification.

But making your CV stand out isn't just about what you have done: it's also about the way you present it. You need to think carefully about how your qualifications and experience make you the best candidate for the job you're applying for, and highlight those things on your CV. Try to mention specific things you have achieved rather than just describing your strengths and skills.

Finally, make sure you avoid common CV mistakes to make sure that your hard work doesn't go to waste.

Would you say a sandwich degree gives students a better chance of getting a job after their degree? Or does it make no difference, as long as the candidates have relevant work experience?

If you have the same level of work experience, it's unlikely that employers will be all that interested in whether it was a part of your course or done separately. However, you might struggle to obtain the same amount of experience as you would get on a sandwich course if you're doing it independently. Universities often have close ties to industries which can get you a high-quality, structured placement for a full year. Gaining significant work experience during your course can also help you to direct your studies during the rest of your time at university.

There are also financial differences. Students doing a year in industry can still get a maintenance loan to help with their living costs, although this is at a reduced rate of £2,347. On some kinds of unpaid placement, you can get your full student finance package. Some universities also offer bursaries or scholarships which students doing a year in industry can qualify for. All of this can make getting work experience much more affordable.

Do employers prefer graduate entry medical students as they have two degrees or those who have just completed the five year MBBS course?

Unless your undergraduate degree is especially relevant to the position you're applying for, it shouldn't make much difference. Your work experience and skills are likely to be more important.

Studying medicine will really help you get a job: it has the highest employment rate of any subject.

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