Six great videos to help you improve your interview skills

‘You win an interview on such little things,’ says Graduate Coach Chris Davies.

And so it is those little things that you need to focus on if you want to improve your interview skills.

Nothing feels quite as good as walking out of an interview room feeling like you’ve done well. And nothing will set you on the right track for ensuring your interview is a success than being well prepared.

So this week we are bringing you a selection of excellent videos from our Graduate Coach resource library focused helping you to sail through your next interview. No matter how many interviews you go to you want to ensure that you are well prepared for the next one. Take a quick look at the videos below for some great tips on getting better at them.

Video 1: What’s the real secret to standing out on your CV or at your interview?

When we interviewed Natalie Goulder, head of graduate recruitment at Peugeot Citroen, we got some fantastic insights into what leading companies like hers are really looking for. Find out whether you have the interview skills, competence and character to stand out as the type of employee that top companies want, and why it is not just about your degree.

Video 2: Research is a key part of preparing for an interview:

Prior to going for an interview you must research the company really well. This will give you lots of interesting questions to ask, sharpen your answers, deepen your discussion at the interview and, most of all, help to convince the employer that you really are interested in the job. In this video Graduate Coach Chris Davies reveals where to look for vital information.

Video 3: What’s research got to do with it? A lot, actually!

Let’s assume you’ve done your research on the company you’re hoping to join. Having got to the point where you know all you can about the company, its market and its competitors, what do you do with the information? How can you best use it?  In this video Graduate Coach Chris Davies shares tips on using the information you’ve gathered.

Video 4: Beat those interview nerves once and for all!

Are you the type that often feels nervous before or during an interview? Calm down! Graduate Coach TV shares why people often feel nervous about interviews as well as some useful tips on how overcoming interview nerves so you can concentrate on just getting the job.

Video 5: Very few interviewees know how to ask for the job!

Asking for the job may seem like a strange thing to do but an employer will never truly feel confident to offer you a position until he or she knows that you truly want it. Join Chris Davies in this live recorded discussion as he shares career tips on why you should close your interview by asking for the job – and how to actually do it without coming across too desperate!

Video 6: Career tips on preparing for the moments before an interview starts:

Did you know there are some things you can do to make a great impression before you even enter the interview room? Graduate Coach TV gives you a list of steps you can take to ensure you get off to a flying start and make an impressionable arrival for your next interview.­­

How to be strong in an interview

Here’s how to give a dynamite response to the interview question: What are your strengths?

One of the most common questions people get asked during a job interview is: What are your strengths? The question can also be posed as: Tell me about your strengths. The key to being strong in an interview is to know where you are strongest.

Some graduates may stumble over this question, others may panic, and others still may simply find their minds go blank. The reason why a graduate may scramble over the question, ‘What are your strengths?’ is because they haven’t really given it deep thought. Graduates who worry about how to answer this question lack sufficient understanding of two things:

  1. An understanding of what a strength is
  2. An understanding of their own strengths

In this blog I want to focus on what a strength is so you can use it more effectively to leverage your chances of success in an interview.

What is a strength?

There are many articles, books, guides and other resources available that teach you about strengths but one of the most powerfully useful approaches is the work that has come out of the Gallup Center. According to this approach, a strength is not necessarily something you are good at. Yes, that’s correct. A strength is not necessarily something you are good at.

For example, you may be good at organsing activities and find people are always asking you to organise stuff on their behalf because they see that you are good at it. People may say, ‘Give so and so that job to do because he always gets stuff done.’ Meanwhile, although you find that you can get it done organising the activity itself leaves you uninspired, bored or unfulfilled. Somehow deep down inside you could not care less if you never had to do that task again.

That is an indication that you are good at something, you have a natural ability in that area, but it is not a strength.

This is because, according to the fellows at Gallup, the strength that enables you to organise well does not lie in the act of organising itself but comes from somewhere else. You need to understand what is BEHIND the ability to organise well. It may be because you have a strong sense of accountability, or you have an analytical mind. This may be where your strength TRULY lies and the reason why you are good at organising.

