We asked a selection of hiring managers at some of the UK’s top employers to tell us what graduates can do to impress them
Sophie Milliken, manager, graduate recruitment, John Lewis
Go to the employer’s website and take a look at the language they use and try to weave these words into your application. It demonstrates that you have an understanding of the business and are more aligned to its core values. Secondly, I recommend using the full word count available in the application form or online questions when applying to a company. I see countless submissions where candidates only use 20 or so words in an answer box where you can have up to 200 words. Finally and perhaps most importantly, use original examples when asked situation-based questions. I would say nine out of 10 applicants use their university exams as examples of working under pressure. Instead, try using work-based examples as there is wider scope to talk about learnings but this also provides an opportunity to show a wider skills set, something that is essential in today’s market.
Amanda Burt, head of graduate recruitment at KPMG — a global professional services firm
With the recent news that approximately 70 graduates go for each vacancy, graduates may be tempted to complete blanket applications. While it is great to pursue a number of options, the old adage “quality over quantity” still applies when making applications. Graduates should ensure they spend sufficient time on each one, ensuring they are tailoring them to the role and organisation to which they are applying. It’s important for candidates to be knowledgeable of the organisation to which they are applying so they need to have done their research, and for us at KPMG we are looking for individuals with a real interest in business, so keeping up to date with the business news is a must.
Kay Jones Wolsey, head of recruitment at M&S
Our scheme is very hands-on — dealing with customers, suppliers and senior management from the outset — so, the candidates that really thrive are those who can quickly apply academic knowledge to real work situations. Depending on the role they opt for, graduates may find themselves involved in anything from product design, development or sourcing to leading teams in store to help maximise sales. From day one, graduates are considered part of the management team so we want candidates that are confident in their decision making, show initiative and are willing to take accountability.
Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP — a company that provides audit, assurance, advisory, and tax services
Picture yourself as a commodity that a company can’t afford to be without. Before approaching employers, put together a business case on why a company would want to invest in you by thinking about your skills and experiences that make you unique. Grappling with complex information, and communicating it effectively to others, is a core skill that is relevant to any working environment. Think about individual examples that can demonstrate how you dealt with a situation effectively, so as to illustrate how those skills could be utilised by your employer. And, dealing with people in a big company or work situation is a great confidence builder. It’s also an important skill because you are handling such different expectations and often working in big teams. Employers will be looking for you to draw out examples to illustrate your experience, like how you dealt with difficult people, how you managed your time efficiently or when you worked well under pressure.
Emily Wilton, graduate recruitment and development manager at the charity Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is looking for people who can bring fresh insights, build relationships, take responsibility and achieve results. We’re looking for people who are driven and motivated, and so graduates need to show this by getting some relevant experience, targeted at their area of interest. This can make candidates stand out and it shows they are proactive and motivated. I’d encourage graduates to seek opportunities where they can work on a project or piece of work which they are responsible for, as this can show their skills and what they are capable of delivering.
Plus, if students are considering taking a gap year to travel, returning to the job market in a year or so, I’d strongly recommend making good use of this time and getting some experience that will show and develop their skills — undertaking voluntary work while travelling abroad can build team working, leadership and resilience.
Jenny Taylor, recruitment manager for graduate and student programmes at IT and consulting company, IBM UK
We recruit students from every degree subject — not just computer science — and typically hire between 100 and 200 graduates each year. The world around us is constantly changing, becoming more interconnected and intelligent, so it is very important that our graduates can adjust and thrive in the years to come. We look for candidates who display certain competencies, including creative problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration type skills. Successful applicants will be adaptable, team players with good communication skills and high personal drive. They will feel a passion for our business and have a strong client focus.
Find the IBM Annual Report and familiarise yourself with our Smarter Planet strategy and other key performance indicators and business drivers. Also, you can engage with IBM on Twitter and YouTube or take a look at our Facebook groupIBM UK Graduates & Students.
One oversight applicants can make, is not providing evidence of their transferable skills. They don’t always think to connect the fact that their experience from working in a shop or a cafe is client facing experience, from which they can show us examples of their client focus. Charity work, sports challenges or other activities that applicants might not at first consider relevant to draw on for their CV, can be effectively used to display team working skills, adaptability and so on.
Graham de Guise, HR director at TLT Solicitors — a national law firm with offices in Bristol and the City
It’s a given that all firms look for strong academic achievement but companies will also be looking for qualities, behaviours and characteristics specific to their business so find out what values and behaviours the firm is associated with. For example, TLT looks for talented, ambitious and forward-thinking individuals with a passion for client service. Take a common sense approach to the recruitment process; when you do your research, don’t just look at the firm’s website — be creative and look at the media and independent market guides.
Find out who is interviewing you so that you can do some basic research about them, particularly their background and specialist area. For example, are they independently recognised as an expert in their particular practice area? What recent commentary have they made about the firm, its clients or factors that might affect your recruitment? What influence will this person have on you and the role that you are applying for? You need to stand out at interview (in a positive way) and the research you do can easily set you apart from the rest and inform your answers to the interview questions. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you will feel.
Ensure that you have done a dry run to get to the interview venue. This may sound obvious but you’d be surprised at the number of candidates that leave finding how to get to their destination until the day of interview, causing them to arrive stressed, panicked and sometimes late.
Madalyn Brooks, UK HR director of consumer good manufacturer, Procter & Gamble
Academic performance is obviously important, but the crucial factor is leadership. As a build from within company, we are looking for future leaders of our brands, our business and our company. We want people who have the vision to see opportunities for change and growth and have the ability to motivate people around them to deliver results. We look for people who can demonstrate leadership qualities and examples of what they have achieved. We focus on a “has done, can do, will do” approach. Instead of asking for “what would you do in X situation”, we ask candidates to “tell us about a time when…”. This gives us a great idea of their drive and their potential for leadership. We provide all the training and expertise they need in role, so we are often looking more for outstanding performance or leadership outside of academic arenas.
Rachel Stock, director of resourcing and talent management, BBC
We are looking for candidates who have original thinking, can bring new and unexplored ideas to life in their work, are continually seeking new ways to bring audiences and communities into the heart of their work and are always open to new ideas and will engage with people both inside and outside the BBC. We also want those who take responsibility for their decisions and actions, ensuring they are in the interests of the BBC, its values and the values of our audiences, who have a can-do attitude and a determination not to allow the first hurdle to be a barrier to their ideas, work or career.
The office is filled with different personalities, traits and talents and where there’s usually an office gossip, there’s often an unreliable and unorganised colleague too!
You might be able to picture the exact person in your mind, no doubt you like them but you can’t respect or trust them as far as you could throw them due to their unprofessional habits. If the image in your head is your boss, then their unprofessionalism could be causing serious disruption to your work, leaving you frustrated and in despair.
As you may have already found out, it’s hard enough dealing with people with unprofessional habits but it’s much, much worse to actually be that person. Perhaps you are practicing these bad customs without even realising you are doing it!
Don’t panic, are we are here to help! Below are 7 unprofessional habits you should avoid in the future:
1 Responding to emails 5 days later
How many emails do you receive a day? The answer is probably too many to count!
Everyone in the office is most likely rushed off their feet, however if you fail to reply to your colleagues or bosses within 24 hours, you risk looking unreliable and just plain rude.
Instead, send a brief acknowledgement that you have received their email and politely ask to respond fully when you have more time. As a result, you avoid looking impolite and will maintain the trust you have worked hard to build between you and your colleague.
2 Turning up ‘fashionably’ late
Turning up 2, 10 or however many minutes late is one of the worst unprofessional habits! Many managers even lock the doors if you are late to one of their meetings, you might think this is excessive but it certainly teaches the latecomers a lesson.
Being late may be acceptable when you have a valid excuse but if you make a habit out of it, you will start to get on the ‘on-time peoples” nerves. Take control, work on your time management skills if necessary and remember: be known for turning up early, not late!
3 Forgetting you had notes to check up on
Forgetting you made notes in the last meeting, or worse, forgetting to even make notes at all isn’t going to make a good impression amongst your colleagues!
