Category Archives: Interviews

Jargon Buster

The terms employers use to talk about their organisation and/or their recruitment process can be confusing. Get prepared for the autumn term employer events and your job applications with our jargon-buster.

Organisations

Magic circle – Nothing to do with Harry Potter. This is the term sometimes used to describe the top 5 law firms in the UK: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter & May.

Silver circle Similar to the above, a group of top law firms that do not quite rank alongside the magic circle: Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith.

The big 4 – These are the 4 largest professional services networks in the world: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG. They offer audit, assurance, taxation, management consulting, advisory, actuarial, corporate finance and legal services.

SMEs – Small or medium-sized enterprises. In the European Union, these are defined as organisations that employ fewer than 250 employees and have an annual turnover of no more than 50 million euros.

Work Experience

Vacation scheme – This is not a holiday! A period of work experience with a law firm, usually running for 1 or 2 weeks.

Internship – These are often paid placements offered by firms who regularly recruit graduates. Most often in the summer, but there are also part-time, term-time and vacation opportunities.

Job Descriptions and Applications

Hidden jobs market – This is a term often used to describe jobs that aren’t advertised. You can tap into this by networking, making use of contacts and writing speculative applications.

Entry level job – A role that requires little prior experience in the field or profession.

Referees – These are the contacts (usually two) you put on CVs or application forms who can be contacted by an employer to verify the information you have provided or to give insight into your personality. The referee should know you well enough to be able to write positively about you.

Transferrable skills – Also known as ‘soft skills’ or ‘portable skills’, these are skills used in one job or career that can also be used in another, rather than relying on direct experience of the industry. For example, leadership, organisation and communication skills.

DOE – Think it’s a female deer? Think again! Abbreviation for ‘dependent on experience’. An employer will offer a salary within a given range but is willing to pay more for a candidate with more experience.

OTE – Abbreviation for on-target earnings. This is an estimate of actual earnings where pay is made up of both base salary and a variable bonus/commission. Particularly found in job descriptions for sales roles.

Graduate scheme – A structured programme for recent graduates that includes work and training. It can last up to 3 years, though some are much shorter. Completing the scheme successfully often secures a professional qualification as well as a permanent role in the organisation.

Selection Process

Psychometric test – Any activity and assessment that is conducted in order to evaluate candidate performance, including intelligence, skills and personality.

Assessment centre – Usually a day or half day at an employer’s office or training venue involving a combination of tasks and activities to find the right candidates. Involves working in groups and includes a variety of exercises such as role play, in-tray exercises and presentations.

Competency-based interview – This is an interview where situational or behavioural questions are asked. They aim to find out how you have used specific skills in your previous experience and how you approach problems, tasks and challenges.

Strengths-based interview – Type of interview style becoming increasingly popular amongst graduate recruiters. It aims to find out what you enjoy doing and hence what engages you the most.

If you would like more information about some of these terms or support with finding and applying for opportunities, visit the careers service website or contact us directly.

#GetCareerReady

The Careers Service’s new hashtag is #GetCareerReady. What does this mean? And how can we help you to Get Career Ready?

Explore – what’s right for you and what are the options?

What does a career mean to you? What job is right for you? Before you can answer these questions you need to know what will suit you. The Careers Service guide has some straightforward exercises to complete that will help you think about this. Look at this online or come in and pick up a copy at the Careers Service.

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Exploring is also about understanding what jobs exist out there. Trying to understand the job market can be incredibly hard, there are 1000s of opportunities and unless you have a very clear idea of what you want to do, searching for companies and graduate roles can be daunting. We run regular talks on how to research organisations and industries, plus we have a number of sector guides on our website to get you started.

Develop yourself

Alongside exploring your options you need to be developing your own set of skills, understanding what makes you unique and learning how to manage yourself. Not much then! So how do you do all that?

The main thing you need to do is get involved in activity as part of your degree, as well as away from your studies. It’s important to be active, not passive, do not expect opportunities to come to you. The more you get involved in societies, volunteering, part time work, sports, initiatives within your school, research lectures and work shadowing, the more you will be developing skills and becoming the “all-rounder” that employers look for.

