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Getting into a graduate recruitment scheme is as easy as ABC...


A: Your Application

Everything has a starting point, and this is the same for anyone applying for any graduate roles. You need to ensure that every 'i' is dotted and every 't' crossed. Don't worry about being a perfectionist here as this is what is going to make you stand out. Photocopy any application forms and use it to help you test that there is enough room to say what you want to get over to any prospective employer.

B: Being Prepared

Let us assume that you have applied for a few roles - the hope here is that you are going to be contacted by agencies or employers so be sure that you are close to your phone or check your e-mail regularly. There is nothing more frustrating and off-putting than someone who takes days to get back to them. This is not a good start for any career! It is also beneficial being prepared for any questions that you might be asked, so have some answers ready. Write these answer down so it is clear what you want to say, but whatever you do, never just read from a script as this will come across as someone who can't communicate properly. Think about those annoying sales calls you get where you can tell what is being said is scripted - it's hardly enticing!

C: Your CV

You can never put enough time and effort into your CV. This is one of the strongest selling tools you will have to hand. Remember that you might be up against many other graduates, so you have to ensure you 'sell yourself' as effectively as possible. Write your CV then spend as long as necessary fine tuning it. If you were reading it, would you lose interest because there is too much 'waffle'? Does my enthusiasm for my preferred role come across quickly? Am I seen to be a friendly, interesting, reliable and personable individual who can communicate effectively? Don't be afraid to seek professional advise if you think you need is as there are companies out there who specialise in writing professional CV's. Finally, ensure our CV is not too long - if it runs past two pages, there is too much there and you will need to think about trimming it down.

D: Be Determined

Part of being prepared is not being disheartened by rejections, as it is unlikely you will receive positive responses every time. However, be determined and see any rejection as one door closed allowing another to be opened. Opportunities will come your way as long as you stay focused and don't give up.

E: Be Enthusiastic

In today's graduate market, you need to be seen to be an enthusiastic individual regarding your course, career prospects, hobbies and interests. A short, snappy summary that is going to catch someone's eye is going to gain you valuable points when it comes to being considered. Whilst at any interviews be positive about everything, even the negatives! This might sound a little confusing but if, for example, you didn't enjoy one of your courses, then find something positive to say about it because no-one likes negative individuals.

F: First Impressions Count

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression"...

You might have heard this a thousand times, but it is absolutely true. The moment you walk into any agency or employers premises, ensure that you greet everyone with a smile and try not to look nervous. Speak clearly, stand up straight and don't walk around with your hands in your pockets. Never assume, even if an office is 'dress down', that you should turn up in anything other than a suit. Nothing sends off bad vibes like meeting someone who has turned up in jeans and a t-shirt. Avoid garlic or spicy food for 24 hours before an interview or meeting because you will be sitting across from someone - they don't want to smell bad odours during their time with you. Finally, remember to always off a handshake - make it firm but try not to squeeze. A firm handshake is a sign of confidence.

G: Graduate Websites

The internet has hundreds of useful websites such as Prospects, or jobs and advice from TargetJobs. Make the most of these resources as they are well researched and trusted by thousands of individuals. your place of study should also be able to make recommendations for you to look at.

H: Ask for Help

Never be afraid to do this - everyone needs some help from time to time and there are so many places to find it. The Internet is probably the first port of call - the largest and most valuable resource on the planet! However, there is no replacement for experience so ask others who have recently been through the same process and gather all the information you can. You might also find advice and reading material at your local library or careers advice centre.

I: The Interview

This is the moment that all of your study and prep work has been for and whilst nerve wracking for some, there are ways to help yourself here. Firstly, practice - this might seem a little odd and how do you practice for an interview? Simply ask a friend or family member to take you through a mock interview. The easiest way to do this is to write out a series of questions you think you might get asked, hand this over and get them to ask you. Remember to ask for constructive criticism as this will help you 'polish' your answers.

The actual interview is your time to shine and many individuals like to be given the opportunity to tell others how competent they are. Write down all of your positive points - ask others to give you positive words to describe you.

In the actual interview, remember that "first impressions count". Never cross your legs or put your hands behind your head and when listening and talking, always maintain eye contact, but don't stare so intently that it starts to look spooky! Don't twiddle your hands or gaze around the room - this shows someone who is nervous or who doesn't believe what they are saying. Remember to greet everyone with a smile and firm handshake. There are many more websites and resources on how to conduct yourself in an interview - search for "interview etiquette" or "how to conduct yourself in an interview".

J: The Journey

First and foremost, never get to your appointment late, and if you do, you had better have a good reason for it. If you think you are going to be late, call ahead and ask if this will still be OK to attend. To avoid this situation, leave yourself plenty of time and have your route planned well in advance. Remember it is better to get there early than not at all.

K: Armed with Knowledge

Nothing shows someone is keen than when you are asked the question "what do you know about us?" and have the answer. This shows you have researched and prepared and are keen to get the job. Employers love this! Perhaps have questions prepared around this, for example "I can see you operate throughout the UK, but do you have any plans to expand beyond this?" This shows you have researched them and are thinking ahead.

