Making winning applications: IntertradeIreland’s FUSION programme

Business and Management

FUSION incorporates a Postgraduate Diploma

There are a number of graduate programmes run by government or industry bodies which provide excellent opportunities for Ireland’s graduates across a wide range of industries, employers and sectors.

Here, we take a look at IntertradeIreland’s FUSION programme and get the inside track on how to make a successful application for this programme.

What is the FUSION programme about?

FUSION is an all-island graduate programme linking academia and industry, predominantly focusing on science, engineering and technology roles. It incorporates a paid placement, lasting 12 to 18 months, with a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Management.

Graduates are placed in SME companies to create and develop technologically innovative and commercially viable products and services and gain project management experience. They are supported by both the company and an academic mentor from a university or college with specialist expertise in the subject area required.

What is the key to getting on the FUSION programme?

FUSION runs a two-step application process – an online application, then company interview. As with any application, meeting the basic criteria is a must. If you do not demonstrate this clearly and unequivocally they won’t even read the rest of your application.

In the case of FUSION, all job descriptions list essential (as well as desirable) criteria – so in your application give clear and unambiguous answers, in the correct order, to each of the essential criteria. Then do the same for each of the desirable characteristics that you meet.

Just doing this will see you onto the shortlist for consideration. It seems obvious, but if you make it easy for the person considering your application to move you on to the next stage in the process, the more likely you are to progress. You would be amazed how many applications don’t even contain the correct contact details for the applicant, especially email addresses, so be meticulous and double-check your application at the end before hitting ‘send’.

The interview stage

The essence of the FUSION programme is collaboration, so, while it is not important to go into great detail about your communication, teamwork and project management skills in the online application, these will be key themes at the interview stage.  It will be important that you prepare to demonstrate these traits through examples at interview.

Equally important will be that you can show you have a clear understanding of the FUSION programme – its purpose and objectives – and that you have done your research on the company where the role is based. Bring the job spec with you as it will form the basis for the questions you are asked at interview. Prepare answers for each of the elements contained within it as best you can.

Lastly, do not forget the postgraduate study that is built into each of the FUSION placements. The creators of the programme have included this because they believe in the importance and value of further study within the context of the placement. So demonstrating that you are motivated to continue to learn and keen to undertake the Diploma in Business and Management is another way to give yourself an edge in the selection process.

You can find out more about FUSION and other graduate placement programmes on

Thoughts on approaching Skype and telephone interviews

In a previous blog post, I talked about a terrible face-to-face job interview. I ended by remarking that I’ve actually had worse. One of the ‘worse’ was a phone interview. No, it was a video interview. Well, actually it was a horrible combination of both.

Following graduation from university, I decided to do a TEFL course and chose to apply to teach in Korea. I was pretty confident I would get it, as I had the 100 hours done online, an English degree, volunteering experience with children, as well as experience as a writer. So I contacted a company and an interview was arranged.

They were based in Canada so they asked if I would like to have my interview by phone or Skype. I’ve always hated phone interviews, so I chose ‘Skype’.

I sat at the desk in my bedroom, wearing a shirt and tie, waiting for the call to come in. It was the first time I’d ever used Skype, which made me a little uneasy. The call arrived and I was asked if I wanted my end to be video or audio only. I picked video. This decision was a mistake.

They had chosen audio only and I was in a bit of a panic. I couldn’t even tell how many people were on the other end. My eyes were wandering all over the place; I didn’t know where to concentrate them.

The woman in Canada began to speak rapidly in a pan-European accent. She had a list of questions she was reading off a page and wanted the interview over as soon as possible. They were three- or four-part questions that I found very difficult to comprehend in my state of terror.

Things like: ‘Name three situations on which such and such happened … and what you have done in those situations … and how you would use that experience to …’

I felt the need to answer immediately and at a speed even faster than hers. I didn’t give myself time to think.

After my answers came awkward silences and not once did she ask a follow-up question. When the interview was over, I was shattered.

A few days later, I received a rejection email that stated it was their ‘policy not to give details concerning the factors that lead to our decision.’

Admittedly, the woman was a terrible interviewer, but that’s not an excuse. Everyone else who was going for the job was in pretty much the same boat. My advice in case this happens, and I hope this doesn’t sound trite, is to prepare, prepare and then prepare some more.