 Jo Hutchings, the Information, Advice and Guidance Manager at the Careers Service says “in my experience the students who come into the Careers Service who have been proactive in getting involved whilst at university, generally have a more mature attitude, a confidence in the way they present themselves and the ability to take feedback and act on it. These are all qualities, that if I notice them in a short 15 minute appointment, an employer is certainly going to see at an interview or assessment centre stage!”

IMG_1837The Bristol PLUS Award is designed to help all students develop skills at university, with opportunities to reflect on your experiences, to gain a better understanding of who you are and your strengths. This enables you to become more self aware, a quality all employers look for.

 

Finally, competing for jobs/further study

So #GetCareerReady is about understanding what jobs are out there and what might suit you. Once you have started to establish this, you need to get applying to compete for opportunities.

And, it is a competition; you need to be prepared to work hard for the opportunities out there. Put time into your applications, research organisations, understand the roles you are applying for and get feedback before your final submission. The Careers Service is well equipped to give you this feedback and advice through our appointments. We also have a wide variety of taIMG_1801lks to help you prepare for the application process. These are complemented by online advice and practical help with our video interviewing portal, Interview Stream and practice selection tests, Graduates First.

So if you want to #GetCareerReady, come into the Careers Service to find out how we can help you, as one of our recent users said:

“The Careers Service is fantastic. Professional and comprehensive. I can’t flaw the incredible service”

What happens at a Careers Service Interview Skills event?

What happens at a Careers Service Interview Skills event?

As part of Selection Perfection fortnight we ran a variety of sessions covering the different stages of the selection process.  

One of the most popular sessions was an Interview Skills workshop run by Ed Bootle from True Clarity. This workshop covered the essential preparation for interviews that students should be doing (but are so often overlooked), and looked at how to answer the interview questions you are dreading!

What did the students think of the session?

“As a mature student at Bristol, I have already attended several daunting job and university interviews. However, I am always completely intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of another one! Ed Bootle’s interview skills workshop was one of the most practical and honest sessions I have attended at university. Coming directly from the interviewer’s mouth, Ed gave us a real insight into how interviews are designed to work, what the interviewer is expecting from you, and what you can do to make the best impression possible. Too often we take for granted the simple things, such as standing up when shaking hands or ensuring that you have robust questions to ask at the end of your interview. The workshop was candid and easy-going, and I feel as though everybody walked away from it feeling much more confident about themselves and their next big interview.”

Sarah Muston (2nd year BA Anthropology)

Lee gives us an insight into some of the topics that were covered in the session:

“The session was delivered by an experienced interviewer so it was great to get a feel for the interview process from an expert.  I found the section on which questions are good to ask and those that are not so good to ask in an interview interesting.  We did a group activity on how to approach awkward questions, the key thing that I took away from that activity was to be mindful of why certain questions are being asked. I didn’t quite appreciate the importance of a job specification, but as the speaker clearly pointed out – the job specification is a very useful tool to tailor your interview preparation around.  I would highly recommend this session to anyone who wants to learn how to deliver an effective interview.”

Lee Clay (2nd year BSc Childhood Studies with Quantitative Research Methods)

How to get help preparing for interview

Preparation and practice are key! If you would like help with preparing for interviews, please take a look at the Interview section on our website, as well as Interview Stream which is an online video interviewing module enabling you to practice answering questions and perfecting your technique.  We will be running more interview skills events throughout the rest of the academic year.  You can keep up to date with all our events through mycareer.

 

One final note from us:

“The key to a good interview is preparation and understanding what the interviewer is asking and why.”
Good luck!

Disclosing disability, the decision is yours!

Telling a future employer that you have a disability can be one of the hardest parts of applying for a job and preparing for an interview. In a recent study conducted by greatwithdisability.com, 76% of studentssaid they were concerned about informing a potential employer about their disability or health condition. You might be reluctant to disclose a disability or illness because you’re worried about being discriminated against or being seen as a hassle to employers. You’re under no legal obligation to disclose a disability.However, there can be benefits to being open about your situation, for example:

