Tag Archives: competency

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.

Stupidly busy? Be smart and manage your time effectively.

Sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. With the competing demands of revising for exams, writing essays and applying for jobs, good management of your time is essential.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider if you are filling your time wisely. Are you putting off more challenging tasks by cleaning the house, doing the washing up, checking Facebook? My advice…..

Stop Procrastinating!

  1. Just start – do something (anything) to get the task under-way.
  2. If it’s big, break it down into smaller parts and do a little each day so you don’t feel so daunted by it.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Just because you can do ten things at once doesn’t mean you should. Focusing on one thing at a time means you’ll do better work, finish faster, and move on to other, more enjoyable activities.
  4. A cluttered desk is not helpful. Clear your desk of everything not related to what you are currently doing. This will help you concentrate and focus your attention.
  5. Identify your ‘prime time’. We all have a time of day when we are alert and attentive. The secret is to recognise when this is and do the tasks that require energy, concentration and thought when you’re at your sharpest.
  6. Plan ahead by creating a schedule including study, work, and your personal commitments for the next few months. Then…
  7. Prioritise: to be effective, you need to decide what tasks are urgent and important and focus on these. You’ll feel a real sense of achievement and satisfaction from ticking completed tasks off you list.
  8. Work in blocks of time: try a maximum of an hour before taking a 15min break, this way you’ll concentrate better.
  9. Minimise interruptions by switching off your phone, signing out of social media, turning off alerts and push notifications or asking friends not to disturb you. You can survive without knowing your friends’ latest status update for a few hours.
  10. Give yourself a reward once you complete a task to keep you motivated.

Some people believe they need the chaos of leaving things to the last minute and the pressure of a tight deadline to motivate them: ask yourself whether this is really effective or whether it’s disguised procrastination.

If you just do it now, you can look forward to some real leisure time later without the pressure of future work hanging over you. Breaking tasks down and scheduling work ahead of time also means you won’t get overwhelmed later on. It’s all about delayed gratification and you might actually find you produce better work under less stress.

Claire Wrixon
Careers Adviser

Surviving competency and strengths-based interviews

interview

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