Have yourself a merry little interview


Written by Careers Brand Ambassador, Lindsay Christison.

So you’re curled up on the couch, home alone is holding strong at its 100th showing this season and the Christmas food coma has worn off enough for you to be halfway through a tin of quality street (apart from the toffee pennies because let’s be honest you’re not that desperate yet). Next thing, you get an email. You’re invited to an interview for that job/placement you so optimistically applied to last term.

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I give you: A Christmas wish list to boss that interview… *hair flick*

A holly jolly… firm handshake

Well first impressions count right? My first wish is the Goldilocks of handshakes. Strong enough to show I mean business but not so aggressive that their memory of your interview is the red imprint of your hand over theirs.  

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^^Tip: Don’t do this either

What I’d ‘Love Actually’ are easy questions

Please don’t hit me with all that ‘If you were a biscuit, what kind of biscuit would you be?’ nonsense…. There is no chance I can show off my Gold DofE with that… Wish number two: Straightforward questions to which I can regurgitate my pre-prepared evaluation of what my part time job has taught me about time management and customer service skills.

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Baby it’s cold outside… but can my hands stop shaking?

Wish number three is to release my inner Taylor Swift and shake off those pre-interview trembles… The only trembles we need belong only to a House of Madness. Deep breaths, eye of the tiger on headphones and lucky pants… you can do this!

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My only wish this year… is some actually relevant experience

It’s always the case that you’re always busy so you must have experience and skills but how on earth do you apply them to this job? So my fourth wish is the ability to figure out how all of the things I spend my time doing have made me employable… what did I learn? What was I good at? How did getting lost on DofE teach me resilience and how did that annoying customer at the cafe teach me interpersonal skills? Hmm…. maybe I do have experience?

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Don’t suffer ‘Home Alone’… get help from Careers and Placements with a mock interview

My fifth wish would be a practice run at the interview. Like pancakes, what if the first one’s a dud? This wish is probably the easiest to grant. The magic elves at Careers and Placements can book you in for a mock interview! They can test you with surprise generic questions or you can work with them beforehand to arrange a sector specific interview.

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And finally… A Christmas miracle… on 34th street

It’s worth a shot.

Wish six. A miracle.

*crosses fingers and toes*

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And with all that, hopefully, is the makings of a very merry interview!

Happy holidays everyone and best of luck for those pesky January exams and essays!

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Why Start-Ups and SMEs can be a great place to start your career


Guest blog written by TalentPool , a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internship opportunities at start-ups & SMEs.

When you enter your final year of university and you start thinking about your graduate job, it is easy to end up feeling like big companies and graduate schemes are the only avenues into the world of work. In fact, it may interest you to know that 9 in 10 graduate jobs are in start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). These companies can offer you a unique and valuable route into your career with great opportunities for development. Here are the top 3 reasons why we think you should consider starting your career at a start-up or SME.

You will be given responsibility

adult-brainstorming-business-1181622At  a start-up or SME the team you work in will be small, so each person’s contribution counts! Far from being kept away from the core of the business until you are more experienced, at a start-up or SME you will usually be given high levels of responsibility very early on. You will be working in a small team, so you will receive lots of feedback and your work will not get ignored among a mass of other tasks. This will allow you to build your skills and see the impact of your work – pretty good for a fresh graduate! ! You’ll get a real insight into how a business operates and get to try your hand at a range of different tasks and projects.

The work is exciting

Working for a start-up or SME means working in a company that is constantly growing and evolving. Your role will probably develop throughout the years you work with the company, so you definitely won’t get bored! In many smaller businesses, due to the close-knit teams, employees from all levels of the company are involved in the big decisions. Seeing the work you do has a real impact on your company’s growth and development is one of the most exciting things about starting your career in this sector.

The company culture

Often at start-ups and SMEs, the environment you work in is more relaxed than it would be in a larger corporate. Dress codes are not as fixed and there is often a less rigid hierarchical structure to the team. Lots of these businesses have socials and team members get to know each other quickly. At a start-up you will be working alongside emerging talent and creative colleagues, making the company culture at a small organisation a very exciting one to be a part of.