The 3 components of a strength

The Gallup definition of a strength therefore is an activity that makes you feel strong. Your strengths make you feel motivated, energised, excited and hungry for more. By contrast, a weakness will be something that leaves you feeling weak, unmotivated and bored even if you find you do it well. Chances are you have plenty of examples from your time at school, college and university to help you understand this.

So your strength is something you have a natural talent for and which leaves you feeling great but there is more to it than that. In order for you to maximise this strength you need to add:

Skills – through training, education and opportunity to practice this talent you develop proficiency and become stronger in it.

Knowledge – through the development of awareness and insight through exposure to information that can support this talent you are able to become more proficient in the application of it.

What you look like at your strongest

This is where you may differ from another candidate who may have similar abilities to you. Your knowledge and skills will help shape your talent. If you will, it is like the chemical mixture in a test tube: your unique combination of the quantity of each ingredient results in your uniqueness. This is what you look like at your strongest. The resulting mixture will define what you use your strength to do, how you use them and where you use them – even why you use them.

This is why it is so important to have an awareness of the industry you want to work in. You can develop this through both exposure to information about the industry and practice through work experience in the industry. Both of these are necessary and important for they will each give a different perspective to define your strengths.

Taken together then, your strength is made up of

  1. Talent for a particular activity
  2. Skill in a particular activity
  3. Knowledge around a particular activity

The more you are able to develop these three areas the stronger and more defined your strength will be. What is more you will understand your strength and understanding your strength means you will be able to sell yourself far more effectively in an interview than if your knowledge in this area is vague or shallow.

If you would like to talk to Graduate Coach about your strengths get in touch.

Self management is the key to ‘how to get a job’

Management skills are always desirable and the first and most significant place a graduate needs to demonstrate that they have it in good supply is in the way they manage their own ability to get a job. It is the simplest answer to how to get a job.

No one is going to hand you a job on a plate, so you need to manage the journey yourself. If you are graduating this year and thinking about finding your first job then how you manage yourself over the next few months is going to make a big difference to your job finding success.

There are a set number of skills that you need to ensure you gain by the time you are ready to graduate. We have spoken about them in great depth at Graduate Coach using different names, but they amount to the following:

  • Entrepreneurship and Initiative
  • Business Awareness
  • Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving
  • Self-Management
  • Focus

Graduate career prospects looking good

If you are graduating this year then you are doing so at the best time because various sources predict that you will graduate to the highest number of graduate vacancies in 10 years.

High Fliers’ most recent research predicts an eight per cent rise in job openings for graduates and the third increase in as many years. The CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey finds the same: job prospects for young people have improved with many new openings for graduates and apprentices. This is predicted to continue over the next year.

‘Firms are gearing up for a positive 2015 with over half planning to create jobs, most of which will be permanent,’ Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment & skills policy, said. ‘Young people should find more chances to get a foot on the career ladder this year, with many firms looking to boost their intake of graduates and apprentices.’

All graduates need to manage their digital skills

Speaking on behalf of Accenture, Olly Benzecry, managing director for the UK and Ireland, said this is ‘very encouraging’ to hear but also pointed out that the motivation for these companies is to ‘enhance their competitiveness by harnessing the digital capabilities of these young people’.

You therefore need to consider this in the way you manage your digital skills. Whatever job position you are looking for, whatever your graduate career aspirations, digital skills will feature centrally. As the government’s recent survey into future career prospects reported, even traditional jobs like train driver and farmer where IT skills once featured lowly now demand digital skills.

Manage the way you gain work experience

This bit of advice is the most important you need to know but will be a sobering thought for those who have not heeded it in the past. According to half of the recruiters interviewed in the High Fliers’ research those without work experience stand ‘little or no chance’ of receiving a job offer through graduate programmes.

