How graduates can score & achieve goals in the job market

By  Sophie Adams Director & Consultant of  Smart Resourcing Solutions Limited

Since the recession in 2008/9, every article has emphasised the decline of graduate recruitment, painting a picture almost as depressing as England’s trophy cabinet from the past 40 years. This article does not completely buck that trend.  As of 2012, one in ten undergraduates who started university after 2006 (with the introduction of £3,000 annual tuition fees) have experienced long term unemployment. When the class of 2015 graduatem in a flagging graduate job market, they will be saddled with tuition fee debts of £9,000 per year.

According to a HighFlier Research Study in 2013; there was a reduction of 0.8% in graduate recruitment. A conservative 2.7% rise in graduate recruitment was projected for 2013. Although this is a higher percentage than the England team’s penalty conversion rate, that does not say much. It is incorrect to say that graduate recruitment is suffering a blanket decline however; some sectors are experiencing growth. TeachFirst has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last ten years and plan to recruit over 2,000 graduates for England and Wales by 2015. No matter the state of the market, opportunity is there for those well informed in their approach to the graduate job hunt.

Companies such as Enterprise Rent-A Car, who exclusively recruit graduates throughout the entirety of their business, also offer a chink of light at the end of the tunnel to university students. A number of businesses still do have a vast graduate intake; the top ten graduate recruiters all have over 100 graduate posts, including companies such as Tesco, Jaguar Land Rover and Specsavers. However, in today’s market they are the exception rather than the rule, prospects for graduates can be bleak. At universities there is saturation, both in attendance and the emergence of newer and ever varying degree courses. In light of the changes that have occurred year on year at higher education institutions across the country, the undergraduate degree has crumbled almost as quickly as Cristiano Ronaldo when met by a gentle breeze. This fact, combined with the shaken confidence of business both big and small in the turbulence of the economic environment, is the first yellow card for graduates.

Even with the contraction in the number of graduates businesses are willing to take on, they are still struggling to meet their reduced graduate recruitment quotas. In 2012, an Association for Graduate Recruiters report revealed that just under a third of companies were falling short of their graduate recruitment targets; claiming that a swathe of applicants ‘did not meet their requirements’. This is the second yellow for many graduates, after seeing red they are down the tunnel and suspended from the competition. It is a problem that has manifold sources. More students are paying more money for courses that will make them less qualified for jobs that are fewer. The result is simple; a proliferation of graduates for a dearth of graduate jobs. The discord created by this set of circumstances means that the need to distinguish yourself as a world cup winning candidate, rather than a beaten finalist; has never been more pressing.

The strenuous application process,  including writing CV, application forms, assessment centres and more; means there are innumerable ways to slip up at each stage. On the proviso that you even reach an interview, what happens if your application is deadlocked and heading for a penalty shoot out? Below are five ‘goals’ and five ‘misses’ to bear in mind for various stages of the graduate job hunting process.

5 goals –

  1. From application form to interview; use the STARR method when met with competency based questions. S – Situation – describe it. T – Tell them what your role was. A – Actions; explain those you took. R – Results, detail those of your actions. R – Reflect, tell them how successful you thought you were and how you may change your approach next time.
  2. Know your CV. You must anticipate searching questions from employers regarding gaps in employment, travel and academic achievement; and be ready to fully explain them.
  3. During a telephone interview, try standing and pacing whilst speaking. It could help you work through your answers more eloquently and with greater articulacy.
  4. During group assessment, engage with other candidates by trying to develop ideas that they put forward. This exemplifies your capacities for listening, teamwork and individual flair.
  5. Be ready with questions of your own. Make them less about pay and holiday and more about your motivation or scope for progression.

5 misses –

  1. Having unprofessional social media profiles. 89% of recruiters check them; if there is a prevalence of typos, unprofessional behaviour with stimulants and sexual behaviour you will be fighting a losing battle before you even begin.
  2. Making lists is a cardinal sin. When asked for your interests, don’t simply write or say ‘basketball, cycling, reading’ – expand on your membership to clubs, achievements, events attended and/or organised; paying special attention as to how they may link to the role you’re applying for.
  3. Extreme posturing. Slouching in your chair or sitting rigidly during an interview setting can negatively affect your interviewer’s impression. Try to find a middle ground.
  4.  Rushing your answers. Asking for clarification and/or taking a moment to consider your answer in interview is highly preferable. It also demonstrates you can think on your feet, without simply memorising answers.
  5. Conduct a video interview in an inappropriate setting. Make sure your lighting and sound are up to scratch, don’t host it in a cellar or bathroom! Make sure there are no distractions for the interviewer(s) behind you.

Follow  @smart_res for more job hunting hints and tips. To give yourself the best possible chance, visit!students/cxag to inform and redefine your approach to the graduate job market.

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