You learn many things in a rugby scrum… October 1, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Selection Process, Skills and Competencies, employability and skills , add a comment
Ben Bayley (MA, Public History, Royal Holloway 2012) writes about the benefit of being active in clubs and societies.
Student Societies and Clubs at university can often be looked at as little more than another excuse to go for a drink with a group of friends. However, clubs and societies are a really good thing to be involved with at university and are increasingly valued by employers as they look for that little extra on your CV.
During my time at university, I was always very keen to join the Rugby Club, but initially I never really considered it as anything more as an easy way to play rugby, and a good way to meet people. However, after 4 years playing for my university side, and in the process of getting a job, I can now appreciate that getting involved in extracurricular activities is a massive bonus when employers are looking for something extra on a CV.
Joining the Rugby Club meant many things- I immediately had a group of like minded friends as well as team mates. However, I was essentially networking with people who had been at the university for 3 years and I would not necessarily have met otherwise. Through the help of these contacts I was able to get both part time jobs and summer jobs, as well as meet ‘old boys’ who were only too willing to talk about their experiences in their sector of work.
Being elected as Director of Rugby in my second year and Vice-captain in my third year meant many things- essentially I was now part of a committee which had to manage the Club. This experience was not restricted to selecting a team on Wednesday, but also involved the financial running of the club, planning events, promoting the club around campus and getting the club involved with community projects – the job took a significant amount of time and effort. In my experience with interviews, it has always given me something I can talk about when employers are looking for more than simply academic achievement or work experience. It shows you have good time management and organisational skills, and being on the committee show that you have real leadership potential, good communication and are a well liked, respected and trusted member of your club or society. As part of a club there are often other courses and skills you can develop at low cost- for example the Rugby Club also offered me opportunities to participate in coaching, refereeing and first aid courses, all of which are very positive to things have on a CV.
I have met a wide range of people through being a part of a student club at university and I keep in contact with many; the people you share experiences with in a club or a society are not those which you forget. On a personal note, the networking I have done within the rugby club alone meant that when I went for my first interview, the Chairman of my rugby club was on the interview panel for the job I went for. When I was looking into applying for the Civil Service Fast stream, I went along to a presentation evening and one of my former teammates was leading the talk! So the benefits of networking are very real, and my time in the club has helped me develop a wide range of skills which will help me in my next steps after university.
Interviews, The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
High Fliers Research Limited found that more than half of employers interviewed candidates by telephone during the 2012 recruitment round, either as part of the pre-screening process or the first-round interview.
So what is a telephone interview and how should you prepare?
Employers are ever increasingly using telephone interviews as a more cost-effective alternative to the more traditional face-to-face format, especially as part of the early stages of a recruitment process. But if you’ve never had one before, you may be wondering what exactly a telephone interview is and how you should prepare.
Well, a telephone interview is an interview, but over the phone. By this I mean, the interviewer will still be making assessments based on how you answer the questions and your demeanour, just as they would in a face-to-face interview. It’s just as important that you make a good first impression…you’ll just have to do so without relying on that winning smile!
As with any interview, preparation is important, and a lot of the tips are general:
You – be prepared to answer questions on anything you’ve written in your CV, covering letter or application form.
The job – make sure that you’ve familiarised yourself with the job description, know what skills the employer is looking for and emphasise them in your answers.
The organisation – do your research beforehand and be prepared to answer the “So, what do you know about us?” question.
Then there are a few tips specific to telephone interviews:
Location – try to find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed, to have the interview. Sounds obvious, but also make sure that you have a good phone connection here, especially if you’re using a mobile.
Memory aids – take advantage of the fact that you can use the internet and notes in a telephone interview. But use with caution. Used well, these aids will help to jog your memory and make your answers sound more seamless and informed. However, long pauses while you rifle through papers or quickly google the company will not make a good impression – remember that the interviewer isn’t daft and will recognise a lack of preparation.
Just because they can’t see you… – a couple of tips, that may sound a tad bizarre, are to dress smartly and smile while you speak. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, if you’re feeling bright and confident, this will come across in your voice. Don’t be afraid of silence, the lack of non-verbal communication in a telephone interview can make pausing to collect your thoughts all the more daunting. But well-thought responses, with a few pauses, will come across much better than rushed answers.
Practice – this is the best way to pick up on any aspects of your interview technique that you may need to work on. The volume, speed and clarity of your speech are important in any interview but much more so in a telephone interview. Remember you can book a practice telephone interview with one of our careers consultants, which should help you iron out any kinks and hopefully leave you feeling calmer and help you to perform better on the day.