The key to getting a graduate job is still to undertake work placements and internships throughout your time at university. Your chance of securing employment is even higher if you do your work placement at a firm with job vacancies opening up.

If you are in your final year and have not yet had the opportunity to do work experience there is still some hope, but you must manage this now. High Fliers says an unprecedented 13,049 paid work-experience programmes will be available this year from more than four-fifths of the UK’s leading graduate recruiters.  Half of them are offered as part of degree courses but some – two out of three – are for students in their final year at university.

Manage how and where you apply for work experience

You need to manage the way you go about getting the experience you need. When looking for a company to do your work placement you should think about how frequent the company hires. Study the vacancy history of the company to see when openings usually occur, how many places are opened up and in what areas. You will also be wise to apply as early as possible. In the past companies advertised their internships and work placement vacancies for students in their second or third years but recent trends show that an increasing number of employers are now trying to attract those in their first year in order to find and develop the talent they need as early as possible.

Should you apply for an internship at a large or small company?

The advantages of applying at a larger company is that the prospects for training and progression maybe better. Also, the possibility that a job will open up at the end maybe greater. An internship at a smaller company may enable you to delve into serious and ‘real’ work where you are able to develop you skills and experience more quickly. But some experience is better than none, wherever you get it so don’t rule smaller companies out.

The most important point is that the experience you gain is relevant. You need to manage this carefully. Think about what type of experience you actually need and make this clear when you apply.

Why some graduate recruitment fairs are a waste of time

Candidates, have you ever attended a graduate recruitment fair or career fair and questioned why you were there? Well, that seems to be the general consensus amongst undergraduates/graduates. Do you wonder if you are making use of the facilities available to you? Or do you think you are just being extremely optimistic?

Recruitment fairs are one to three day events that take place on university campuses and/or at arenas. The purpose of recruitment fairs are for students and recent graduates who are actively seeking employment opportunities in their given career field to find out what’s available and who is hiring. Despite the fact that most job fairs are usually specific to particular industries or fields, whether it is business, education, finance or health to say the least, the event normally consist of a standard procedure.

What happens at a graduate recruitment fair?

There are normally 20 – 300 representatives situated at booths or tables. Exhibitors are surrounded by tables or booths filled with leaflets, pens and different promotional incentives to attract applicants. Recruitment fairs are jam-packed with fellow potential applicants who share similar skills and work experience as yourself.

Recruitment / job fairs can be fundamentally productive; they can be a great opportunity to network by giving you the opportunity to have face to face interaction with leading employers.

You can also familiarise yourselves with a range of renowned companies. Even though it may have a carnival environment and can be overwhelming it can be a great opportunity to build your confidence and gain knowledge on areas such as graduate schemes and assessment centres.

Furthermore employers and career specialists can offer first class career and employment advice with regards to interviews skills, CVs and covering letters. In some cases applicants may even have the opportunity to have ‘on the spot’ interviews with potential employers.
Do you really need to be there?

Even though it may be a great opportunity for some, others fail to comprehend that it may not necessarily benefit everyone. It is important to make sure that you generally have an interest in the industry/companies represented at a fair, otherwise it could be a waste of your time and expenses going along.

For instance I have often left recruitment fairs feeling worse than before, as they were either irrelevant to me or too intimating. Recruitment fairs are generally competitive and overcrowded especially around tables. Therefore you may not have the opportunity to network and interact effectively with all employers. Over the years I have realised that the recruitment fairs that I attended were specific to certain industries that I was not interested in. However I felt it was mandatory to attend because of the pressure from my university and my peers. Furthermore the fairs were focused on a particular candidate and I didn’t necessarily fit that criteria therefore my attendance was not vital.

Graduate recruitment fair checklist

To make the most of your experience at graduate recruitment and job fairs I have made a check list.