  • Find out as many of the questions that could be asked as possible beforehand and come up with your own answers.
  • Take your time.
  • If a question stumps you in the interview itself, ask for it to be repeated.
  • If you can’t answer a question, just admit that and don’t try and come up with something off the cuff.
  • And, most importantly, make sure to establish that the interview will either be audio or video before it actually happens.

An amusing article: 10 silliest answers ever given in phone interviews

Why you should apply for fewer jobs

Sign post

As a 2012 graduate, I know how hard it is applying for jobs in your final year at university. You’ve got endless amounts of work to do and every conversation you have seems to be about job-hunting, making you even more stressed.

However, if you’re smart about the jobs you apply to then it will be time well spent. Most people think that ‘the more applications you do, the better’, which isn’t necessarily true. Getting hired is not a lottery process; it involves an employer carefully selecting the people who are right for the job. So, to maximise your chance of success, follow these four pieces of advice:

Finding a job

1. Only apply to jobs that appeal to your interests

It’s important to choose the right jobs to apply to: ones that inspire you to write a great application, and ones that give you lots to say. If the jobs you’re looking at don’t excite you, then maybe you aren’t looking at the right ones. Use the links at the bottom of this post to discover which careers suit you, and to find out about different career sectors.

On the other hand, if you are passionate about pursuing a specific career, don’t let the recession deter you. Looking at a variety of roles could be a wise idea to get a foot in the door, but don’t completely alter your interests just to fit the current job market in Ireland, as there are job opportunities abroad.

2. Only apply to jobs that match your abilities

If you don’t have the knowledge or the level of experience that a job requires, then realistically it’s not worth applying for. Graduate and entry-level roles are the ones you are most likely to get. If you feel you don’t have the skills for graduate roles, apply for internships and placements instead to improve your skill set.

Applying for a job

1. Tailor each application to each job

Taking the time to research a company in depth will show your employer that you’re dedicated to working for them. You will be much more likely to get a job interview. Write each job application from scratch and talk about what you like about the company. It only takes one successful application to land a job, so it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

2. Re-read your applications, lots

Spelling mistakes are easier to spot on paper, so print your application out before sending it. If you’re applying for a position by email, then send the application to yourself first to make sure you have attached the correct files. Small mistakes can make all the difference to an employer who has hundreds of applicants to choose from.

Be selective about the jobs you apply for, and then spend as much time on your applications as you can, to be in with the best chance of getting a job.

What career would suit me?

Get inspired: career sectors

Why your degree doesn’t have to dictate your career choice

Choosing your careerLife isn’t always that straightforward, and nor should it be. I congratulate people who manage to map out their entire career by the age of 17, but a great many people are not in that position.

They go to university; they get their qualification before eventually discovering that this is not the area where they want to work for the rest of their lives.

Part of my job involves interviewing graduate employees for profiles in our gradireland sector guides and directory. The interviewees are highly recommended by their companies as they have made excellent impacts since they were employed.

And this year there has been a trend: many of the people I’ve interviewed have a primary degree that doesn’t match their current job title.

One of the teachers I talked to did an MSc in Ecology with the intention of working in that area. A gap year teaching English as a foreign language, however, and she was bitten by the teaching bug. She did a PGCE Programme and is now a Science teacher in a secondary school in England.

Another teacher left a multinational organisation to change careers. She believed her previous life experience gave her a more ‘mature and different perspective’. Conversely, another woman left teaching to become a management consultant, because she wanted to have more variety in her work. She pointed out how helpful her teaching experience was for her current career. As regards the application process she advised that ‘you can identify transferable skills that can help you stand out from other applicants’.

My final example is of a man who wanted to be a teacher or a journalist, so he did an Arts degree, majoring in English and Philosophy. Once again, it was travel that altered his perception; managing a bar in the US for a time convinced him that management would be his ideal job.

Like many people with Arts degrees, he was able to apply for a postgrad course totally unrelated to his previous four years study. He did an MA in Management and was able to get a place on a graduate employee scheme. Not only that, but he believed his Philosophy and English background gave him a ‘more relaxed, rounded attitude than people whose grounding was entirely in business,’ in effect making him stand out from other applicants.

It is important, therefore, not to worry if things haven’t worked out in your chosen field. Identify transferable skills, be confident in your own ability and things might just turn out better than you expected.