Recently, I found myself sifting through hundreds of CVs submitted in response to an opening in my company for a university graduate. The calibre of applicants was exceptional, and my job was made doubly hard as I imagined my own daughter in front of me; wanting her first chance in the working world; and hoping that another employer would see the potential in her, as I was doing for each, and every one of the candidates that had applied for the open position.
In this article, I am going to share a few tips from my role as an interviewer, for those of you who may be applying for graduate schemes in the near future!
Starting applying early!
In many companies like mine, the Graduate Scheme opens a year in advance of the start date, which makes the end of the second year/start of your final year, the perfect time to apply. However, why wait until then? Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies and enquire about the possibility of a summer internship, work placement, or even just a taster day. In this way, you can get an insight into what it is like working for that company and may also be able to build up your connections that could support your recruitment down the line. It also looks great on your CV/cover letter.
Follow the instructions on the job advertisement!
My job advertisement requested an up-to-date CV and covering letter. Most candidates did this, but some did not, and whilst their applications were still considered for the position, it did make their application stand out, for the wrong reason!
Your application is the first opportunity to stand out, and in another company, the lack of a cover letter (if requested), could be a key deciding factor on whether you are invited for an interview or not. So, read the instructions!
Also, make sure your CV is up-to-date, and that it only contains skills and experience relevant to the position you have applied for. Remember you probably will not have much experience so focus on your transferable skills, and importantly, how they make you right for the job. In the interview itself, do not be afraid to back this up with real-life examples – maybe from university, work, or even hobbies that you enjoy doing – no matter how trivial they may sound.
Do your research
Companies want to employ the right person for the job – but you need to make sure that the role is the right one for you, or offers you what you require in terms of career progression. Company websites, review sites such as glassdoor, and social media are all great places to learn more about a company. However, please do not repeat this information in an interview when asked about why you want to work for the company. One candidate proceeded to tell me how many employees were in my company, the sites in which we operated, etc, but I was not interested in knowing this, I wanted to know why the candidate felt this was the right company for them.
Remember your carbon footprint
With more and more of us creating blog posts or having some form of social media, it is important that you are aware of your personal brand – the way you present yourself and are perceived, which includes any online, public profiles you may have. Inconsistency in your personal brand – perhaps if you are very opinionated on your Twitter account, could lead to concerns about your character and suitability for the job role.
Don’t give up…
Finally, graduate schemes are extremely competitive – which means that you might be unsuccessful on several occasions, but don’t give up and don’t limit your applications to the bigger companies, there are some great, smaller organisations out there.
In my search for a graduate, we narrowed down the number of candidates to five and brought them in for an assessment centre. Unfortunately, there was only one position, so we made sure to provide all the candidates with feedback on their performance. If a company does not offer this, do not be afraid to reach out, thanking them for the opportunity and asking for feedback. In this way, you can improve your technique for the next time (if needed).
To let you into a secret, if I had five positions each candidate would have been successful. Each one was fantastic in their own right, all had areas to develop and grow (as expected), but the next generation is one to watch out for and I am super excited to meet the successful candidate again in the summer and when they have finally graduated from university.