  • You can draw upon your disability to demonstrate certain competencies. Think about the positive qualities you have developed as a result of having a disability. Managing your disability could have given you strengths that are unique to you and may be the most effective way of demonstrating what is being assessed. Remember not to use your disability in every example, make sure you draw upon a wide variety of situations to show a range of experience.
  • Receiving reasonable adjustments in the recruitment process. One reason for telling an employer that you have a disability is to discuss any adjustments you might need to enable you to perform to your full potential during the interview. Do make sure you only share relevant information; you don’t need to go into all the details of your disability.
  • You can be yourself. Being open from the beginning will allow you to talk about who you really are and the strengths you’ve developed as a result of your disability. Trying to conceal it could take a lot of effort that would be better spent highlighting your talents and abilities.
  • You gain control. If you decide to be open about your disability when you are ready to do so, you will have more control over the way it is seen. This can increase your confidence to use it as an opportunity to describe your disability positively and show how it hasn’t held you back.

Finally, it might be reassuring to know that employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace, including adjusting working hours or providing equipment, to enable an employee with disabilities to do the job. See the disability rights section on the GOV.UK website for more information, including the access to work scheme. You may also want to look out for employers who indicate they have a positive attitude to disability. This may be evident from their recruitment information and their website. Employers may use the positive about disabled people ‘two ticks’ symbol, which guarantees an interview to all candidates with disabilities who fulfil the minimum requirements for the job.

Overall remember:

  1. Be positive: focus on your unique selling points and how you match what the employer is looking for.
  2. Address concerns: consider the employer’s point of view, and inform and reassure them.
  3. Keep it relevant: disclose what you need to and are comfortable with, but remember you don’t need to go into all the details.

For more information, there is a helpful section on disclosing your disability on the equality and diversity TARGETjobs website and greatwithdisability.com is a useful resource containing tips and case studies.

And don’t forget, if you need help or support with disclosure of any kind you can come and talk to us at the Careers Service as well, just drop in and see us.

Claire Wrixon
Career Adviser

Using Video Resources at the Careers Service

The videos provided by the Careers Service are not a resource to be ignored – hearing from graduate recruiters themselves about what they are looking for in graduates is valuable information. The videos are split into several easy to understand sections; CVs & Cover Letters, Interview Techniques, Assessment Centre Advice, Job Hunting, Self-Employment, & more! Each video focuses on a specific aspect of employment, like ‘How to write Work Experience on a CV’, and features testimonials from the people who see hundreds of CVs and Cover Letters everyday – this is the information YOU need to know to land that dream graduate job!

video

In currently trying to land my dream graduate job and facing the prospect of scary assessment centres, I found the videos explaining what tasks and activities I should expect to happen at an assessment centre particularly useful. Assessment centres can vary widely in terms of what tasks they ask you to complete, from presentations and straightforward group tasks, to trying to convince others what celebrities to put in a hot air balloon! When tasks can be as strange as this it is important to understand what key skills employers are looking for: prioritisation, confidence, communication skills, listening skills, persuasion etc. Assessment centres aren’t just about how you compare against others, succeeding in the task is not always about being correct, it is about demonstrating your skills.

Another important tip I learnt from the videos is that you are being assessed outside of the assessment tasks too – from the moment you enter the centre to the moment you step out of the door to go home, your behaviour and how you communicate with others is being carefully analysed, even during coffee breaks! Make sure you have an in depth knowledge of the organisation, as well as their partners and competitors – having commercial awareness will help you stand out over other candidates.

I definitely feel more confident and prepared for my upcoming assessment centre now that I’ve received this advice from employers themselves. Whatever aspect of employment you’re struggling with, I recommend using the greatly informative videos provided by University of Bristol Careers Services.

https://careers.bristol.ac.uk/

Madeleine Dwyer, 3rd year Psychology student 

Start digital networking

The Careers Network at Bristol

When it comes to exploring and planning your career, who better to turn to than a Bristol graduate who once sat in the very same lecture halls and faced the same challenges? Learning from the experiences of others is incredibly valuable, particularly from someone who has been in the same position as you. For this reason the Careers Network has been enhanced and re-launched this year.

The Careers Network is a database of Bristol graduates who have provided information about their career and work. Many have also agreed to answer your questions over email. Originally created in 2008, the Careers Network contains over 1000 alumni profiles and is growing all the time.

