Our Top Ten Posts of 2012 December 20, 2012Posted by TCG Info in : CVs, Industry Focus, Interviews, Right side of the Law, Skills and Competencies, career profiles, employability and skills, networking , add a comment
We’ve had a busy year here at Develop your career. We’ve covered loads of career topics like internships, avoiding job scams, networking and, of course, CVs and applications.
If you’re new to Develop your Career, or simply can’t remember all the posts you’ve read in the last twelve months. Here are our top ten most popular posts of 2012
We’re away for vacation now but will return with a new post on 3 January 2013. Do let us know if there are any topics you’d like us to cover in 2013.
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.
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.
Group Exercises for Assessment Centres April 9, 2012Posted by Kirsti Burton in : Selection Process, The Careers Group Blogs, employability and skills , add a comment
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
Group exercises play an important role in assessment centres because they allow recruiters to see how well you perform and communicate with others as part of a team. The most common type of exercise is a group discussion where you need to tackle a given topic with other candidates, whilst being closely observed by the assessors. Here are some things they will be looking at:
Your Contribution to the Discussion
- Initiating the discussion or bringing in new ideas
- Asking questions to keep the conversation going
- Suggesting a solution or answer to a challenging issue
- Inviting the contribution and support of other team members.
How You Interact with Others
- Paying close attention to other people’s opinions
- Encouraging contributions and supporting others’ points
- Using colleagues’ contributions to either paraphrase or add to them
- Constructively presenting counter-arguments for other members
- Asking questions to clarify others’ claims.
How You Helped the Group
- Tactfully avoiding digressions or bringing the discussion back to topic
- Reinforcing awareness of both goals and time constraints
- Diplomatically seeking to deflect tensions or conflict between participants
- Summarising the discussion as a whole
- Gaining agreement and reaching a consensus within the group.
At the same time, the employers will be looking out for negative behaviour which can impact the group as a whole. Be sure you avoid:
- Lack of participation or disengagement with the topic
- Off-topic contributions or comments
- Ignoring or not paying attention to other candidates’ opinions
- Interrupting or talking over other participants
- Disagreeing with or dismissing someone’s contribution without justification
- Behaving aggressively and trying to dominate the discussion.
Assessment Centres – Group exercises January 26, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : employability and skills , add a comment
Continuing our blog posts on assessment centres, group exercises are commonly used by recruiters. They are used to determine how candidates behave in team or group situations.
Typically they will consider:
- How effective are you at communicating with people you do not know.
- How you present your own views or argument
- Do you assume a natural leadership role?
- Are you competitive?
- How persistent are you in convincing people?
- Can you negotiate?
- Do you encourage others?
Not all of these are positive qualities. Companies are looking for team-players as well as leaders; being competitive is good only if it is productive; do you know when you are wrong or when somebody else has a valuable contribution to make?, do you listen? Listening is as much a part of communicating and speaking. Employers look for a range of different qualities in their staff.
This is usually an assessed discussion with a small number of candidates – usually about 8. Candidates will receive a short briefing paper and will be asked to come up with a team response to the question posed.
This can also take the form of a case-study where the group is presented with a dossier of information about a client and the group needs to make recommendations about how the company can help the client.
Role play is used to place a candidate in a hypothetical situation and see how they respond. Of course the situation is contrived but the closer you get to thinking as a real employee should, the better.
Assessment Centres are a key part of the recruitment and selection process. You may not feel confident about them but you can prepare in advance and build your confidence up. The careers centre can help through one-to-one coaching, DVDs and printed materials, skills development workshops and practical advice. We have even been known to help students understand etiquette and prepare for formal dinners and functions which formed part of their selection process (some Investment Banks and armed services invite candidates to formal dinners). If you feel you are a bit stuck, drop by and see us!
Assessment Centres: Wonderful presentations January 23, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Skills and Competencies, employability and skills, training contract , 1 comment so far
If you have been to an Assessment Centre you may have been asked to give a presentation. As your career progresses, you will probably deliver many as they are increasingly a part of the work environment. Most students will have delivered presentations as part of their course, but being asked to speak for twenty minutes on your own can be a bit more daunting.
Developing presentation skills could enhance your career through increasing confidence with clients, benchmarking your talents above colleagues for promotion, helping you to listen more effectively to presentations you attend. Presenting and public speaking can be, for some people, their career but for many it will form an aspect of how they deliver their work.