GUEST BLOG: The Recruitment Wish List – what skills do employers look for?


rawpixel-660716-unsplashGuest blog written by Jessica Ching, Digital Content and Marketing Executive at graduate recruitment experts,  Give a Grad a Go

It can often feel like employers are looking for a very specific person in terms of qualifications and work experience – but in reality, there are a number of other things that employers look for in their graduate hires.

If you can show that you have these desirable attributes on top of your degree, you’ll make your job application stand out from the crowd:

  • Transferable skills – A degree is an important part of any job application; but if you can demonstrate the skills you’ve learnt throughout your education, and relate them to the particular role you’re applying to, you’ll show the employer what you can offer their business. “Soft” or “transferable” skills can include communication skills (an employer favourite!), teamwork, time management or problem-solving skills – and can be demonstrated through your achievements, involvement in extra-curricular activities throughout school and university, and other hobbies or interests.
  • Commercial awareness – Employers across the board are becoming increasingly interested in hiring graduates who can demonstrate commercial awareness (an understanding of the business world). Show you have an understanding of businesses work by reading up on the market, taking an interest in news and current affairs, running your own business venture at university, or organising a fundraising event.

  • Culture fit – As much as skills and attributes are important to employers, they’ll also be looking to hire someone who will fit into their business and work well with their team. The best way to get a feel of the company culture before you apply is to check them out online (LinkedIn, Facebook, even a quick Google search). If you think you’d be a good fit for their company, show the employer your enthusiasm and dedication to the role throughout the interview process!
  • MemorabilityThe graduate jobs market is incredibly competitive – so if you can make yourself memorable to an employer this is a huge plus. They’ll read thousands of very similar CVs – so a unique design or an interesting combination of skills will make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Research – Preparing for an interview and doing your research around a company is looked on very favourably by employers. If you can drop things you’ve read about their organisation, product or service into an interview, you’ll show that you have a genuine interest in their company and the wider industry.

Find the latest graduate jobs on Give A Grad A Go’s website!

Careers fairs – what are the benefits?


LawCareersFairSo, the next few weeks see the career fairs making their appearance this Autumn. Which means lots of employers on campus, showcasing their graduate jobs, placement year offerings and internship opportunities.

Obviously a recruitment fair is not the only way to find work – you can search for vacancies online or even have them sent direct to your inbox, and you can read up on companies via their websites.

So why go to a fair?

Straight from the horse’s mouth (if you pardon the expression!)

You can’t find out about a company and the roles they’re offering any more direct than at a fair. Also, you’ll get a better feel for the culture of the firm and whether it’s a good fit for you.

In your shoes

Often employer reps attending fairs include current graduate trainees, who can give you an idea of what it’s really like to work there. As they were in your shoes only a year or so ago they know what sorts of things are important for you to find out. Their personal insight can tell you so much more than the company website.

Which leads us on to…

Questions their websites can’t answer

You may get a useful amount of basic information from a company website, but what happens if you’ve got further questions? It can be difficult to contact the company and ask them. Speaking to employers at a fair can answer those questions much quicker and more easily.

Make a good impression

Talking with employers in the informal environment of a fair makes it more personal and allows you to show your enthusiasm and interest outside of the pressure of the formal recruitment process.

Don’t know where to start?

If you’re unsure of what to say to employers, the fact that there are lots of other students about, means you can listen-in on some of the questions they ask, to give you some ideas. Plus the format of the fairs means it’s quite acceptable to listen-in without appearing impolite!

All the fun of the fair

Career fairs are usually lively and busy and are actually quite good fun, so why not give them a go?

By the way…

Be sure to do a little reading-up on the companies attending, so you know at least what they do. Employers soon get tired of hearing the opening question of “what does your company do?” – especially when you could have found that out beforehand.

We’ve got more info about preparing for fairs in our information sheet, Making the most of careers and recruitment fairs.

To tweet or not to tweet. Managing your online presence


Social media – great fun, isn’t it? Keeps you in touch with friends and lets you share your experiences (partying, travelling, trying new things) and thoughts (what you really think of the latest Celebrity Big Brother…).

Your use of social media gives an impression of who you are, but don’t forget employers use it too to let you know about their business.

Get the lowdown

Following organisations or individuals you’re interested in on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn is a great way of getting an insight into different companies and being among the first to know when they advertise a new job opportunity. You can pick up lots of snippets that might be useful when applying for jobs or going for interview too.

Join York Alumni Association on Facebook and LinkedIn as your fellow graduates do post opportunities to those pages and it’s a great way to badge your profile to strengthen your personal brand.

There are also some handy tips on using social media in your job hunting from Prospects  and GradIreland.

Showing your professional side

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet – and don’t think it’s too soon in your career to have one! – take a look at LinkedIn’s guide for students, which will talk you through creating a good profile and then using LinkedIn to find out about employers.

LinkedIn is great for finding out the latest in sectors/industries, as well as hearing about employers. It’s also a useful networking tool, helping you to make contacts and add to your knowledge.

So, if you’re going to spend some time on social media anyway, why not use it for your job hunting too?

“Tell me about yourself” Cracking the interview


There’s some great help and advice on preparing for, and attending, job interviews in our info sheet. It includes thinking about how you’ll answer interview questions using the CAR or STAR technique. Use whichever you find easier to remember, to help structure your reply.

Answering the question 

CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Questions starting “Tell me about a time when…” can be tackled effectively by using CAR or STAR –  talking about the situation you faced and what was required of you, what you did, and the outcome or result, and what you learned.  Note that the result does not always need to be perfect!  If it didn’t go quite right, you might still have learned something really useful to apply in a future situation.

10 reasons why interviews go wrong (according to employers)

1. Candidate doesn’t give sufficient evidence of what they’ve achieved.

Prepare some concrete examples of what you’ve done

2. Poor level of knowledge from a candidate, who has gone for a job in a specialist field.

Are you sure you’re right for the job? If so, gen-up!

3. Ill-defined aims or lack of career planning.

You don’t necessarily need to have your future mapped out point by point, but you should be able to express your initial goals

4. Unable to express thoughts clearly.

Prep and practise!

5. Candidate doesn’t ask any questions about the job.

The company website might be very comprehensive, but there’s bound to be something it hasn’t told you

6. Poor personal appearance.

Haircut, clean fingernails, clean interview wear and don’t slouch!

7. Candidate doesn’t show any real interest or enthusiasm for the job.

Employers want to feel you’re committed to the role. If you’re interested, you’ll do a better job

8. Evasive about unsatisfactory performance.

Be honest and show you’ve learned from any instances from your own experience

9. General lack of confidence.

Tough one to address, particularly if you’re nervous. However, if you’ve been invited to interview, you must have shown something to interest the employer, so take heart from that! Practise answering questions and if you’re well prepared that will boost your confidence too

10. Overbearing, arrogant and conceited.

No one wants that sort of character working in their company. If you’ve achieved lots – great, but you can be modest about it too!

Hire me! The art of drafting job applications


Naturally, you’re keen to land that first job, so it’s tempting to send off lots of applications to ensure major coverage. It’s quite quick to write an application and then copy and paste with a few changes, where needed.

However, it’s more effective to spend the time on a few high quality, well-tailored, applications than lots of generic ones. It may take longer, but a personalised, well-researched application will be more likely to hit the mark with an employer.

Preparation is key

Take time to research the organisation and the job, and to reflect on your experience and skills (including your degree and time at York), before you start an application, and check out this guide on what to do.

There’s also a helpful info sheet on what to include in your CV.  (This resource includes a personal profile in your CV, but this is optional so only do this if it works for you.)  Use active words to let employers know what you’ve done and the impact of it – here’s a helpful list.

CV Feedback

We’re always happy to give York grads feedback on their CV – just send it to us via Careers Gateway and one of our Careers Consultants will have a look at it for you; often it’s just a case of a couple of tweaks to make more impact.