Students can use the network to help with a range of questions. Common searches include:

  • Finding alumni who work in your chosen industry or organisation
  • Finding alumni who work in your chosen country or location
  • Discovering what graduates did with your degree

Making the most of the Careers Network:

The alumni on the network have kindly volunteered their time. For this reason it’s important that the network is used effectively. Here are the top three ways to make the most of it:

1. Read different profiles

Don’t limit yourself just because you have a very specific career goal. Hunting for one perfect graduate who has your dream job might mean missing valuable insights and tips from graduates who took different routes.

2. Dig deep

Many profiles in the network contain links to further information, particularly to an employer website or to an individual LinkedIn profile. Follow these links to gather as much information as possible before deciding to send a message to a volunteer.

3. Be professional and polite

Messages to volunteers should be professional, succinct, and courteous. Ensure that you introduce yourself, explain your reason for messaging, and ask clear, specific questions. When a volunteer replies, be sure to thank them promptly.

Ready to explore the Careers Network? Click here to access the network.

How to survive a strength based interview? Don’t worry – it’s in your DNA!

With companies like Ernst & Young, Barclays, BAE Systems and Unilever all using strength based questions to recruit, this type of interview is one that you need to get familiar with.

So how do strength questions differ from more traditional competency based questions?

Competency interviews are based on the assumption that past behaviour will predict future performance, they assess what you can do by asking you to describe a time when you’ve demonstrated a certain skill. Answers can therefore be considered, planned and rehearsed in advance.

Strengths on the other hand are innate, and talking about your strengths in an interview gives you a chance to demonstrate passion and real authenticity. Questions are designed to look at what you enjoy doing and have a natural aptitude for providing employers with a more genuine insight into your personality. More significantly they generate fewer fake, pre-prepared answers.

Questions you might be faced with include:

  1. What would you say is a successful day?
  2. Tell me about something you are particularly proud of.
  3. What do you find is always left until last/un-done on your to-do-list?
  4. When would your friends and family say you are at your happiest?
  5. Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you.

Why are strength interviews increasing in popularity?

Employers want to find individuals who fit with the values and the culture of their organisation as they will be more likely to stay in the job long term. They also want to identify potential and strength based questions allows them to do both.

If you’re using your strengths at work you’re more likely to perform at your best, pick up new skills faster and this in turn increases the probability of you enjoying the role and getting true job satisfaction. It therefore also handily helps you to work out whether you would want the job if offered it.

How to approach a strengths-based interview if you can’t prepare!

  1. Research the organisation’s culture and values, what do they stand for, what kind of people do they employ already. Consider the role, what strengths do you think are required to perform effectively?
  1. Understand and identify your personal qualities: consider your academic achievements and extracurricular activities: what did you enjoy doing most, and why. When were you engaged? What did you take pride in? Think about how these preferences fit with the organisation’s culture and the job. If you find that the role you are applying for doesn’t really play to any of your strengths, consider if you would you enjoy it? Are there more suitable jobs out there?
  1. Relax and be yourself: when answering questions be prepared to be honest and open, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Remember these questions don’t have a right or wrong answer, so if you attempt to reply in the way you think the recruiter wants rather than what you actually think or feel, it’s likely that your body language, expression and a lack of genuine enthusiasm may give you away.

And if you don’t get offered the job this interview style makes it easy to understand why. On reflection you’re likely to come to the conclusion that you wouldn’t have been happy in this role because it just doesn’t suit you.

Claire Wrixon
Careers Adviser

Ready for your close-up? Video interviews, your chance to shine on the small screen.

Does the idea of a video interview fill you with dread or are you secretly excited by the prospect? However you feel, they are becoming increasingly more popular with graduate recruiters. Don’t panic they’re not looking for the next movie star – actually they are just saving themselves some effort!

So what is a video interview?

A video interview is an interview that you record and send to the recruiter to view at a later date.

So why are video interviews so popular with graduate recruiters?

Time efficiency:  Trust me, having been a graduate recruiter, attempting to organise a phone interview in just two people’s diaries can be a nightmare, times this by 30 or 40 potential candidates for just a handful of positions and it adds up to several days’ worth of back and forth rescheduling. Video interviews do away with this. Recruiters set up one interview, send it to an unlimited number of candidates and give them a deadline to complete. You get to conduct the interview when it suits you and the interviewer can watch them at a convenient time for them.

Personality: Recruiters can’t read a candidate at the end of a phone, but on screen body language and personality come across. So make sure you are engaging and remember to smile.