Blogs are good for your career! September 20, 2012Posted by Kirsti Burton in : Interviews, Publishing, The Careers Group Blogs, employability and skills , add a comment
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
Ok so I admit that writing a blog myself means I might be a bit biased on this subject, but I really do think that blogs can be good for your career. Really.
How I hear you ask?
Well, in a number of ways actually.
1) Write your own blog. Not only is this an excellent opportunity for you to develop your writing skills, but it is an immediate way of getting some additional skills and experience that you can mention on your CV. Along with the obvious communication skills etc, it shows initiative, drive and commitment. Writing skills and experience is not only crucial for roles in journalism, marketing and PR. Whatever industry you want to enter, being able to write in a clear and concise way that is suitable for the intended audience is important.
2) Reading other blogs is a great way of keeping up to date with current trends and developments in the area of work you are looking to get in to. Due to the instant update nature of blogs, you can have the very latest information at your fingertips. Use this information at interview or on an application form to show your interest and enthusiasm for the industry. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by being able to show your commercial awareness and understanding of the market through having current knowledge and examples.
So if you are applying for a finance or management job, you may be asked your opinion on the recent budget announcement or the current economic climate. For a marketing or TV role you may be asked what your favourite marketing campaign or television programme is right now and why.
Mentioning to an interviewer that you follow relevent blogs is likely to make you stand out from the crowd, however be prepared to explain which ones you follow, why and what you have learned from them. The BBC alone has hundreds of different blogs, ranging from general news to science or the arts. The same applies with most newspapers too. Depending on your industry of interest, you could choose to read a blog written by a particular journalist who reports on finance, business, politics or health for example. The opportunities are endless!
Commenting on other blogs can be a great part of networking online. As well as getting writing experience, you can build links with other writers. You can then use these contacts within your network to find out more about a particular job, how they got into the industry, what advice they would give to graduates looking for work experience and so on. You never know, if you play your cards right, they might even be able to help you gain further work experience, or even paid work.
London Stock Exchange Group: Graduate Programme September 17, 2012Posted by UCL Careers Service in : Finance, Finance & IT, Industry Focus, Selection Process, The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
Originally posted at UCL Careers Service Blog
By Jeff Riley , UCL Careers Service. It can take new graduate recruitment programmes a little while to establish themselves on my radar. Sure, I know formally that schemes may be advertised on JobOnline or Target Jobs and have what I think is a reasonable idea of what schemes may involve. Until I meet employers face to face though, programmes never become tangible for me. For example, this morning I visited London Stock Exchange Group who have been running a graduate training programme since 2010 and internship scheme since 2011. Even before I’d got inside the building I’d learnt one very important thing
- It’s not London Stock Exchange BUT London Stock Exchange Group. This is important because it means that it’s more than a stock exchange. The Group provides financial services infrastructure not just to London but also, for example, to Italy through Borsa Italiana (the Italian Stock Exchange) and via the eight international offices of FTSE in places like the USA. Incidentally, they also have a software and technology business called Millennium IT which is based in Sri Lanka. As the business develops, so do opportunities for graduates including the chance to work overseas in Milan or Rome.
I met up with Nishe Patel who is responsible for recruiting the next intake of graduates (closing date of December 7th), and managing the programme. Here are some key messages
- The scheme is evolving but right now you can sign up for the programme and you would apply for your fixed position towards the end of your programme, which is fully supported by the business.
- As part of the programme you could complete assignments in
- Capital Markets – Primary or Secondary
- Corporate Functions –Human Resources, Marketing, Legal, Regulation, Public Affairs, Regulatory Strategy, Finance, Audit and Risk
- Information Services – Provides market data to support decision-making and risk management.
- Post Trade – once a trade has been made this ‘back office’ function ensures that everything happens smoothly and with minimal risk
- Technology – the entire market depends on technology and this continually needs to develop to provide the best services for clients.
Now it became pretty quickly clear that this is a complex operation with its own language but not impenetrable. Nishe was easily able to distinguish, for example, the primary and secondary capital markets. Primary is the arena for companies new to the stock exchange such as the recently listed film studio company Pinewood Shepperton. Secondary is the market for previously issued financial instruments such as stock, bonds, options, and futures.
These different sectors recruit graduates following the programme into specific roles. Graduates who completed their programme in 2012 have joined positions in Strategy, Equities and Derivatives Markets, Information Services, Legal, Primary Markets etc. The roles vary from developing key business strategies for the next few years to developing key products that would be valuable to clients whilst managing the relationship with them. One thing Nishe is especially keen on is that applicants should be flexible and adaptable. “Applicants cannot be expected to know which department or role they want to work in until they have some experience. They may want to go into business development eventually and as we know that this role depends on being able to build great relationships, a spell in Human Resources could be really good for developing that skill
- What you will need.�
- Formally a 2.1 honours degree and 300 UCAS points from your top 3 A levels.
- Lots of different degree subjects considered. “To be honest”, says Nishe, “we get a lot of applications from business and economics students. These are very welcome and we do recruit individuals with this background. What we would like to see are more applications from science and technical subjects. Things like physics, mathematics, and computer science”.
- The right motivation. It won’t matter how able you are if you aren’t clear why you want to work at London Stock Exchange Group. “It’s no good saying things like ‘because it’s at the heart of the financial community’ or ‘because it’s an international organisation.’”, says Nishe, “We need to know why those things matter to you.”
Find out more via
* An open evening – taking place on November 21st
Applying for graduate schemes or internships this Autumn? Start practising psychometric tests now! September 13, 2012Posted by Kirsti Burton in : Psychometric and Personality testing, Selection Process, The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
Although they can sound a tad intimidating and mysterious, psychometric tests are just a way of measuring a person’s skills, abilities and/or personality traits. Employers use them as part of their selection process, as a way of directly comparing potential candidates and assessing their ability to do the job. If you are applying for a graduate scheme or internship with a large employer, you can almost guarantee that you will be given some sort of test.
Tests are generally be divided into two types:
- Ability – measuring numerical, verbal and/or diagrammatic reasoning.
- Personality – probing how a person may behave in certain situations.
The sector that you’re applying to will largely dictate the type of test you’ll be asked to sit. For example, jobs in finance or that involve dealing with numbers will require you to take a numerical test. On the other hand, a law firm may ask you to take a verbal reasoning test, to see how you interpret and respond to written information. These are generalisations though. Find out about the particular application process of the companies you are applying to by checking the recruitment webpages of their websites.
You could be asked to complete a test at any stage of the recruitment process, often as part of an assessment centre. This could be before or after being interviewed (or both). Some companies (typically in banking) may even require that candidates attain a minimum score in a numerical reasoning test before releasing their application form!
If you are invited to take a psychometric test then the best way to prepare is:
- Practise. Mathematical puzzles and brain teasers are good ways to get used to the kind of logical and analytical thinking that the test will require. Make use of the puzzle section of all those free newspapers!
- Practise. Your careersservice may have a subscription to one of the providers of these tests. Contact them to sign up for a mock online numerical and verbal reasoning test and receive feedback on your performance with tips on how to improve.
- Practise. Careers Services also often have a number of books about psychometric tests available to borrow, which include lots of practice questions. We also have lots of resources on Careers Tagged.
As you can see, there is no easy option. So before the demands of the Autumn term start piling up, start practising now to improve your score.
Nepotism and beyond – the power of networks August 27, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Selection Process, diversity, networking , add a comment
Last year the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, criticised the selection of interns by companies based on contacts rather than more open recruitment. Whilst many graduate recruiters will take on interns through a formal process, many internships or work experience opportunities are gained through connections. This can have a negative impact on social mobility.
Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable met with Will Butler-Adams, MD of Brompton Bikes. Will Butler-Adams also featured on The Bottom Line (definitely one of my favourite means of building business knowledge) where the importance of contacts was discussed.
It was interesting to hear about the importance of contacts for a SME in recruiting. I have paraphrased Will Butler-Adams’s comments about recruitment but you can listen to the whole podcast on BBC IPlayer (or download from iTunes). Listening to the whole podcast will give a bit more context.
Recruiting is a lottery. You take someone on, you spend six months training them and at the end of six months you find you have made a ghastly mistake. If you spend a lot of time on the recruitment process, psychometric tests, games etc, like the civil service and big investment banks do, you can reduce the odds of making a mistake. But even then you often make a mistake. If you go for contacts you improve the odds.
For Will Butler-Adams the use of contacts is an important tool in recruitment (but it is not the only tool he uses). He encourages his staff to make recommendations of people they know or have done business with and then uses typical selection methods thereafter to make a decision. He believes that his staff know the business requirements to be able to make quality judgements.
Careers Consultants spend a lot of time tying to persuade students of the importance of contacts and networks. Around 25% of University of London graduates secure their first job through such contacts. Employers, like Will Butler-Adams, see the value in recommendations.
Nick Clegg’s point is really pertinent. As was raised in the podcast, how do you ensure equality of opportunity? Not everybody has parents connected to Will Butler-Adams. To some extent candidates need to take ownership of this need. It is clear that building reliable networks can increase employment opportunities and the onus needs to be on students to develop them. You may not have connections in your chosen field, but often you can create them.
Will Butler-Adams is adamant that he will take talent over contact and looks for ability and fit in candidates. I have seen many students claim that because they know somebody, particularly in Investment Banking, that person will get them a job. I haven’t necessarily seen positive results of that. But the approach to developing contacts, building relationships and putting yourself in the right position is absolutely right. Employers like Will Butler-Adams value personal recommendation, its up to you to find a way of being the person recommended.
Selection Process , 1 comment so far
“Well let’s just say I have never recruited somebody with a pocket in their shirt!” a former Investment Banker recently told me. The pocket, apparently, is an indication of a worker, not a professional. In the same conversation another joked “only those who know how to dine can the confidence to not care about it.”
At least two conclusions can be drawn from this. The first is that I have very odd conversations with people. The second is about “fit”: the notion that a candidate must not look out of place in that specific work environment.
There are publications about the social history of work-wear. Historically clothing was often fundamentally practical, or design to demonstrate a status. Despite everything, we still have that.
Each sector will have its own uniform. I became aware recently just how many men are now walking around with open collars – a look characterised by David Cameron (but appearing less so nowadays). For me the look doesn’t work and comes across as “can’t be bothered”. However I recognise that I am not a fashion expert!
Recruiters tell us that there are generally only three questions they need to ask – can you do the job, will you do the job and will you fit? Fit isn’t about race or gender but more about how you would adapt to the organisation, and your ability to work within its culture and with the range of stakeholders it deals with.
I was at the Association of Graduate Recruiters conference recently and discussed this with a recruiter. We compared our appearances and the client groups we faced. His clients were clean-cut City professionals and when he started working there he shaved his beard and started dressing similarly to others in the organisation. When I moved into Higher Education I had previously worn suits every day, and now that is occasional.
But dress is only part of it. Whilst recruiters understand they are not getting a polished professional they need to see the potential in a candidate to fit. Many organisations provide an induction where new staff learn about the corporate image and how they are expected to reflect that image in their interactions and etiquette.
But you need to think about it early on in the process. Everything you write and say builds a picture. Is it the picture you would want them to have of you? Is it the image of somebody that would fit within the organisation? How do you actually know what would fit?
Your research into the company and the culture should help. I have heard of candidates waiting outside offices to see what people work there and how they appear. The idea is fine provided it doesn’t into slightly scary stalking! Alternatively speaking to alumni working there or meeting recruiters at fairs or on campus may give you some idea.
The deadliest CV mistake and three steps to solve it June 21, 2012Posted by Kirsti Burton in : CVs, Selection Process, The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
I went to visit a small business about a month ago. It’s a small engineering firm but it has a fair few students apply speculatively to ask for internships and work. The person who looks at these CVs had some strong opinions. His biggest criticism was for one of the most common mistakes – which is also unfortunately quite a major error that will almost certainly stop you getting through to interview.
The mistake is this: The person writing the CV hasn’t stopped to think about the person reading it and hasn’t done enough to try and understand what the recruiter is looking for.
So what is his advice?
When a recruiter looks at a CV, they do so fairly systematically. They have a list of things they are looking for. The process of shortlisting candidates is not rocket science. If the recruiter can see evidence of these criteria on the CV, then they go through to the next round, if not, they go in the bin.
Three step solution:
1. Find out what the criteria are:
For most jobs this is fairly easy, the criteria will be shown on either the job advert, the job description, the person specification or the company website. If not, then you could either just think about what the job involves and try to predict the types of skills they will look for, or alternatively you could look at similar jobs elsewhere to see what skills they ask for.
2. Make sure that throughout your CV you include evidence for ALL of the skills they have asked for:
Saying “I am great at customer service” is not good evidence. You need to write something that will persuade them that you are good at it, such as “I have over three years experience in customer facing roles and have received excellent feedback from my manager for my positive attitude and friendly manner.”
3. Make your skills OBVIOUS:
A recruiter won’t spend hours reading and analysing your CV. They simply don’t have time. If they can’t see evidence for the skills they are looking for on the page, then they won’t put you through. So never assume that they will read between the lines. I often hear students say things like “It’s obvious I have analytical skills, I do an Engineering degree.” But a recruiter who is quickly scanning through looking this skill won’t necessarily spot this, so for every skill, give a concrete specific example as evidence.
