Why Recruiters want to get rid of you!

A recent report published by The Times highlights a fact about the recruitment process every job seeker would do well to remember.

It is this: when a recruiter receives a pile of CVs, he or she does not scan through looking for the right persons to invite to an interview – but for reasons to the reject the candidate.

It is a filtering process designed to get rid of applicants. Only then does the real selection process begin.

Graduates who make spelling or grammatical mistakes on their CVs therefore make it easy for recruiters to toss their CVs onto the reject pile.

How equipped are you to find a graduate job?

This fact was brought the forefront when The Times commissioned a piece of research looking at how well equipped law students are when it comes to finding a job after university. It found that as many as three out of four don’t even get to the interview stage.

The significance of the research is that these were graduates looking for a career in the challenging area of law – but the CV mistakes they make are just as common and equally injurious to a career in other areas of industry.

The top reasons for a CV to be rejected included poor spelling and grammar, and using text speak, but students also often got rejected for getting the name of the company wrong, or detailing services that the company doesn’t even offer.

This all comes as no surprise to us at Graduate Coach because as many as 85 per cent of the CVs we see have at least one grammatical error, something easily corrected by a simple proofread before sending it off. We’ve found that after helping these graduates with their CVs, 80 per cent of them get an interview first time around.

Other common CV mistakes we see – and that recruiters hate

  1. They don’t highlight relevant experience – graduates frequently fail to relate achievements and skills to the job they are applying for.
  2. They don’t include transferable experience – graduates leave out other experiences gained elsewhere that could be useful to the job.
  3. They ignore soft skills – given the value employers place on attributes such as teamwork, business awareness and teach-ability, it astonishes me that candidates rarely emphasise employability skills on their CVs.
  4. Too much emphasis on qualifications – the saying that one should always put ones best foot forward is true when it comes to CV writing: candidates should always emphasise experiences and achievements first, as opposed to educational qualifications. The employer is more interested in the type of work experience you’ve had.
  5. Research – no one has ever done enough research on a company! This little act would eliminate the embarrassment of talking about services the company doesn’t offer, or getting the company name wrong.

How to impress recruiters: stand out at every stage

Another finding by the report is that graduates often spend more time preparing for one part of the interview process than another, when actually the  “person who wins the offer of a contract is the one who shines at each stage, from initial application to final interview”.

It is true that a graduate who invests in making small improvements to each area of his or her job finding skills is more likely to stand out against one who is strong in one area but weak in the others.

Other great advice given by the report includes ensuring your personality shines through, willingness to do the ‘grunt work’, not coming across as though people owe you something, and showing that you can cope with disappointments.

Why a third of young people turn to parents for career advice and help finding a job.

With nearly a third of young people turning to parents for career advice and asking for help finding a job. It raises the question what kind of career advice are they asking for and why are so many needing to turn to their parents for help.

Here are three pieces of career advice graduates ask their parents for.

Young people aged 18 to 30 are on a slow road to independence with nearly a third of turning to their parents for help to find a job.

According to a Co-op report, this age group increasingly relies on parents for everything from cash to pay for essentials like food, clothing and birthday gifts to advice to help them choose a car, a home and a bank.

But the most popular requests for help from 18 to 30 year olds, after transportation and help with chores like ironing, are for education and study support (not so surprising) and to find a job (a little more surprising). Twenty-six and 27 per cent respectively do so.

The report says a third of young people feel financially dependent on their parents and unable to support themselves without help from family and friends. As we near the completion of the first academic year since the increase in the cost of university places (now in the region of £60k, or 250k with a public school education), requests for parental support will no doubt increase but the figures released by the Co-op can also help us to understand what kind of advice jobseekers are asking their parents for.

1. Competition for graduate jobs

Young people have said they feel there is a lack of opportunity in the jobs market and increased numbers of people competing for each job. The Co-op quotes figures that show that there are more than three jobseekers per job vacancy across the UK: Graduate Coach believes this figure is hugely inflated when it comes graduate level vacancies, with around a whopping 160 applications for each position advertised.

2. Graduates struggle to find a job that matches their degree

The report paints a picture of jobseekers turning to their parents for help because they are finding themselves either in the wrong career or job, or because they feel they are earning thousands of pounds less than they expected to after graduating.

The report shows that 16 per cent don’t feel they have a job that matches their qualifications yet, 18 per cent are unhappy in their present job, and 35 per cent said they found it difficult to get their first job as an adult to match their level of education. It shows that finding the right job is a skill in itself.

3. Graduates don’t feel they are being paid enough

When it comes to the amount young people are earning, they complain that this is up to £7k less than they expected to earn following graduation – although a study by the Education and Employers Taskforce showed that this is often due to unrealistic expectations over the levels of pay a graduate can expect for different types of jobs.

