How to win Interviews

It is obvious that competition in the graduate recruitment market is increasing. In 2010, the number of applicants for each graduate entry position was 85. Three years later there are 160 graduates chasing each job.

So if competition for graduate jobs is increasing, what does that say about the way graduates go about preparing themselves to get a job? Clearly, if you want to win that job, as the battle heats up, so must your tactics.

The battlefield is just the place where the winning strategies for getting the job is played out; it is the preparation before you get there that matters.

As a graduate coach, everyday I meet and speak to young people who are woefully unprepared for the tough task of winning in the interview room. They blunder through the whole process and then hope they get the job, and in so doing they risk their chances of getting it. If you really want to get a good graduate job the simple and obvious truth is that you need to ensure you are more skilfully prepared at every stage, from beginning to end, than the next equally qualified candidate.

If you are a graduate looking for a good job you need to

  • Be clear on what you have to offer an employer so that you can make the most of every opportunity that comes your way
  • Understand what the interviewer wants before you get into the interview room so that you can convince them you’re the right person.

These are advantages that can be developed and nurtured through career coaching, CV writing, carrying out research and lots of practice on how to answer and ask questions well. If you do your homework in each of these areas, then you will be a whole lot more confident in the interview room.

Small improvements in your job findings skills make a big difference

In a speech on doing all you can do to become all you can be, the entrepreneur Mac Anderson quotes a law of science that says that at 211 degrees water is very hot, but at 212 is boils – just one degree difference turns it into the steam that powers a locomotive.

Another example can be seen in the training approach adopted by GB cycling coach Dave Brailsford. He trained the Olympic team by focusing on small incremental gains on every dimension. In total Dave monitored 15

different ‘ridermetrics’ to ensure that going into a race the cyclists are just that little bit better at everything than everyone else.

Similarly, if you want to get the job you have to do your prep, and then some. You have to do that bit more than the other candidates to create a lasting impression and memory in the interviewer.

It is this combination of lots of small improvements made across your job-finding skillset that places you miles above the next candidate. Improvement in one area will increase the chances of you making a greater impression at the interview. It is because your CV stands out that bit more above the others, because you are able to answer a question just that bit better, and because you know that bit more about the company, that you are able to present yourself as that bit stronger than the next best candidate. Taken together as a whole, these small improvements across your skillset make a significant difference.

People often underestimate the difference small improvements can make, but if you have one or two weak areas and the next candidate has none then you are more likely to be left behind. It might be painful to focus on your weak areas but that is where the greatest improvements are to be made. Your ultimate success depends on how well you do in all areas.

It is a matter of being just 3 per cent better than anyone else in a whole number of different ways. You don’t need to be massively better just better. That is what we help graduates to do here at Graduate Coach.

The State of Graduate Unemployment in the UK 2013 Infographic

Graduate Unemployment is at an all time high in the UK in 2013, with the outlook not looking good for today’s youth what can be done.

Figures call for a new approach to teaching graduates how to get a job

Tough competition in graduate recruitment calls for a new approach to our helping graduates find work, one that teaches them the rudiments of getting a graduate level job.

According to the latest figures from ONS almost 100,000 16 to 24 year olds are unemployed, and having a degree does not mean you fare any better.

Recent research from High Fliers shows that 19 per cent of graduates were unsuccessful at finding a graduate level position in 2011 and 36 per cent had given up altogether and settled for a lower skill role. The largest single majority end up in the retail or catering industry, and while some may develop sufficient experience to progress to management level many end up working as waiting and bar staff.

Barriers to getting a graduate job

The problem is that competition for graduate level jobs is tough. We face a recruitment market where only the best shine through. According to Gradweb’s latest recruitment insights report, employers report that they receive an average of 77 applications for each graduate level position advertised, up from 67 last year, but in some sectors, such as HR, this increases to a staggering 160 applications per vacancy.

Graduates also face difficulty when it comes to getting the experience they need to get started on the career ladder since 47 per cent of employers say they would not recruit a graduate with no experience. Those who graduate with anything below a 2:1 are at a greater disadvantage as more than three quarters of graduate employers set this as their minimum requirement.

Many graduates therefore see a bleak future when it comes to finding a graduate level job. Three quarters believe finding a job is harder than ever and one in five describe it as ‘unachievable’.

It’s not all bleak: the solution to getting a graduate level job

Yet employers want to employ more graduates and almost half say they expect to recruit more in 2013. Rather than a reason for despair the state of graduate unemployment in the UK simply shows that our approach to graduate employment needs to change. Graduates need proper practical job finding help in order to overcome these challenges, but most are not currently receiving this from their university career service.

Most universities see themselves as set up to provide just an education, but this view results in a mismatch when compared to the views of graduates, who go to university in order to improve their chances of getting a good job. According to research carried among employers by the CBI, graduates need just as much help in developing their employability skills – their ability to self manage, solve problems, understand the business environment and work well part of a team. They also need other employability skills like good communication and numeracy skills.

Teaching graduates proper job skills helps them get jobs

Graduates who are given this type of support, alongside the usual job findings skills like CV writing and interview skills, are far more likely to stand out from others to get the job they want.