A 2:2 is a worthless degree June 11, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Finance & IT, Selection Process , 5comments
So the results are in. How did you do? Did you get that 1st class degree everyone hopes for? Or do you feel there are no options now you failed to grasp that 2:1? You are not alone. Around 30% of graduates leave with a 2:2 degree and the good news is that there are still lots of options open to you – your degree still has great value. The notion that a 2:2 is worthless is yet another myth.
As careers consultants we often see graduates with a 2:2 suddenly start to talk about doing a masters course. Typically there are three reasons for doing a masters: a) desire to specialise and increase employability; b) passion to learn more about the subject and c) compensate for poorer grades achieved to date. Unfortunately the third reason doesn’t usually work. Many graduate recruiters don’t differentiate between a masters and an undergraduate degree – although some will take a 2:2 plus a relevant postgraduate qualification. If you want to do a masters then make sure your motivation is right.
So before you get depressed and hit the ice-cream, there is more than a glimmer of hope.
OK so many of the Graduate Schemes are closed to you because they require a 2:1 or above. But there are some schemes out there that are open to 2:2: degrees. Some examples that might help you get started:
- PWC Inspired Talent
- Mitchells & Butlers
- Civil Service Fast Stream
- London Treasurer’s Graduate Scheme
- NHS Management
- Scottish Power
- Jaguar Landrover
So from that (non-exhaustive) list you can see the diversity of schemes available – from Government to manufacturing, professional services to retail. Trawling through the internet should help find many others. Bear in mind that within the same company there may be different entry requirements depending on the role – e.g. IT. In many cases the 2:1 requirement isn’t necessarily about the ability to do the job, but a means of reducing the volume of applications.
It’s easy to get distracted by graduate schemes. These corporations often have large budgets to market their career opportunities to students. But typically only about 10% of graduates go into a graduate scheme. That’s all, just 10%. Maybe about 35% will do further study, leaving 55% of graduates doing something else.
“It’s tough out there. There aren’t any jobs.” The media keeps broadcasting a message of doom and gloom about the job market which isn’t very helpful. The graduate job market is generally always challenging and competition is usually strong. When thinking about your next steps there are several factors to consider.
- If you wanted a specific graduate scheme, why was that? Was it because of the company (if so, search entry level positions in same firm), the role (find alternative employers with similar roles) or location (refine your job search geographically but broaden criteria).
- What can you do in the short term to position yourself better in the future? For example, aspiring accountant and Royal Holloway graduate is building on his 2:2 by putting himself through the ICAEW Certificate because it shares the same modules as the ACA.
- Can I do it myself? Many current entrepreneurs have started their businesses with very little money, just a positive attitude and some basic business skills.
A 2:2 is not the end of the world. Alumni from across the University of London have done very well in life despite their 2:2 degrees. It may seem like it’s a barrier but, by thinking differently, it shouldn’t be a major disadvantage. When I last published a version of this post, this lovely comment was left:
As someone who got a 2:2 I thought that was it in terms of any ideas about continuing to study.
I had no idea there were graduate schemes to go on. Thank you
Similarly, whilst graduate schemes will generally be closed to those with degree levels lower than 2:2, it doesn’t mean that the company is. You may just need to work your way up from a lower level. But it’s still very achievable. You need to play to your strengths to compensate for your lower level degree.
Graduates can continue to get careers support from their colleges in the University of London Careers Group by joining Gradclub.
This is an updated version of this previous post.
Interviews, employability and skills , add a comment
Coping with rejection after rejection was harder than climbing Everest itself. That was one of the messages that Royal Holloway alumnus Tori James shared with students when she returned to the campus recently. Tori was the youngest British woman, and first Welsh woman, to climb Everest. For her, the task was 90% mental attitude, 10% physical strain. But the constant rejection from corporate sponsors kept eroding her spirit, making the project so much more challenging.
At the same event, a final year student mentioned that he increasingly felt bitter with all the rejection letters – and more so when there was no response at all. Similarly, there was immense frustration for one student that had passed five of six stages in a selection process, had invested many hours of substantial research, self development and practice, to fail so close to the end. It can be very hard to pick yourself up from that. Tori’s message was that you had to pick yourself up and keep going, but finding mechanisms to help is a little bit more tricky.
I’m aware that despite writing this post, I haven’t mastered any technique either. The last time I failed to secure a position it took me months, literally, to get over it. With rejections following rejections, it should be natural to develop a thick skin and move on, but the reality is that rejection can hurt. This first advice is always to remember that rejection is not personal. But it usually feels that way…. (more…)