Meetings are held to share ideas and opinions about matters going on in the business, it should be an extremely productive period of time as you have the full attention of your whole team. However, turning up unprepared is one of the most sinful unprofessional habits around, your lack of contribution won’t go unnoticed and any feeble attempts to join the discussion will only frustrate and hinder your colleagues from finding solutions or new ideas.
Curb this bad habit and prepare for your meetings, be ready to engage in dicsussion and contribute valid and credible ideas.
A lot of people think they have perfected the art of daydreaming but in reality, you haven’t. Your colleagues are most likely switched on to what you are doing and will be able to tell from your responses that your head is not in the game!
It’s possible you have developed these unprofessional habits because you are no longer stimulated or satisfied by your current job. If you find the work so uninteresting you have to zone out, it might be time to start looking down other job or even career avenues to find work that really excites you!
5 ‘Accidentally’ missing appointments
If you are trying to come across as unreliable and flaky then missing appointments is the way to do it!
People have specifically taken time out of their day for you, so by not turning up you have shown disrespect and lack of consideration for them.
Unprofessional habits like this one could cost you more than your reputation.Repeating this mistake twice will write you off their list of priorities and it could lead to resentment towards you!
6 All talk no action
It’s all well and good telling your colleagues what you are going to do, you might be a great communicator and deliver an excellent speech but actions will always speak louder than words!
To avoid over promising and under delivering, set reasonable expectations that you can actually achieve. The more evidence you provide to back up your ‘speeches’ the more trust that will be generated. Implementing steps like this will cause your colleagues to start perceiving you as genuine and reliable too!
7 Disrespecting your colleagues
Although technology is becoming ever more present in our personal and work lives, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to use your smartphone or any other device whilst your colleague or boss is engaging in conversation with you.
If you do, this will convey utter disrespect. When someone is talking to you, you should be looking at them directly, making eye contact to communicate that you understand and that you are interested in what the other person is saying. In other words, give them your full attention!!
Scrapping these unprofessional habits will help you to build stronger and lasting relationships with your co-workers. Implementchange today!
An interview is a discussion between you and an employer to find out if you can do the job. It’s your chance to make a good impression. However, there are certain rules you should follow in interviews.
What to do:
dress smartly, look bright and attentive, and speak clearly and confidently. First impressions really do count – studies show that employers make a decision about whether to hire you within the first seven minutes on average
find out where the venue is beforehand, how to get there and how long it takes
get your outfit ready the night before
find out what kind of interview it will be so you can prepare
examine the person specification and your CV/application form, and think about what type of questions they will ask you
prepare answers for the main questions – for example, why do you want the job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the main tasks in this job?
make about three or four points in each answer
quote real examples of when you’ve used certain skills – just saying you’ve got a skill isn’t enough
take your time when answering the questions: make sure you understand the question and take your time if you need to think
sell yourself: no one else is going to! Be positive about yourself and your experiences
prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview – use it as an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company. (Don’t ask about money or perks just yet!)
when discussing salary, know your market worth and start by quoting a little higher than this
get feedback on your performance, whether you were successful or not
turn off your mobile phone: treat the interviewers with respect and give them your undivided attention
keep your answers focused on what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you
What not to do:
don’t be late
don’t swear or use slang words
don’t slouch in your seat or do anything that makes you look uninterested
don’t lie: the interviewer may see through you. Even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out that you have not been honest
don’t let your nerves show too much; a few nerves are normal but extreme nerves will affect your performance. Use breathing techniques and try to remember that it’s not a life and death situation – there are plenty of jobs out there!
don’t be arrogant and assume you’ve got the job. Nothing turns off employers more than someone who is disrespectful and over-confident
don’t discuss controversial topics such as religion, politics and gender relations
don’t read from notes or your CV — you should be familiar enough with your own history to be able to talk about it unprompted
don’t criticise former employers or colleagues. Interviewers may mark you down as a troublemaker and a gossip
don’t argue with the interviewer, no matter what. Remember to keep things positive!
These rules apply for most jobs. However, employers in some industries can use more relaxed and informal interviewing techniques. In some creative fields (design and media for example) it may be expected that you turn up for the interview in casual clothes, as that is the dress code in the office. However, smart casual is better than very casual. If you’re in any doubt, do some research on typical interview techniques in your line of work.
Above all, preparation is the key to performing well in interviews. Research the role and organisation, and prepare evidence and examples of your skills and competencies.
This post was originally published on Nationalcareerservice.direct.gov.uk
A review of the seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, has many parallels with, and lessons for, HR work and HR professionals. In fact, had he lived today, it is highly likely that Dickens would have been a member of the CIPD. Let us now turn to the text, to see what it teaches us.
First of all, it is clear that Scrooge was not a Living Wage employer. It is also evident that he lacked even a basic understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in that he failed to address the key hygiene issues of his direct reports by failing to provide adequate heat or light in the office environment. Although we have no evidence either way, it could be assumed based on the provision of only one candle, that the workplace failed to meet minimum temperature requirements or that Scrooge was contributing to the Workplace Pension.
From a reward perspective, Scrooge appears to be paying at best, lower quartile wages. He is also only offering one day of paid annual leave per annum (Christmas Day), and even that reluctantly, referring in the text to his ‘pocket being picked’ every 25thDecember. Clearly, under current legislation, this would be a breach of the Working Time Regulations.
Despite these factors, Scrooge has yet to see any real impact on employee retention; it could be inferred however that this is a result of a depressed labour market rather than indicative of high levels of employee engagement or sense of meaning and purpose from the work undertaken.
It is unclear whether or not Bob Cratchit ever attempted to improve his working conditions in any way. However, even if he had, it is unlikely that Scrooge would have recognised a trade union for the purposes of negotiation. For Bob, a wage of 15 shillings week, bringing action in the Employment Tribunal would be cost prohibitive on account of the fees payable to do so. Bob’s position therefore is weak, and is indicative of the power imbalance that exists within the typical employment relationship.
During the course of the story, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts. There are clear workplace lessons from each.
The ghost of Christmas past could be taken to symbolise the shadow of the leader, and the extent to which past events within an organisational culture can shape current beliefs and behaviours.
The ghost of Christmas present reflects the importance of being in the here and now, highlighted by the current trend towards mindfulness practice in the workplace.
When Dickens references the ghost of Christmas yet to come, it is clear he has the future of work in mind. Like those organisations that have been unable to adapt to changing circumstances, Scrooge is shown his own future death, as some famous organisations and brands have too died in recent years. This demonstrates the extent to which true change and disruption is necessary for survival for us all, even money lenders. Indeed, money lending itself now is being disrupted, with the Uberification of the market through the use of Apps to borrow short term cash. The later images of Scrooge’s own tombstone is also likely to be a reference by Dickens to the War for Talent.
If I was advising Scrooge on his people strategy and HR matters, I would suggest the following:
Following his conversion, Scrooge cancelled the debts of those to whom he had lent money. In the future, he could consider developing this into a formal CSR strategy.
To further support Scrooge’s increased levels of personal happiness following his meetings with the ghosts, he may wish to peruse further the field of positive psychology. In particular, he may benefit from keeping a gratitude journal, or developing the habit of recording three good things each day.
We know that Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit a considerable pay increment on Boxing Day. The impact of a pay review wears of quickly, so Scrooge should consider formalising a reward and recognition strategy to ensure continued high employment engagement. After this is implemented, regular checks should be conducted through an annual employee engagement survey.
In terms of Scrooge himself, he is now demonstrating traits of authentic leadership and taking this real self to work. To continue his own leadership journey, he may find it valuable to build on this through undertaking a 360 degree survey.
This post was originally published on hrgemblog.com
Seven words that strike fear into the hearts of many job seekers!You’ve applied for a great job, painstakingly crafted a targeted resume and cover letter, survived the telephone screen, and landed a face-to-face interview. You’ve researched the company, gone over the job description, rehearsed responses to common interview questions…you think you’ve covered all your bases, until the moment when the interview is drawing to a close and your interviewer throws to you for questions!
How you respond can seal your fate, so preparation is a must!If you’re frozen with fear or can’t think of a single question on the spot, you’re not alone – many job seekers falter at this part of the interview process.Don’t think of it as a trap or trick question: this is your chance to shine.With a little bit of preparation you’ll be armed and ready.
1.Never say “no”!
You should always ask questions.Saying “No” or “You’ve already answered them” makes you look like you’re just going through the motions, unprepared, or uninterested.Show your potential employer some enthusiasm and ask at least two or three questions.
2.Make a list.
Come up with at least a dozen questions to ask.Some will undoubtedly be covered during the interview, so make sure you’ve got a few up your sleeve so you’re not caught off guard.
3.Think before you ask.
Don’t ask questions that are easily found on the company’s website.It tells an employer straight away that you didn’t do your research.You need to develop a list of questions that shows you’ve prepared, and really thought about the role.
You shouldn’t ask questions about salary, benefits, parking, social clubs, or sick leave.Your job is to impress the employer, not lead them to believe you are only concerned about the money or company’s social activities.
Never simply ask, “So, did I get the job?”It sounds arrogant and puts the interviewer on the spot.Use the opportunity to better sell yourself as the right candidate by asking thought-provoking, intelligent questions.
4.Ask probing questions.
Try to ask open-ended questions rather than those that require a “yes” or “no” response. “Can you tell me about…?” “How would you describe…?”You’ll learn more that way, you can probe further, and it makes the interview more conversational.
5.Job interviews are a two-way street.
Yes, the employer is trying to determine whether you’d be a good “fit” for their team, but at the same time you need to learn whether or not this company would be a good “fit” for you.Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you determine this.Employers are impressed by aspiring employees who take the time to probe the employer.
6.Timing is essential.
The best interviews are conversational so you may be able to ask some of the questions on your list during the interview itself.Just be sure you don’t interrupt the interviewer in your haste to ask.If you are nearing the end of the interview, you may not have time to ask all of your questions.Don’t worry; just select a couple and see where it takes you.
Example Questions Includes?
What do you enjoy most about working for this company?
If I were successful, what would you like me to have achieved in the first 3 months?
How would describe the culture here?
What would a typical day look like in this role?
How will my performance be measured?
What are the most important issues your company faces in the next 3, 6, or 12 months?
Why did the last person leave this role?
Do you have any specific concerns about my ability to do the job?
What kind of people do well in your company?
Developing a list of questions for the interviewer should be part of your interview preparation. It will show the employer you are keen, you’ve thought about the role in detail, and that you’ve gone the extra mile to prepare.A strategy that makes you stand out from other applicants.
When people think of a company, they usually associate the company with a founder or the partners. The reality is that the employees are the ones that run the company day to day. The CEO is usually the one who gets the recognition for pushing the company forward and that is because the CEO is the brand ambassador. By taking the social risk of representing the company in all areas of life, the rewards come along with it.
To fully engage employees and make them feel like they want to push the company forward just like they the CEO, they need to be recognized. Humans have this need to be recognized and when they are, they perform better.
Recognition must be authentic for it to work. You can’t just pat people on the back and say way to go. You need to be thoughtful and specific. People are not stupid and they know if you are just placating them. Here are some creative ways to recognize your staff and keep them engaged.
Gratitude is very important. It makes us feel good by giving it and the person getting it feels appreciated. Make it a routine to thank your employees each month on a one on one basis. Use their first name and thank them for working in the company, for engaging in it and let them know that you know they have options and you are grateful they are with you on this journey. Do this for your direct reports and have them do it to theirs.
Writing a handwritten thank you note is a nice gesture, few people actually do it. We all know that we “should” write our employees notes with recognition but we don’t find the time. Here is a tip to make sure this happens, create a folder for each employee and start a note for each one. Don’t write what you are thanking them for yet but the note was started and it’s much easier to just finish the note at a later day. Do this 12 times for each employee and you will find ways to finish the hand written letter. “Dear Michael, I want to take a moment to thank you for…” write 12 of those and have them ready.
Buy tickets for your employees and give them out when they do something you appreciate. I like to buy scratch off tickets and give them out whenever I see someone do something nice, like take out the trash or close a deal or say something that was impressive. When handing them the ticket make sure to make eye contact and thank them for what they did.
Have a list of your employees favorite treats. Go to the grocery and buy them each what they love. Keep it in your drawer and give it to them randomly. They will see how much you care about them and will remember that forever.
Every person has something that they love to do. Some people love sports, others love music while there are those that like art. Find out what your employee loves and give them a gift that is aligned with their interest. Go on stubhub and find a ticket to get them to an event that they would love. Remember, they don’t need to go but the gesture shows that you really care about them and took the time to think about what they care about.
Birthdays are a special day and every employee loves to be recognized on their birthday. We used to buy a cake for each person on their birthday but when our company got too big, it became very difficult to do. Make sure that you have all your employee birthdays in your calendar and give them a call or walk over and wish them a happy birthday. Even if you do not throw a party, it will mean the world to them.
Take your employee out to lunch and get to know them. It doesn’t have to be more than half an hour once a year. Just asking them about their life, what they are up to and what they care about can make a person’s world come alive. Make sure to write down what you learned so you can review it in the future and mention it to them.
Buy your employee a plaque with their name engraved when they work for you for 1 year. Celebrate the milestone and they will feel amazing for it. Most companies do not have rituals like this. This might be the only plaque the person will ever get and they will cherish this forever.
People want to know that they are learning and growing constantly. Find out what your employee wants to learn about and buy them a course or class on a website like Udemy. There are classes about almost anything online. You can also buy them a book about their interests and write them a nice note in the front cover.
Create a special day for each person in the company. That is they day that everyone goes out of their way to do something nice for that person. If you have a small company you can do that a few times a year. People love to do nice things for other people and when you make it a company policy to do that for everyone, suddenly people are naturally more engaged. Imagine a grassroots effort going on in your company where employees are recognizing each other!
Hope these tips help you take your company to the next level. Employee engagement is directly correlated with a profit and the best way to engage employees is to give them clarity and recognition.
How do you recognize employees in your company? Would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
By Joe Apfelbaum. This was Originally published on Forbes.
Joe Apfelbaum, brings more than thirteen years to the online business, technology and marketing community. Serving as CEO and Co-Founder of Ajax Union, www.ajaxunion.com, he has been featured on Fox Business Network and Fox Business News and was selected by Google as a Certified Google Trainer. Today, Joe produces a weekly web series called GrowTime, where he teaches budding entrepreneurs about business, marketing, and technology. Using his humor and candor to address a wide range of topics that cover Online Marketing & Business Development including Search Engine Optimization; SEO, Pay-Per-Click; PPC, Social Media and Web Development, Joe has educated thousands to improve upon their business and online success. In his spare time, Joe loves spending time with his wife and three children.
The right power words for your CV and cover letter
Are you looking for words to make your CV stand out? or do you need your CV to capture the attention of the recruiter or employer so you are top in the list of candidates to be called for an interview? using the right keywords will help you to demonstrate what you have done and achieved in your previous job to the recruiter/employer who screens your CV.
T. trained, took, tabulated, travelled, transformed, tested, tailored, transferred, targeted.
U. Utilized, united, uncovered, updated, undertook, unified.
V. visited, verified, valued, validated, volunteered.
W. witnessed, worked, weighed, welcomed, wrote, won.
As you may have noticed, the keywords are in past tense, this is so as it actually gives the impression that you have truly done and achieved something prior to you making that job application.
The above action words should be used within a properly structured sentence and should NOT be used in the form of bullet points. Also, it is best to use these powerful keywords at the beginning part of a sentence, at the point when you are demonstrating what you have done or achieved.
Example: I effectively led a team of 5 marketer and efficiently managed a budget of £3000 to launch a marketing campaign for our new product.
Example: I won the award for the most customer friendly staff in 20xx.
Power words are very important when making your CV or cover letter, we hope you found our list ‘power words’ helpful. Please leave your comment below.