4. What graduates are really asking for is help to find the right job

All of the above can be summarised by this: graduates need specialised support to help them find the type of jobs that reflect the level of educational investment they have made. The right job. One in 20 (five per cent) are currently completing an unpaid internship to try to develop the skills and experience prospective employers see as essential so that they can step onto that career ladder but the competitive nature of our graduate recruitment market shows that as many as 31 per cent feel stressed about trying to find a job. As well as help to find the right internship so they can develop the essential skills and experience they need, graduates clearly also need help with other job finding skills like CV writing, company research skills and interview skills.

Resources for parents:

3 reasons why a 2:2 with Work Experience has more Job Clout than a First

Does a graduate have to choose one or the other, a first class degree or a lesser grade with a deeper awareness of life? Scientist Lord Winston seems to think so.

His view that he would never employ a graduate with a first because it indicates a narrow approach to life perhaps may not hold much water if your career goal is academia but if you are looking for a job in say banking, finance, marketing or advertising life skills do matter as well.

Here are 3 reasons why we say that a 2:2 with work experience has more job clout than a first class degree.

1. The amount of non-academic experience you need depends on where you want your career to go.

According to a Telegraph poll, a second class honours neither aided nor prevented people like celebrity presenter Esther Rantzen, BBC business editor Robert Preston and author Fay Weldon from progressing with their careers, but the latter did say that the two students awarded with a first in her economics class went on to become Mrs Thatcher’s top economists – so clearly the first helped though we do not know what other skills or experience these grads had to offer.

2. A degree alone will not help you, and a poor one can strip your confidence.

Many of the celebs and business people asked by the Telegraph about how their second class degree aided them in life didn’t think that it made much difference other than to make them feel a tinge of shame. Others confessed that as they didn’t spend much time studying at uni they got what they deserved. It certainly didn’t make them feel more endowed with the skills and knowledge needed for the world of work.

3. It’s what you add to your degree that counts.

Part of the reason for this underlying sense of shame or regret is down to what they spent their time doing while they weren’t studying. Those with the biggest regrets spent it partying, boozing or chasing members of the opposite sex. What they did agree on as being helpful is that when it comes to finding a job and progressing in your career, hard work, enthusiasm and persistence are what counts, whether that’s toward obtaining a first class degree to help with your academic career or in settling for a 2:2 so that you can spend more time acting in drama productions, leading student union campaigns for better conditions or joining the university’s student rag as a writer, financier or marketer.

So is there some truth in Lord Winston’s view? Certainly. Employers are looking for people with character and personality who can demonstrate that they can bring something unique to the job. There are too many graduates competing for the same position for a person to rely exclusively on their degree alone with no work experience, especially when it comes to the top jobs.

It remains questionable, however, whether a graduate cannot have the best of both worlds: must a graduate forgo a good degree in exchange for vital experience and verse visa? Former politician Jonathan Aitken, who returned to Oxford to read Theology at the age of 58 and got a first, thinks one can have both.

Why the Westminster School auctioned internships are a waste of parents’ money

When Westminster School came up with the idea to auction off 22 prestigious internships at some of the top companies in England it probably thought this charitable effort would be applauded. After all, the £600 a pop bids is to raise thousands to repair school buildings and for bursaries for pupils whose parents cannot afford the full fees.

The auction is instead being criticised for giving privileged children – whose parents can afford to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds for an internship at a top bank such as Coutts.

But surely there is another much more fundamental point that we believe has been overlooked. These internships are to run for just a week or two and as such offer insufficient time for a 6th former to pick up any meaningful experience, skill or knowledge.

Have we lost sight of the purpose of an internship? Isn’t the purpose of an internship to help a person develop the vital experience they need to get a job?

A couple of years ago the Conservatives were criticised for a black and white fundraiser where week-long internships at top companies were sold for £2000 and £3000 each to raise cash for the party. So the practice of wealthy parents paying for their son or daughter to get experience isn’t uncommon, but it is a waste of their money if all that the graduate receives is a week shadowing some lawyer or MP.

These are not proper internships. A 6th former  would gain more from electing to do some volunteer work instead. At least then they would learn about important stuff such as teamwork and communication – which develop the real values employers seek. A graduate would gain experience that they could actually list on their CV. Graduates need knowledge of how an organisation works and how to get on. And you don’t have to pay anything to get that.

In the US, just a few months ago, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights charity fundraiser attracted a bid of $22,000 for an internship at the UN.

It may be way beyond what most can afford to pay but at least the length of the internship was for six weeks, sufficient opportunity for the intern to pick up the type of skills and knowledge that can be of some use to his or her career once the internship is over.

Most people agree that the purpose of an internship is to help a person get the experience they need to kick-start their career, and that is something that we should not lose sight of.

No doubt the present campaign to end the practice of unpaid internships, and to ensure people are paid at least the minimum wage, will succeed, and so it should. Every graduate should be able to have the opportunity to get the experience they need after leaving university.

At Graduate Coach we only offer paid internships so that the people we coach can focus on building really valuable skills and experience, get their career off the ground and have their contribution to the company, even as they learn, recognised as it should be.