  1. Have you done your research? It’s only natural to assume that you must attend the recruitment fair especially if it is at your university, however it is crucial to find out what industries are attending the recruitment fair. Also research whether any of these industries and companies are an interest to you.
  2. The less, the merrier. It is okay to attend the recruitment/ job fair with friends or fellow peers, however I would advise applicants to approach the table or the booth by themselves. This will show the employer that you are a confident, independent and enthusiastic applicant which employers are seeking for.
  3. You’re just as good as your pitch. Even if you’ve been to 100s of recruitment fairs make sure you have your elevator pitch ready for the companies that you are interested in. Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and smile, tell them what you’re studying and what job opportunities you are seeking. It’s good to keep in contact with employers (if they are willing to) and to find out more about the organisation.
  4. Be realistic. It is essential not to expect too much from recruitment/ job fairs. Going to a recruitment fair does not necessarily mean that you will be employed on the spot. They provide an insight or taster into recruitment possibilities.
  5. Make use of the facilities that are available to you! Some recruitment fairs and job fairs charge applicants for extras such as CV checks, so applicants should try and make the most out of those where they can receive career support and other goodies for free.

Evidently it can be quite an overwhelming and daunting experience to students, but do not be afraid! Organisations are not expecting you be perfect, just to be yourself. However I have to reiterate that it requires a lot of preparation and it is essential for you to do your research.

Good luck in your job hunt. For help and coaching, talk to Graduate Coach

Dress for interview success: who are you wearing?

Preparation is vital for the success of any interview. It is very important to do your research on the organisation and to prepare questions and answers amongst other factors. Furthermore, it may seem quite obvious to some, but for those who don’t realise, your appearance is just as important. Remember applicants you have to dress for success!

So candidates, who are you wearing? What I mean by that question is that it is important to wear an outfit that compliments your style, professionalism and personality. First appearance is very imperative to securing a job, although it may sound superficial and daunting, first impressions count.

Research has shown that our brain uses 50 per cent of its resources as vision, and if so that means it undermines other senses when taking in information. The last thing you want is for your interviewer to be distracted by your flamboyant shirt or excessive piercings whilst you are doing your best expressing your passion to work for the company. Therefore it is important to make yourself appear professionally appealing, comfortable and prepared as possible.

Okay guys, so it does not necessarily mean going shopping and spending beyond your means on new expensive clothes. There are lots of low or no-cost ways to ensure you dress in a way that reflects your professionalism.

These are five simple points to remember when picking out an outfit for an interview:

  1. Does it represent you? You have to make sure it does not look like you are trying too hard to impress the interviewer or panel. People can often sense when you’re not being yourself. Remember not to force it, it is very simple guys, less is more.


Females: Try not to wear excessive makeup; the employer wants to know that you can get to work on time. If you arrive with a full face of makeup it may give off the wrong impression. So try to make it look more natural and subtle, instead of looking like you’re going out to a nightclub.

  1. Is it revealing or inappropriate? I cannot express the importance of this question enough. Avoid wearing something that may not fit you properly or which maybe too revealing. This can be very misleading and candidates can often be remembered for negative reasons. It is important to have a very modest appearance at your interview. If you have noticeable assets it is important not to flaunt them to the interviewer or the panel. For instance being in an interview with noticeable cleavage does not send off the right message. Therefore if you have a big bust, try to wear a vest underneath your shirt.

Males & Females: It is vital that your suit (or any other clothing) is tailored to fit properly. You do not want to attend an interview and your suit is overly loose, too long or too short. Candidates I must reiterate that you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money on clothes for an interview. Visit your local dry cleaners and have your suit tailored.

3.Are your choices of colours too distracting?  Try not to wear colours that are too overpowering and striking.


Males: Make sure that your tie, shirt, suit, socks and shoes are not too eye catching. For instance going into an interview with a green shirt and pink and green polka dot tie will certainly give off the wrong impression to the interviewer – unless you’re applying to a creative agency known for being unconventional! For the rest of us, balance is key. Try to wear something more professional like a white shirt and red tie with a grey suit. This would show to the interviewer that you have carefully thought about your appearance beforehand.