Consistency: Every phone interview is essentially a different conversation, in comparison a video interviewer asks all the questions in exactly the same way to all candidates. This means that there is a more balanced evaluation of all candidates via this method, so it works in your favour.

Review and sharing: It’s easy with this format for recruiters to take a second look or share your interview with others if they want a second opinion. This is really helpful for them, so they are not just relying on their notes.

However remember, once the interview starts you can’t rewind or review your answers – it’s exactly the same as a face to face interview, without the interaction. So here are some tips to help you get it right first time:

Top Tips

  1. Check your background, take down the posters, remove that 3 day old mug and pick a room with clear bright lighting.
  2. Silence the house, warn your flatmates, silence your phone and close the door.
  3. Look presentable, just because you are in your bedroom this is not an excuse for PJs.
  4. Look into the camera, not the screen to ensure you are making eye contact.
  5. Timing: there may be a delay in the questions so make sure the ‘interviewer’ is completely finished before responding to avoid talking over them.
  6. Practice: see how you come across on video, do you fidget or wave your hands around, try to limit distracting gestures.
  7. Like a scout: be prepared. Are you using a laptop, is it plugged in with enough power, test every aspect of the equipment.
  8. Clean the camera lens, the slightest smudge can be very distracting for the interviewer.
  9. Sit still, be aware that the microphone picks up all the noise in the room so don’t tap your pen or shuffle papers.
  10. Have notes in bullet format to prompt you and place them at eye level, so you are not constantly looking down or reading from them.

As always the Careers Service is here to answer any questions or help you to prepare for your interviews so get in touch if you need more help or advice.

Good Luck!

Claire Wrixon, Careers Adviser

Surviving competency and strengths-based interviews

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It’s that time of year when many of you will be invited to assessment centres, following all your hard work in the autumn spent completing those labour-intensive application forms. This post focuses just on the interview component, with more on other forms of selection to follow in later posts. If you need more help with assessment centres now, then look at the information on the Careers Service website: where you will find guidance on group exercises, written tests and presentations.

Competency interviews
This type of interview is by far the most common and is all about your skills. The key to success here is being confident about three key areas: you, the company to which you are applying and the wider sector in which you want to work.
Knowing yourself
• You must provide as much specific evidence as possible in your answers, relevant to that company’s needs, if you want to stand out.
• Use the STAR framework to structure your answers. Offer the Situation and Task concisely, then spend most of your time on the Action you took and why you took it (decisions, judgements, justifications) and the Result: what was the outcome and, very importantly, what did you learn from the experience?
Typical competency questions would be: ‘Tell us about a time you worked in a team. What was your specific contribution?, or, ‘Describe a time when you solved a problem by thinking creatively.’ Get as much practice as you can in answering questions out loud, so that you can learn to think quickly and speak fluently. You can find lots of example questions in our interview skills booklet on the Careers web site.

Knowing the company and the sector
• This is your chance to show off your commercial awareness or knowledge of the company and sector in which you want to work. Make sure your research goes beyond the organisation’s web site! Google is the obvious place to start, and clicking on the ‘News’ tab will help you to find industry-specific information and relevant trade publications.
• Don’t forget to stay up to date with quality national newspapers and industry publications, many of which you can access online. Check the news on the morning of your interview, so you don’t get caught out by any important developments.

Strengths-based interviews
This is a less common style but one that is gaining in popularity. These interviews are aimed at identifying what you naturally enjoy doing and what motivates you, rather than competency interviews where they want to find out what you are capable of doing. The idea is to match candidates to work that most suits them, so they work more productively and in an engaged way.
Typical strengths-based interview questions include:
• What energises you and why?
• What did you enjoy most about your university course?
• What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
• What tells you that you’ve had a good day?
• What challenges do you take on to stretch yourself?
For this kind of interview, knowing yourself and being able to reflect on your motivations is crucial; it will be a much more personal experience than competency interview, so don’t be thrown! If you need help with some self-analysis, try the University’s Personal Development Planning tool on MyBristol, or have a look at Stella Cottrell’s book Skills for Success, available at the Careers Service.
Do come in and ask us about interview preparation if you’re not sure what to do.
Good luck!

Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser