If you are still searching for a graduate role and feeling despondent at the lack of progress, then read on for some advice and motivational tips…
We know from the work we do with employers that the number of applicants per vacancy has significantly increased this year. There are fewer jobs and more applicants in the market. This means you need to be prepared to apply for more roles and make sure you are increasing your chances at every stage to give yourself the best chance of a job offer.
BEFORE YOU APPLY
CV guidance – make sure your CV is up to date, a brief statement/profile on you, your education – including grades/subjects, and dates for education, include all work experience whether this is relevant to the role that you are applying to or not, your achievements, skills, positions of responsibility, extracurricular/interests. Your CV should not be any longer than two pages. Once completed, proof this, check formatting and spelling, your CV could be rejected based on incorrect grammar/spelling mistakes.
Top Tip: Make your CV reflect the role/profession you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a creative marketing opportunity, make sure the design and layout is creative and original.
Online profile – Make sure you are registered on LinkedIn and keep your profile up to date. Think of your profile as a living, breathing CV! The more detailed and relevant your profile is, the more likely you are to be sought out by Recruiters.
Top Tip: Complete all sections on your profile on LinkedIn. Recruiters search under degree specialisms and hi potential terms, searching for positions of responsibility such as Captain, Vice President etc. so do highlight all experience on your profile, include – volunteering, committee roles, retail.
Application forms – Research and planning is key to a great application. Make sure you fully research the company, the industry, and the role that you are applying to. Take your time! It is very easy for Hiring Managers/Recruiters to spot when text/application answers are being copied and pasted from one application to another. Think about how you can demonstrate that you have the interest, skills, and abilities relevant to the role. Answer applications answers in draft first, make sure that you are answering the question, showing evidence to demonstrate your knowledge or skill, proofread and check for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Top Tip: Look at recent press releases on a company’s website to find out current information about the company.
Online Assessments – Aptitude tests assess an individual’s thinking style and in particular logical reasoning ability. Employers will often test for several aptitudes, most commonly verbal and numerical reasoning. These types of tests are timed and generally consist of a series of multiple-choice questions. They typically last for 15 to 30 minutes.
Situational judgement tests are also commonly used in graduate selection. In this type of assessment, you are given a series of work-related scenarios and are asked to choose the most appropriate or effective course of action to take from a given list. If you are invited to take an online test you will be given a link to follow to the test site, and a deadline by which the test must be completed. Ensure that you complete the online assessment when you are feeling calm and make sure you are in quite space.
Top Tip: Make use of any practice material or sample questions, to ensure that you are familiar with the test before completing it and find out if the tests are negatively marked ahead of time.
You will be provided with information with regards to which technical platform to use for your virtual interview. Make sure that you have downloaded the relevant software to carry out your interview and check this is working, along with you webcam prior to your interview. First impressions count! Treat your interview like a face-to-face meeting, be smartly presented – a suit, shirt, smart jacket, smart dress. Prepare your surroundings. Smile, try and build rapport with the interviewer, make eye contact – look at the camera not at the screen. Try not to rely on notes.
Video Interviews – this type of interview will be live, you may be required to join a video conference from a link that the employer shares with you, or it could be via Skype video or another video conference provider. Once connected, you will be able to see and speak to the interviewer. Prior to your interview, you should be informed of what type of format your interview will be in i.e., Strengths based, or Competency based questions. Make sure you prepare by researching the company, the industry and understand the job profile. Think about what would make someone successful in this role, what skills are associated with the role? How can you demonstrate that you can align your skills and education to the role that you are applying to? Think about your strengths and weaknesses – be open and transparent.
Top Tip: make sure you conduct research into the company, the industry and fully understand the role prior to your interview. I recommend that you prepare some questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview to help demonstrate further your interest in this opportunity.
Pre Recorded Video Interviews – Some employers may use pre-recorded video interviews. The employer will provide you with instructions on how to join the interview and you will be prompted to answer interview questions that have been pre-recorded or appear in writing on the screen. You will then record your answer to each question and the employer will review your recording afterwards. There is usually a time limit for providing answers and in some situations, you may be given more than one chance to record each answer. In the scenario it may feel unnatural, try to imagine that you are having a live conversation and make sure you take time to prepare for your interview.
Top Tip: study the job profile and identify skills required for the role. Think of examples that you can draw upon through your education, work experience, extracurricular activities that demonstrates where you have developed skills or knowledge. Keep examples varied.
Interviews – Prior to your interview, you may be provided with a schedule and format for your interview. Questions can be motivational, competency or strengths based so conduct research into these different types of questions and how best to structure your answers. Strengths based interviews focus on what you enjoy doing, rather than what you can do. A competency interview – (also known as structured, behavioural, or situational interviews) are designed to test one or more skills or competencies. The interviewer will have a list of set questions, each focusing on a specific skill, and your answers will be compared against a set criteria and marked accordingly. Prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask each interviewer, remember that you are wanting to find out as much as you can about the company and to see if they are the right fit for you. Ensure you have enough information to enable you to make an informed decision should you be offered the role.
Competency questions, a great tool to use to help keep structure and provide detail is the STARR approach ‘Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflect’ this is the who, where, when, why and how of a situation. Try to show learning and reflection in your answers, how could you have improved on something? How did you go about it?
Strength questions don’t have a right or wrong answer, so don’t worry on that score. It is, however, important that you answer all questions honestly and do not be afraid to display passion and excitement in response to areas they explore with you.
Virtual Assessments Centres:
Virtual assessment centres are a way for an employer to get a group of candidates together online to be assessed for its graduate or work experience programmes. Just as with an in-person assessment centre, activities could include: information sessions, question-and-answer sessions, a group exercise (which can be based on a case study) an individual case study exercise, a presentation and an interview. Prior to the assessment day, you will be provided with detailed information to help you prepare and to put you at ease.
Top Tips: Practise activities – remotely. Many careers services are providing mock interviews and assessment centre workshops virtually. If you need to give a presentation, practise delivering it via video to your friends and get their feedback on how you come across.
Recruiters can only assess you on what they see and hear during the recruitment exercises, so make sure you actively contribute. Think about non-verbal cues, too; show you are listening and paying attention by nodding, smiling etc.
In summary, treat the virtual process just as you would face to face, always be positive and professional. Don’t let the doom and gloom headlines get you down. It’s true, there are fewer jobs, but the situation is gradually improving, and you will find something, you just need to be diligent, keep applying and hone your application/interview skills.
Stay positive, keep trying and the hard work will all be worthwhile.
If you would like to talk to a specialist consultant about the student job market or about your particular job search, then contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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