  1. Would your choice of clothing fit into the company’s culture? Is the company cooperate or informal? Different rules apply for different companies.


Males: Always wear a suit because it does the trick with any organisation. In terms of footwear please do not wear athletic shoes, boots or crocs.

Females: Essentially females have more options of what to wear to interviews. For example, they can wear either a tailored suit with a shirt or a tailored dress. Just make sure that the length of the dress or skirt is an appropriate length.

  1. Cover up tattoos or piercings. I would like to expand on this point since it has been discussed and debated, whether excessive tattoos and piercings are appropriate for any interview. While it may be acceptable in certain industries it is not necessarily so in the corporate world. The best thing to do with tattoos is to make sure they are covered up. Females and males can always cover it up with a thick foundation or concealer.
  1. It is important that you do not wear excessive jewellery; this goes for males and females. Large facial piercings are also not acceptable; they often give a negative impression. (Of course you may not agree with this.) You do not want the interviewer to judge you as someone who is not serious about the position. Make sure you take them out before the interview.

Also remember not to spend too much time on your appearance. Pay attention to the smaller details, which are just as important.

  1. Body language. Once you have your clothing sorted give a little thought to your body language ­– it also needs to be taken into consideration. For instance if your posture is closed it usually signifies that you have a negative attitude or that you’re defensive. A candidate who walks in, shakes the interviewer hand, sits down and with their arms folded, slouches and constantly avoids eye contact can be perceived negatively. In contrast with a candidate who walks confidently into the room, offers a firm handshake and sits down with their arms and legs uncrossed illustrates an open posture, which suggests that they are more relaxed and have an open attitude.
  1. Extras – a final point on dressing for success: make sure you have a pen and a notepad, your phone is switched off and you are not chewing gum, as these can impact on you no matter how good you look.

I do hope this blog helps to give a better understanding of what certain organisations look for. Good luck in your job hunt, and if you need further help and coaching, talk to Graduate Coach.

The 21st century skills checklist that will widen your graduate career options–Part 2

We have been looking at the skills you need to widen your graduate career options and this is Part 2. It lists the 21st century skills you need to learn in order to move forward whatever your graduate career choice is. As we said in Part 1, Dr Jackie Gerstein, upon whose work this list is based, says this is the set of skills all teachers should use to determine whether students are really learning the skills they need for today and tomorrow. At Graduate Coach, we see them as the skills that will make one graduate more employable than another so we’ve rewritten and added our own twist to the list to make them more relevant. If you haven’t read Part 1 on the skills needed to move you forward in your career choice then do so here.

If you have, well done, and here are the remaining six:

Resilience – this is where you learn to look at failures as opportunities to learn and to grow, rather than events that come to hold you back. Failure is failure only if you fail to learn anything from it. Instead ask, what can I learn from this? How can I use this to my advantage? Developing the habit of quickly getting back on track after a set back and hitting the reset button after an upset will reduce the amount of time you spend wallowing in what looks like a failure and is anything but.

Grit – we all need a good dose of grit for those long-term projects, and the more challenging, boring or complex they are the more grit we need to avoid abandoning them. So see perseverance as a skill in itself and reward yourself for persevering through any task where you have felt the temptation to give up. Endure, push and press past those obstacles and your career, and employer, will eventually reward you for it in the months and years to come.

Collaboration across networks – we live in a world rich in networks and when it comes to being competitive you can use these networks to gain some leverage in your level of employability. Whether these networks belong inside your university or on the other side of the world; whether they are virtual or face-to-face, go out of your way to discover where they are and use them to reach out to others who are learning or working in your field. You are a hundred per cent guaranteed to come away with new insights and new contacts that will differentiate you from others.

