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Blog : Out of the frying pan...


Out of the frying pan...

By Sam Gardner - account manager, talent toolbox™

In their bi-annual survey of employers, the Association of Graduate Recruiters last year found that there were on average 83 applications for every graduate position available in the UK. As a recent graduate this is a pretty daunting statistic; highlighting just how competitive the graduate labour market currently is. Employers are now able to pick and choose from the cream of the crop; meaning it’s more important than ever for graduates to demonstrate transferable skills, including those all important soft skills, to gain an advantage in the hunt for a suitable role.

I should first point out that selecting the right individual for the role is, in itself, a challenge for employers, and there are many different steps involved in choosing the people who come to work for you. These can be seen in chapter five of learnpurple’s book, Purple Your People. I could write a lengthy piece on this subject alone, however I’d like to focus on the employee and how gaining successful employment is never down to one single contributory factor. With over 300,000 people graduating in the UK each year, you can never rely entirely on your achievements in terms of academia.

Now there is much more of a focus on the skills and experience gained prior to employment. Employers want to see their candidates using and putting into practice the knowledge and skills gained at University; exemplifying that they have what it takes to cut it in the big wide world. If this is the case, what are the vital skills that a graduate needs, and how do they demonstrate these in an interview?

In my opinion there are three core areas:

  • Research / knowledge:

What does the company actually do? What’s their history? What do they stand for? Who is their client base? Research the company, check their website, twitter feeds, have a look at your interviewers (if you know them) on LinkedIn and see what’s being said in the media.

The more knowledge you have of the company, the easier it is for you to illustrate that you recognise, understand and embrace their cultures and values then you have a huge advantage over your competitors. It also highlights an attention to detail, as well as an enthusiasm for the role and organisation.

Also look carefully at the job being advertised. It sounds like a simple question - what’s the job that you’re applying for? If you can answer this convincingly, using quick succinct points, then half the battle is done.  

  • Listening:

Purple Your People states that we have two ears and one mouth, so we should use them in proportion. In the interview, listen to what the interviewers say, the words used, and how they use those words. Then tailor your response to relate to that question and gain rapport.

  • Communication:

Don’t let the fact that you’re in an interview keep you from communicating effectively, in a way that you’re used to. Of course you need to be aware that you’re in a formal environment but you also need to be yourself and this must come across in the interview. Keep your responses short, to the point and answering the question that is being asked of you. And don’t be afraid to pause and think before answering – this is your opportunity to secure a dream role, you want to give the best answer possible.

What are the other key skills you might need? Do you think your company is effective at interviewing prospective employees?

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