L: Listen Intently

The first point here is to listen for subtleties in the questions asked. An employer's tone can sometimes give an indication as to the sort of response they are hoping for. The second point is to focus on what is being asked as any interviewer is not going to want to repeat themselves. However, if you don't understand a question, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. It is better than giving the wrong answer because you weren't sure of what they meant.

M: Motivation

What is your motivation for applying for a particular job? Is it money? Are there perks you like? Do you just need a job? Whatever your reasons, always remain motivated when it comes to applying and then if you actually do get the job. However, ensure that you will be happy in your work as an unhappy employee can find it tough to remain motivated.

N: Don't be Nervous

If you weren't a little nervous or apprehensive before an interview, you wouldn't be human! This is very common, but try not to let it consume you. Before you go, take a few deep breaths and give yourself some positive thoughts and messages. Tell yourself that you will do well, you will be confident and you have done your research into the company. Think about the positives - even if you don't get the job, every interview is experience for you. This is a huge plus! If you don't get the job, don't be too down about it, and if you don't ask for some constructive feedback regarding why - this will help you the next time round.

O: Online Resources

The Internet is the largest resource available to you. Even if you don't have access at home, there are always libraries and cyber cafes where you can go. Find as many sites, job boards and recruitment agencies as you can and be prepared to busy yourself reading, applying and contacting them. The more work you put in at this stage, the more opportunities will fall in your lap.

P: Psychometric Testing

Here is one thing that it is hard to prepare for. Psychometric testing has been developed to let an employer complete a psychological profile of you. Just answer truthfully and try not to second guess what the outcome of a particular question is.

Q: Ask Questions

Any interviewer would be very surprised if you have no questions at all, so prepare some to take along with you. Don't be worried about just writing these down to remind you when you are in there - this just shows you are prepared. However, if the salary or benefits have not been discussed and you wish to know more about this, it is worthwhile making sure it is your last question - don't ask just this.

R: Handling Rejection

It is impossible at the start to know what the outcome of an interview is going to be - even if you feel very confident! The thing to do here is go in and understand that you are just going to do your best. Rejection doesn't always mean you did badly - it can simply be that someone else had more appropriate skills for the role. If you find yourself in this position, don't worry about asking for feedback because this can be used to better yourself next time round.

S: Salary (and Benefits)

When looking at any job, don't look just at the basic salary. There might be a host of benefits in there that could bump the value of a package up for you. Things to look out for are cars, health insurance, pensions, stocks and shares, mobile phones, laptops, holidays, etc. These can all change what a salary package is actually worth.

T: Training for the Job

Many employers like to ensure that you will be able to undertake your role effectively so it is worthwhile asking the question and if training is provided for you. Not only can this benefit you for your current job, but also your future prospects as well. Any future employers like to see qualified personnel. However, some organisations will tie you into a contracted period where if you leave within so long of receiving training, you must pay them the cost of the course(s) back again.

U: Understand the Role

If an employer is talking to you about something and you don't understand, ask questions. They would much prefer that you ask in the interview than get to the end and not be clear about what was discussed. If you don't ask questions, you might find yourself in a position where the job isn't offered to you because your response was incorrect or in a job with an activity you didn't fully understand and don't enjoy.

V: Value Yourself

Never go into an interview thinking that you are not going to get the job. A negative interview like this can not only lead to low self esteem, but it can also come over to the interviewer as well - something you really want to avoid. The truth of the matter is that you have no idea if you are going to get the job when you walk in, but you certainly shouldn't go in thinking that you aren't. Be positive and this will come across in how you conduct and carry yourself through the interview process.

W: Work Experience

During gap years or holidays, it is very possible you have had some work experience. Potential employers like to see this sort of thing so make sure you mention this on your CV and in any interviews you attend. If you are looking at work experience then see if you can find somewhere that is going to fall within the areas you wish to work.

X: X-tra Information

Whatever you do, never waffle or 'go-on' in an interview. By all means exchange pleasantries if this conversation is instigated by the interviewer but understand that they are going to be busy so keep answers on-topic and straight to the point. Never give away more information than you need to either - there is nothing worse for an interviewer than to get answers to questions they didn't ask.

Y: Sell Yourself

In many ways, an interview is a like a sales pitch - you are selling yourself, your skills and abilities to the company in question. Everyone has a different set of skills and yours should be expressed where possible. However, don't just tell them all about your best points, unless asked a questions like "why do you think you would be good for this job?" Keep it professional and make sure you don't sound like you are bragging or showing off.

Z: Catch up on 'Z's'

The night before any interview is always going to make you feel stressful, but you need to find ways to relax and get plenty of sleep so you feel sharp and ready for the day ahead. There are a few ways to do this, but contrary to popular belief, hitting the pub or having a "few" whiskey's is not the way to go. There are many ways to relax the mind such as Yoga, taking a walk, going to the gym, avoid drinking coffee, listening to relaxing music and finally, being prepared. If you are fully prepared, that removes all worries about getting ready, having done your research and getting to your appointment on time.


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