Empathy & global stewardship – the more awareness you can develop of other cultures and languages, and the more opportunities for social engagement you can embrace, the better equipped you will be with the global perspective necessary for a global workforce. The foundation to this approach is an understanding of the interconnections between all living systems, whether they are people, places, plants or animals! Employers simply want to know that you are respectful, understanding and can see the viewpoints of others.

Vision for the future – what’s your dream? Do you have a vision for where you want to go? And if so, what are you doing about it? If you don’t have a vision for the future, why not? Vision is like a sort of navigation device that directs your choices, interests and time and employers want to know that you have one, especially one that’s going to help the company you eventually work for to grow while you are on your way to fulfilling your vision. Set aside time to think about your vision and dream and the plans you need to have in place to fulfill them.

Learning the six skills listed here and the six in part 1 will help guarantee that you are successful in your career choice as every career needs these skills. It is the best way to increase your competitive edge and chances of landing a top graduate level job.

If you liked this blog and found it useful please share it with others!

The 21st century skills checklist that will widen your graduate career options–Part 1

Want to widen your graduate career options? If you are lacking any of the following from this set of skills needed for all graduate careers then you will find it very difficult to move forward in your choice of graduate career whatever it may be. Dr Jackie Gerstein, upon whose work this list is based, has identified these as the 21st century skills that all teachers should provide students with the opportunity to learn.

As far as graduate careers are concerned, 21st century skills is a euphemism for the skills needed to get a top graduate job in today’s workplace and graduates who possess these skills will be more employable than those who don’t. Period.

We’ve rewritten them to make them more relevant for graduates who are serious about their career choice, and here they are:

Oral and written communication skills – embrace opportunities to express your own views, experiences and voice in both verbal and written contexts. You will usually have the chance to do this through live presentations, group projects, seminars and essays so seize these in order to develop your oral and communication skills.

Critical thinking and problem-solving – ask questions to develop your ability to think critically, particularly as a way to help you solve problems. You need to get out of comfort zones, habitual ways of doing and approaching things and copying everyone else. If you embrace opportunities that make you have to think anew or to challenge old thinking you may be surprised by how much it can help you stand out from others and where it will lead you.

Curiosity and imagination – being inquisitive is not just for kids and cats but is the key to nurturing the enthusiasm for life long learning. No employer wants to employ someone who thinks they have nothing more to learn and shows no interest in finding out new things. So recognise and embrace your inquisitiveness and allow it to take you to new places in your work.

Initiative and entrepreneurialism – these are skills best developed through exposure to real work scenarios, as in the work component of a sandwich course, internships, volunteering and other opportunities for work experience. You can also develop this skill by using your initiative to set up and develop your own projects. Starting and building a personal blog, organising an event, making and selling your own products and building a following on social media all require skills in initiative and entrepreneurship. You must show that risk of failure doesn’t stop you trying new things.

Agility and adaptability – anything inflexible will break under pressure and your attitude and staying power are the same. Learn how to see change as a normal part of life and to embrace it when it comes. If you do you will be flexible when inevitable changes occur and ready to respond quickly to address it.

Hope and optimism – this is about having a ‘can do’ attitude and one of the best ways to develop and grow one is to expose yourself to inspirational stories of how people have tackled and overcome adversities and set backs. You will then see that all things are possible. Read biographies, especially of those you admire or who are in the career field that interests you. Chances are they did not succeed overnight but had to work at things. Finally, maintain your ‘can do’ attitude through self-talk like Mohamed Ali.

Self-evaluation – the more you know yourself the better off you will be able to express and sell yourself to a potential employee. Start by getting to understand your learning style (are you a visual, kinesthetic, creative or logical person?) Next, get to understand what motivates you, for example, if you can’t be bothered to do something or find a task boring. Discovering what motivates you will help you to get moving again at times like these. Finally, get into the habit of reflecting on your own learning: after each event, ask yourself what you learnt and what most interested you about it.

To read part 2 of this blog on the skills needed to move you ahead in your graduate career click here!