Guest blog from Victoria Plum, online bathroom retailer.
This is an article following two successful candidates journey’s though the Victoria Plumb graduate interview process. They offer tips and advice of what to expect at an assessment day, and how to successfully make a lasting impression on an employer.
What to expect at an assessment day
Candidates were asked to bring in an email that had they had recently received that made them both open it and then visit the website/mobile site. They were then asked to prepare a short presentation about what was engaging and what they liked about it. This task was designed to assess candidate’s presentation and communication skills.
They were then asked to have a go at writing Meta descriptions as part of a search engine optimisation task. This assessed their ability to work under pressure, and their written communication skills.
Finally they were asked to complete a maths test, this assessed their ability to understand graphs and data.
Candidates were split up into groups of five and asked to design a new product, rebrand the company and finally prepare a group presentation to present their ideas. This task assessed candidate’s communications and presentation skills and their teamwork abilities.
We asked two successful applicants for their tips to successfully navigate their way through an assessment day and final interview. Joe recently studied Politics and Parliamentary Studies at Leeds University. Josh studied Photography at Lincoln University.
What to prepare before the assessment day
Joe: I Googled the company, looked at the ownership and management structure, checked when the company had been mentioned in the news and looked at the history of the company. I checked blogs and social media. Find all the information that is useful for the job you are applying for. Check competitors and general shape of the market.
Josh: I looked at the company and website. Checked when it was founded and found out who the CEO was. It is a good idea to view products and prices and look for the location of head office / warehouse / stores.
Top Tip – always do your research on the company before you attend an interview. Know the job role and the kind of questions you’re going to be asked so that you can confidently answer them.
What to wear
Joe: Play it safe. Not too smart not too casual. Wear a shirt and suit without a tie. Look professional.
Josh: Dress smart, wear a bright colour to stand out. I wore purple shirt and ‘Cadbury’ tie. No jacket.
Top Tip – you don’t always have to wear a suit, but you need to make sure that you dress as smart as you can. You need to make a great first impression so make sure you’re presentable.
How you prepared your CV for the job
Joe: I had a few CVs, one broad CV which I send to the recruitment agency. Make sure you proof read your CV, it is a first impression, so can’t contain any spelling errors. On my covering letter I linked my experience in politics and how it related to marketing skills.
Josh: I had several CVs that were tailored for different skills. I had a CV that was great for marketing, it showed my skills with digital services and my understanding of website creating. I spent most of my time getting the covering letter right, as this is the first thing the company sees. It is important to show who you are and get your personality across in the covering letter.
Top Tip – you should always tailor your CV for the job you’re applying for. Make sure you find out what skills employers are searching for and relate them to your experiences.
How to make a good first impression
Joe: Make sure to start with a good handshake and give eye contact. Be yourself and show your personality. It’s not about ticking boxes, you need to make a connection with the interviewer. You can use a bit of humour to make a good impression, but don’t overdo it. On assessment days you need to let people talk, but stand your ground. The assessment day is about remaining relaxed, if you get the job you get it, if you don’t, you don’t.
Josh: It’s important to be as polite as possible, you’ve got to be friendly and have good manners. You’ve got to get across who you are. I’m not the most confident person, but I decided to make the most of the day, relax and have a laugh.
Top Tip – be confident and try to relax as much as possible. Remember that everybody gets nervous, so just try your best to be friendly and you’ll eventually ease into it.
How to stand out in a group scenario
Joe: It’s important to listen to other people. Listening is a key skill, you can’t shout and talk over other people. Make sure you offer input, but only put forward good ideas. Relax and socialise with the group, and build rapport. Teamwork is key, you need to get along with your group members and work with the group. You need to realise that you’re not competing with the people in your group for the job and you need to get across your co-operation skills to be successful. Teamwork is a key skill in marketing.
Josh: You need to get across what kind of person you are and show willingness to take on other people’s ideas. It’s great to show your creative side. Be calm and converse with the other members of your group, make sure not to shout and especially don’t bicker with other member of the group.
Top Tip – you don’t have to lead the group to stand out in a group scenario. Make sure that you contribute great ideas and try to get people to work together as a team.
How to prepare for the final interview
Joe: I looked at set questions that are usually used in interviews. I wrote one-sentence answers to the common questions, so that I had prepared answers. You need to make sure that you get your personality across, build rapport with the interviewers and ask questions. You need to remember that they are people not judges.
Josh: I researched everything to know about my job role and tried to make industry related answers to common interview questions. It is mostly important to get your personality across. Remember that you’re not competing anymore so you can show who you are. Try to treat the interview as a conversation. A great tip is to memorise your interviewer’s names beforehand so you already have an established connection before the interview.
Top Tips – make sure you prepare for commonly used questions as you will get asked them. Try to relax as much as possible, be confident and get your personality across.
How to exit an interview/assessment day
Joe: Relax and make sure you leave with a strong handshake. A nice comment such as “I hope to see you again” is a great way to end the interview. You need your last impressions to be formal and professional. It is a great idea to network with the people you meet on an assessment day, they often have similar interests and skills.
Josh: I made sure to meet and network with the other candidates, it’s a great opportunity to meet similar people. I made sure that the assessors knew I was glad to be there and thanked them for the day.
Top Tip – final impressions are just as important as first impressions. Make sure that you remain professional and leave on a positive note.
How to prepare your online profiles
Joe: I made sure that I had tight privacy settings on Facebook. Interviewers will almost definitely check your profile so it’s a good idea to control your visibility.
Josh: I skimmed through my online profiles and made sure that all profanities were deleted. Then I tidied up my photos, and untagged photos I didn’t want my employer to see. There’s no need to make your online profile private, as long as the content on it is clean.
Top Tip – if you’re unsure about what’s on your public profile, it’s always best to be safe and make it private. Try to have a separate email for work/interview correspondence and name it something appropriate.
Common mistakes to look for
Joe: Many people feel the need to stand out, but overdo it. Don’t be overbearing and don’t try to control everything in the process.
Josh: First off, don’t be late. Don’t try too hard, be natural, you’re not competing against the people in your group. And finally don’t talk over people it shows bad listening skills.
How to communicate with the company by email
Joe: Make sure your emails are formal and tight. They need to look professional
Josh: Proof read your emails before sending them, emails are your first impressions before you’ve even met the company, its all they have to go on about you. Make sure you’re professional through all communication with the company.
Top Tip – if you’re not great at proof reading get somebody else to help you.
Joe: Marketing is all about ideas, communication and creativity. Everybody is creative, so it doesn’t matter what you’ve studied at university. You need to offer something different, and prove that you can think outside the box.
Josh: Assessment days seem daunting, they’re of very long duration (6 – 12 hours) so just try to enjoy the day, it’s important to come across naturally. Half the test on the day was during lunch when we weren’t being assessed. This is when people are getting to know you, and making mental notes. You need to remain as interested as possible and get your enthusiasm across.