Relocation may help too, since around 35 per cent of graduate level employment is in London and the South-East. Just over 10 per cent is in the North-West with the remainder spread across the rest of the UK.

Popular industries for graduate employment include the health and associate professions (13 per cent), the public sector, commercial and industrial fields (9 per cent), business and finance (8 per cent) and arts, media and culture (7 per cent). Six per cent of gradates are employed in education and the same in clerical and secretarial roles.

As the UK’s leading graduate coaching company, Graduate Coach takes a different approach to helping graduates to find graduate level roles. We focus on employability skills training, CV writing skills, interview skills training and one to one coaching to develop a graduate’s business awareness, confidence and communication skills. All of our graduates go on to secure a graduate level job position.

Graduate Unemployment in the UK 2013

At long last, something to wake up the universities

When financially strong universities like Salford, Cambridge and Exeter start cutting huge numbers of courses because of a drop in student applications it can only mean one thing: more will follow suit.

The huge hike in tuition fees are beginning to take their toll. Students are shunning degrees in subjects like history, English, politics and languages in favour of vocational courses that offer better job prospects and universities fear that it could lead to job losses of up to 95%. In some universities enrolment is down by as much as 43%.

The Sunday Times report shows that many universities around the UK are affected, including three in the Russell Group.

It spells bad news for the UK, especially with the threat against specialist courses which the vice-chancellor of Reading University, Sir David Bell, says is what helps to give UK universities “their unique character and help to support crucial research”.

Yet there is something universities can do to stem the tide. Something they should have been doing all along.

Help students get jobs!

Here are the facts

From our research over the last five years working with graduates we have learnt that:

  • 85% of students never enter their careers office: some universities have excellent careers support services but sadly these are rare. The vast majority of graduates say their university offered very little support to help them find a job.
  • 160 accepted applications for every job advertised: graduate recruitment is competitive with the average total of applications for each job thought to be closer to over 600. Since the majority of graduates have never been taught how to get a job they fair badly when it comes to finding one. Figures show that up to 350 applications are rejected simply because of spelling or grammatical errors.
  • 51% never get a graduate level job: sadly over half of those who go to university to get a degree never get a job that matches their level of qualification. Many graduates end up on low paid jobs that do not reflect the fact that they have spent three or more years studying at university.

Solution: Teach Graduates how to get a job!

Nobody is being taught the art and science of how to get a job and it baffles us that universities by and large don’t think it is their problem

With arts and specialist courses being cut, whole school departments being threatened with closure, and up to 95% of job losses on the horizon, perhaps it is time they thought differently – especially since they charge around £60k to get a degree.

The universities that will take this as a wake up call and start doing more to help their graduates get jobs will be able to avert the warning that comes from Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of Surrey University, who said that “The days of a very stable recruitment environment have changed, possibly for ever.”

4 ways James Caan is likely to have helped his children get jobs

Comments made by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur James Caan that parents shouldn’t help their children find jobs but leave them to map out their own way, is true in theory but unrealistic in practice.

This is evidently clear by the fact that his own two daughters work for companies he owns or has some investment in.

Caan does not deny that he had some involvement in the process. He says he is no different to any other parent who wants to help their children succeed but told BBC News that his daughters went through the same thorough and rigorous recruitment process as other candidates.

They would had to have been real horror stories for their father to dump their CVs in the reject pile!

How did James Caan help his daughters succeed?

Let us examine the four ways in which James Caan is likely to have provided his children with help to find a job. Of course this is all speculative, but it is common sense speculation!

1. As a parent James Caan is likely to have provided career guidance

It is very likely his daughters would have been guided as to the best route to follow in order to get started in their chosen careers. Caan’s  daughter Jemma spent four years working in other companies developing the experience she would need to eventually join a recruitment company her father has an investment in.

2. As a parent James Caan is likely to have provided CV help

Can we expect that his daughters would have asked Dad to look over their CV? Yes, of course, and if not Dad then one of his staff members. His daughter Hanah had a number of internships before submitting her CV and securing an internship at her father’s private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw. It isn’t unusual for a graduate to ask a parent to look over their CV but since Hanah would have been applying to a company owned by Dad it would make even more sense to turn to him for a last minute check before submitting her CV.

3. As a parent James Caan is likely to have provided interview advice

If you wanted to ask someone for interview tips then James Caan would be a good person to start with. He provides tips to entrepreneurs on start ups and growth; to people looking for jobs; and to business owners on the Dragon’s Den process, so it is highly likely he would have given a word or two to both daughters on how to win at an interview.

4. As a parent James Caan is likely to have taught his children life skills

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we believe that Caan would have taught his children lessons in resilience, hard work, persistence, responsibility and other vital skills needed to get along in life. Caan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “allowing children the opportunity to develop and find their own way through life is very good for society and very good for the kids” so we expect he would have practiced what he preached. It was certainly interesting to note that both Caan’s daughters ALSO spent time working in other places developing skills and experience as they prepared themselves for employment at one of his companies.

It would be hard for a parent not to offer some sort of help to their graduate son or daughter on how to get ahead in their career, but a graduate must also be provided with the space and opportunity to develop their own skills alongside any support they receive.

This is what makes for a good candidate.