Eye of the tiger: Win the graduate race

For graduates seeking their first break into full time employment, it has become increasingly difficult to stand out from the competition. Graduate resourcer, Chris Redmore, shares his knowledge of what graduate recruiters look for in an applicant.

Here at Grovelands Graduate Recruitment, we specialise in placing graduates into positions within the financial services sector. But what do we look for in a graduate? And how can graduates ensure that they are considered for the positions they’re looking for?

How can graduates stand out from the crowd?

Color pencils representing the concept of Standing out from the crowdWith increasing competition for graduate jobs, graduates need something to stand out from the crowd; and that something is relevant work experience.

What may come as a surprise to many is that an internship in a specific sector improves the chances of landing a job far more than gaining a first class degree. The benefits of work experience are twofold; first, hiring managers who see relevant work experience on a CV are far more likely to invite that person to interview, and second, graduates who have an insight into the sector are able to answer questions at interview with much more insight than a graduate who has only been able to glean what information they can from the company website.

There are many opportunities for graduates to gain relevant work experience during their studies, and it is a shame that universities don’t put more focus on making students aware of the importance of supplementing their studies with an internship or part-time job. Unfortunately for the many graduates who have experience doing bar or shop work, this kind of experience isn’t generally seen as relevant. What recruiters are looking for is office-based work in a professional environment.

Although gaining a specific internship is ideal, even a part-time job in a call centre gives graduates important experience of administration and communication in a business environment. Recruiters for graduate positions aren’t looking for somebody who has done the job before, but rather for people who can show that they’ve proven their skills in a business environment. At interview, when asked a question such as ‘give me an example of when you’ve worked to strict deadlines’, an answer referring to a business environment is always stronger than talking about a dissertation deadline, even if this seems counterintuitive.

What advice would Grovelands give to a graduate looking for employment?

My advice to students and recent graduates looking for graduate positions is this: focus on gaining work experience, whether it’s an internship, a voluntary position working for the Citizens Advice Bureau or a call-centre position. Your CV will be considered by many more employers and your chances of landing a graduate job will be much stronger.

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