Technically speaking

Here’s an unashamed steal from the TargetJobs website concerning two articles (here and here) written about the subject of handling technical interviews. Something for the I.T. and Engineering students amongst us. I particularly like the highlighting of the following 3  aspects of what you’re likely to encounter:

1) Know your basics – the fundamental things that may have been taught to you at the start of your course.

2) When you’re given a practical problem to solve with a technical solution it pays to show your thinking and your rationale as you think through it ahead of, perhaps, trying to give an absolutely spot on technical solution.

3) It’s okay to say you don’t know. Technical interviews are often done to test the boundaries of your technical knowledge and we all have boundaries. Even the most experienced techy will have a boundary to the questions they can answer  well. Just be prepared to maximise your own boundary of technical knowledge.


What you should ask your interviewer (and what is best left unasked!)

So, you have been invited to an interview. Well done. Now, you will probably be re-reading the job description, trying to anticipate their questions and practising your answers. Way to go.

Now, in any interview, the last question is always the same: “Do you have any questions for us?” And why is it that lots of candidates dread this one? Continue Reading


Temperatures rise as July is our hottest month yet!

Summer is upon us (finally!), and we have had a heated start to the month for our Snapshotters*!

Key words of the month: Snapshotters’ Challenges!

Unfamiliar with this phenomenon? Not to worry!

In a nutshell, our Snapshotters’ Challenges were designed to give a competitive edge to the Snapshot Scheme and allow the students to gain points for their commitment, enthusiasm, and overall engagement during the Scheme. These take form as sessions which challenge (hence the name!) our Snapshotters and help them develop and work on their employability skills. The person with the highest ranking will ultimately get a personalised reference from Gary, our Head of Careers – not too shabby, eh?


As part of our Snapshotters’ Challenge, the students on the Scheme attended some tailored sessions that aimed to develop their commercial awareness, presentation skills and interview skills, and that have given them exposure to a variety of selection tools used by employers in their recruitment.

Our final Challenge was a mock assessment centre, which was run in collaboration with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and FDM Group. Our guest employers were very impressed with the high calibre of students at City University London, and vowed to be back on campus in the next academic year for similar events!

Continue Reading


Great Podcasts to Develop your Commercial Awareness

Demonstrating commercial awareness is vital for whatever sector you are hoping to go into –  law, technology, politics, health, for example, not just business. Yet every year,  graduate recruiters frequently tell me that graduates  lack commercial awareness at interview or assessment centres. I find this too when I carry out mock interviews and assessment centres with students at City. Questions like“What do you think are some of the key issues affecting our sector at the moment”? or “Give me an example of an  article or programme which has interested you recently” (a typical question to test how you keep youself up to date with sector issues) are frequently met with blankness or hesitation with lots of ums and ers!

Of course an  internship, placement,  or voluntary work experience is the ideal way of gaining or dveloping commercial awarness, but a lot can be achieved by thoroughly researching specific organisations you are interested in and keeping up to date with the sector in general. There are lots of ways of doing this, but a good start can be finding out about  organisation’s culture, values and goals via their website and signing up for their newsfeeds. Some professional bodies also provide good resources to develop commercial awareness. The ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants) has excellent podcasts on its dedicated graduate website about how to develop your Continue Reading


How would you like to be remembered?

In my previous blog I discussed the value of looking at things from the other person’s point of view, and in particular, how understanding what makes employers tick might help you when you are thinking about how to engage with them.

The assessment centre is a perfect example of engaging with an employer, and of course it tends to happen at a time when you want to make the best possible impression on the company that you hope will hire you.  So how can putting yourself in another person’s shoes help you to perform at your best on the day? Continue Reading


The minute you walked through the door…

Part 3 of my 4 part series on the myths around getting recruited concerns first impressions. The whispered warning that “They’ll have made their mind up about you within the first few seconds of meeting you”.

I’m not denying an impression will be made but here’s the challenge I would set to you. If, for whatever reason, you feel you’ve made a less than strong first impression than you would have liked then take the opportunity over the rest of the time you spend with them to redress that. That doesn’t mean being over the top. It’s about representing yourself consistently well. Employers assess you over the entire period of their interactions with you. Not just those first few seconds.

Still want to be more confident around those first impressions? Check out Continue Reading


How not to fail employers’ tests

Hands up anyone who hasn’t done well in a test recently.  If you just put your hand up, you can put it down now – thank you – and console  yourself that you are not alone.  Feedback from our employer contacts tells us that City University students don’t always reach the required levels in tests used in selection. For example, 0f 252 City University applicants to a major graduate recruiter last year, 107 were rejected after the test stage.

Maybe those students will never be able to reach required levels.  If so, simple solutions include looking for jobs with employers who don’t use tests or who don’t set such high levels of attainment.

However, if you haven’t performed well in a selection test, just consider for a moment whether you prepared well enough beforehand.  Did you try out a few practice tests online before you did the real thing?  Assessment Day has a range of different practice tests, many of them free, with answers provided too.   Did you think about the kind of questions you might be asked and go back over some of  your  old skills?  For example, many numerical reasoning tests include percentages, ratios, fractions and currency conversions.  If these are a distant memory get your old school books out, start chewing on the end of your pencil and try a few calculations.   Or try sources like the Open University’s Skills for Study.

Don’t forget we often run practice test sessions – look on the events listing on our website.   Continue Reading


Brilliant way to describe your strengths and skills in writing and at interview

How many times have you found yourself struggling to express your strengths and skills  to win yourself an interview or job? Working as a Careers Consultant at City, students tell me everyday that this is something they find both difficult and time-consuming. One way to take some of the hard work out of this is to take the Ernst & Young Strengths Test. It take only a few minutes and you get an A4 printout which summarises your own blend of strengths and skills eloquently and accurately. Try it!





Some tips on preparing and performing in interviews

The interview season is upon us. Hopefully with support from your careers service on applications and cvs during the winter term you have secured an interview in the spring term. Here are our top tips for interview prep:

* Be confident, but not over confident. There should be enough anxiety in the way you feel about the forthcoming interview to create motivation. However, too much may make you over obsessive about memorising facts about the organisation rather than focusing on why you want to work for them.

* Be prepared to have a proper conversation. There is a perception that an interview is purely a Q & A session – like a verbal version of an exam where you tell the interviewer what they want to hear. It is not. Most intelligent interviewers will expect a discusssion. They will also expect you as a sign of maturity to ask for clarification and ask questions back that are sensitive and relevant.

* Have examples. Try to prepare examples that illustrate the competancies they are looking for. Perhaps one example per competency. A good tip here is to structure the example around Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR). Focus your energies around the Action part of STAR remember to include verbs. Another tip is to avoid memorising your examples word for word. There is no point because you know the example already. It does not matter if you change the words, it’s the content that matters. Also, where possible pick an example based on an activity that you enjoyed.

One or two tips on performance:

* Smile & Enthusiam. When you meet with the employer its important that they know you are pleased to meet them. Employers will not just judge you on what you say, they will also draw conclusion from the impression you leave them. The employer will be asking themselves questions such as did they show enthusiam and are they the right fit in terms of mind set for my organisation?

* Ask questions. You may also be assessed on questions you ask the employer. Did you ask sensible intelligent questions? Did you pose questions beyond frequently asked questions on our website? Are you interested in the responses to your questions?

For further tips on preparation for interview click on the following link: http://www.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/148531/Preparing-for-an-Interview-New-2012-13.pdf