In as Assessment Centre you may be asked either to
- Prepare in advance a 15 minute presentation on a specific topic
- Collaborate with others to deliver a presentation on a topic given on the day
- Individual presentation given on the day
These are quite different tasks. The second may focus less on content but more on team-work, decision making, working under pressure and presentation style. The third will look at presentation style but also your communication technique. Previous examples of this have included:
- Tell us about yourself and what you can offer this organisation (5 minutes, a very open subject).
- Why I enjoy Latin-American dancing (10 minutes, chosen by the employer from information given on
the application form).
- Choose a science topic, currently in the news, of interest to pupils aged 11 years (15 minutes,
interview for teacher training course).
If you are given a topic in advance, they would typically require evidence of independent research and they will consider the approach you take to the presentation.
You need to consider:
- Who is the audience? Are they “in character” as clients?
- What information would the audience need?
- What visual aids best illustrate the point?
- What could you do in your presentation and research to make you stand out?
- How creative can you be in your approach?
The DOs and DONTs of a Successful Interview January 17, 2012Posted by Kirsti Burton in : Interviews, Selection Process , 1 comment so far
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
You’ve worked hard on your application and have spent days of compulsively checking your email hoping for a reply. Finally hear back from the company and, surprise, surprise, you’ve been invited for invited for an interview!
First of all, congratulations! Getting invited for an interview means you’re in the last stages of the recruitment process and the employer is really interested in you. However, don’t take this for granted – the interview is vital in convincing the employer you’re the right person for the job. Ensure you make the most of this opportunity to really sell yourself and give the right impression. Here are some tips:
- Pay attention to the interviewer and give specific, focused answers to their questions.
- Use the STAR technique when asked to provide examples of your skills and experience: Situation, Task, Action and Result.
- Highlight your achievements and talk about those skills that make you stand out (motivation, hard work, leadership, etc).
- Use facts and figures to give a tangible impression of your successes.
- Give varied examples of what’s outstanding about you: perhaps you led a university project or were involved in a rock-climbing society. Anything out of the ordinary that helped you gain new skills.
- Be truthful, but stay positive. Talk about your weaknesses and failures, but focus on what you’ve learned and how they made you a better candidate.
- Be enthusiastic and show your genuine interest in the job!
- Give yes or no answers. The interviewer wants to see why they should hire you, so expand on your answer and give details about yourself.
- Digress or go off topic – while giving specific answers is fine, getting caught up in convoluted explanations isn’t!
- Make things up! The interviewer might ask for further details of your little fib, and it’s easy to lose track of what you’re saying!
- Forget to mention university projects or extra-curricular activities as examples of skills and competencies. Employers want ‘well-rounded’ people who have been involved in all aspects of university life.
- Be overly modest! If you feel you’ve achieved something extraordinary, don’t hesitate to talk about it! Employers will appreciate your confidence and initiative.
- At the same time, don’t be arrogant about your skills! Too much self-confidence will give off the wrong impression – so be realistic!
- Be afraid to ask questions. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
For further help on how to prepare and to see a list of interview questions see the resources page of our website. You can also book to see a Careers Consultant to practice answering some questions.
Raluca Maria Chereji
2nd year French and politics student at Queen Mary
Assessment Centres – E-tray January 16, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Psychometric and Personality testing, employability and skills , 1 comment so far
We recently posted about assessment centre. There are several exercises that candidates undertake.
E-tray exercises are timed and they are designed to test your ability for rational thinking under pressure. The usually consist of you receiving information about an issue and you having to determine an outcome. However you may not get all the information at once and, as the test progresses, information comes through faster and more urgently, making the decision making process harder.
You will usually be required to make some basic calculations, extract relevant data and make a judgement. However they often provide you with too much data and try to mislead you with irrelevant information. Some tests require you to formulate a response to a customer or managerial enquiry based only on the relevant information provided.
So what are they looking for? They will be wanting somebody who keeps to the brief and does what is required of them. You should be able to identify the key issues and then justify the decision you make using them. Employers want to see good quality structured writing with appropriate style, spelling and grammar.
E-tray exercises are changing. SHL, one of the leading providers of testing resources for recruiters, have devloped the Fast Track test which is currently being introduced by some employers. For example, Royal Bank of Scotland has adopted a new SHL test called Fast Track. This is a new type of e-tray exercise and a post about this will be published on this blog on Thursday.
Assessment centres are changing. Some of the exercises that have been used for years are being replaced with newer versions. Companies like SHL and Morrisby have been developing new products to meet the changing needs of their clients, graduate recruiters.
One such product is the Fast Track Exercise currently being used by RBS. There isn’t much information available about these exercises so I thought it would be useful to blog about them. There is limited information available on these test yet but you may want to book-mark the tag on Wikijobs and keep up to date. Have a look at these candidate reviews of Fast Track tests.
Assessment Centres January 9, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Interviews, Psychometric and Personality testing, employability and skills , add a comment
The typical application process for a Graduate Training Scheme would be: Online Application Form, Online Psychometric Tests, telephone interview, assessment centre, final interview followed by the job offer. As you can see it can be a lengthy process with each element being crucial to the overall application. Not all companies run this process and many will not include the telephone interview but rather have the first interview at the assessment centre.
Employers like assessment centres because they believe they can assess the practical skills required to do the job whilst giving candidates the opportunity to show their strengths. Employers believe assessment centres can help to remove bias in the selection process. Another benefit is that they can compare candidates with each other more easily.
The criteria you are assessed on should be the same core competencies that were covered when you applied for the job. Assessors will use a table to score you on each of those competencies. But they are also looking as you, how will you fit into their company, how capable are you of presenting a professional image to clients and external stakeholders?
You should attend the Assessment Centre wearing smart business attire – and that means well polished shoes too! Remember, you want to act professional so the employers can visualise you in their workplace.
So what happens at the Assessment Centre?
This really does depend on the company or organisation you are applying to. Most Assessment Centres take place in corporate offices or hotels and usually last a whole day, some may be over two days (e.g. some investment banks, JWT). The centre is often the first time that the company sees you so it is essential to make the right impression. You will attend the centre with other candidates and that can be intimidating for some people. You should bear in mind that you may not be competing with the other candidates because they might be applying for slightly different roles or locations. Throughout the day the staff should make you feel at ease and you will have regular refreshments and usually lunch provided. Remember that whilst these breaks aren’t assessed they do present the employers with an idea of how the candidate behaves so remember to be nice and sociable with staff and other candidates!
A good recent account of a candidate attending the Ernst & Young assessment centre can be found on Wikijob.
The centre will run several exercises and the staff will assess each candidate based on their performance. You may also be asked to do further psychometric tests – companies do this to verify your performance in the online tests. Some employers will only re-run the psychometric tests on a selection of candidates as a sample of overall reliability.
Typical exercises include delivering presentations, business games, in-tray (or e-tray) and group exercises. Over the next few posts we’ll consider these. There are also lots of resources available to help.
How will you measure up? May 16, 2011Posted by Information Officer in : Interviews , add a comment
Originally posted at International Futures
*****Be aware this content is over two years old*****
Ok, imagine this: there’s a door ahead of you. What happens behind that door can be a life changing experience, and you will remember your first. You will be expected to perform and be compared to others. When you leave you may feel shattered, elated or confused. Can you live up to expectation?
Despite the development of intricate competency based assessments, psychometric and personality tests, it is often still the interview that determines whether you get offered a job. So what can you do in forty-five minutes to win over an interview panel?
Perhaps a better way to think of it is if you were interviewing candidates for the post, what would you need them to do to win you over? How would you differentiate between several candidates with pretty much the same level of experience?
Preparation is fundamental to interview success. Interviewers are more impressed with company and sector specific knowledge than general references to the recession! What makes this company different from its competitors? Why do you want the job? Many employers will tell you what skills they are looking for. Make sure you have two or three strong examples of how you demonstrated them.
The benefits of research can be compromised by inadequate planning. Students often underestimate how long it takes to get across London. Make sure you arrive twenty minutes early so plan your route beforehand. Think about what you should wear – just because an office allows its staff to wear jeans and t-shirts doesn’t mean the candidates can.
If you have an interview coming up you can book a practice interview at your careers centre. These one-to-one sessions cover everything from body language to anxiety, skills answers to etiquette. Careers Services often run workshops on interview technique. You also find some resources on our Working in the UK page.