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November 17, 2012

The graduate recruitment process


The graduate recruitment process can seem really daunting: even if you survive the initial application sift, you can still look forward to a further two or three stages before you reach the final hurdle. But the key to success lies in preparation and understanding what the interviewer is looking for, so I caught up with Claire Jones, Student Recruitment Officer at PwC, to ask for her top tips to beat the odds.

Whichever opportunity you're applying for at PwC (or anywhere else), there are some things that you should be thinking about so we've put together some hints and tips:

Do your research

We'll expect you to be able to talk coherently and confidently about PwC, the position you're applying for, the business world in general and yourself. The more you know about these things, the more prepared you'll be, so you'll have to get researching.

Think about investigating the following sources of information:

  • Our brochures and website (careers and corporate)
  • The financial media (press, television, internet)
  • Relevant professional bodies (especially if they offer a qualification you're interested in pursuing)
  • Anyone you know who works for PwC (or a similar firm)

Don't just give them a quick glance the day before your interview. Examine them, understand the issues and keep yourself up to date.

Completing your application form

Remember first impressions count so the application form is a major opportunity to sell yourself. Before you complete the form, you may find it useful to gather accurate details of your university and secondary education exam results, work experience and employment. While completing the form, remember to:

  • Read and follow instructions carefully.
  • Proof read everything you write including checking grammar and spelling.
  • Be concise as you can elaborate at interview.
  • Don't repeat statements you've read in our brochures and website.
  • Don't be vague or lie about your results as we will check your academics at a later stage in the process.

Taking the tests

These tests help to determine your numerical, logical or verbal reasoning ability.

  • You can practise taking the tests before you sit the real ones.
  • The test will be timed and you should work as quickly and accurately through the questions you're presented with.
  • Ensure you read each question carefully and that you understand what's required before committing yourself to an answer, especially where multiple choice answers appear similar.

We'll also ask you to complete an Occupational Personality Questionnaire and you may be asked to complete a Student Talent Questionnaire.

Preparing for interview

Interviews can be nerve wracking, but the more prepared you are the more relaxed you should feel. Ensure to:

  • Do thorough research prior
  • Remind yourself of the things you've done that can help you demonstrate the skills and qualities we've listed
  • Think about the questions you're likely to be asked and your responses
  • Come up with questions you want to ask

We'll be looking to find out:

  • Why you want to join PwC
  • What you understand about the work we do
  • What you think about the vacancy you've chosen

During the interview

Be truthful and concise, answer the exact questions asked and don't ramble about irrelevant things. Our interviewers are not given a set list of questions to go through but you can expect most to be in relation to our 'Global Core Competencies' such as:

  • What do you know about our business?
  • Why have you decided to apply to us?
  • Are there any issues or current affairs that interest you?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
  • When have you worked in teams?
  • How are you able to juggle your commitments?

Remember, we're not expecting you to be perfect but preparing for some of these questions will certainly help you to feel confident that you've given it your best shot.

At the assessment centre

  • Prepare what you're going to wear beforehand - if in doubt, dress conservatively.
  • All materials required such as paper and pens will be provided for you. You can bring your own calculator but if you choose not to, one will be provided for you.
  • Make sure you bring all necessary additions eg reading glasses, inhaler, prescribed medication.
  • You'll undertake numerical, logical and verbal reasoning tests (depending on your business area) so prepare yourself for these and work through the practice information sent in advance.
  • During the written exercise, you'll be required to read the briefing materials and prepare a written report on the given subject.
  • You'll participate in either a group discussion or individual exercise so ensure that you speak clearly and audibly so that the assessors can hear you.
  • There'll probably be at least one and up to 11 other participants attending the same assessment day but remember you're not in competition with them but judged on your own, individual merits.

And finally - good luck!

October 19, 2012

Applications: are you hearing the message?

Megaphone manAs you've probably noticed, the careers fair 'season' has kicked off in earnest. Last week saw the first of our autumn fairsImpact – and Stephanie Baravelli, final year philosophy student (and careers rep) popped along to get the employer lowdown....

As a student, one of the most stressful things we encounter are job applications. The world of graduate employment is a competitive one, and the right application can easily mean the difference between getting an interview or not. So how can you give yourself the best chance of getting through to the next stages of the recruitment process?

We spoke to a multitude of different employers at the Impact Fair, concerning the most important piece of advice they would give to students who are applying, and one resounding message emerged from almost every employer. The key to giving yourself the best chance is a simple one, but is something that many students fail to do and a source of great frustration to employers; read the material provided by an employer and use this to tailor your application to that specific company.

Employers want to employ graduates who match the needs of the company and the team they will be working in. This may seem like an obvious statement, but many students fall at this hurdle by submitting either a destined-for-the-bin ‘general’ application or a more specific application tailored to the field, but not to the company; an IBM representative at the fair said that success “is in the details”. Many of the employers spoken to said that if a recruitment team looks at your application, and can’t see clearly why you would be a good fit for the role, your application is unlikely to go any further.

Fear not though: companies are not trying to catch you out with this process. We asked one employer what advice he would give to students to better their chances; he handed us a booklet and said read it through. It seems many students and grads are failing to do this. It may sound obvious (because it is!) but read the material thoroughly – don't just leave the glossy brochures gathering dust at the bottom of your fair goody bag. Booklets that are handed out by employers at careers fairs or through the careers service contain within them, under all the jargon and superlatives, key information that you can and should utilise when applying. One of the things that frustrated the employers I spoke to most was that they provide so much material for students – including things like details of the company ethos and the person specification – and yet this is seemingly ignored in many applications.

So, for those of you about to apply for graduate jobs, or any other type of job, make sure you are paying attention to what the company wants and tailoring your applications. If the company has put their ethos in bold on the front cover of their booklet, it is obviously important to them, so you need to think how you can show them you understand and embody that ethos. The materials the companies provide are there for a reason – use them, and you are giving yourself a much better chance of making it through to the next stage of recruitment.

And if you would just allow me a quick 'NB' it is this: please don’t ignore grammar and spelling. You may think this doesn't need saying but according to many employers – including big companies like Coca-Cola – spelling mistakes run rampant throughout applications, and are a real turn off to employers. An error filled application makes you seem lazy or careless – or possibly both! Remember that most of the large employers will be looking at hundreds of applications – try to make their jobs easier by running a quick spell check or getting a friend to read through your covering letter. Many of the graduate recruiters will only 'permit' one or two small errors throughout your application: don't screen yourself out on the basis of a few silly mistakes.

July 25, 2012

Show what you know: the key to interview success

WhyThe 'why' questions are an integral part of any interview process. John Edwards, Graduate Recruitment Manager at the BT Group, explains why they matter and how to answer them.

Yes, it's competitive

Graduate recruitment selection processes are becoming more and more competitive as the leading universities globally deliver more and more highly qualified and talented students into the world of work. Do treat this as a competition, make yourself stand out from the crowd! A key differentiator for most employers will be how passionate you are about the career choice you have made and why you have chosen to apply for a role in their company. Other candidates will have similar levels of experience and knowledge in your chosen subject as yourself, but can they demonstrate as much commitment and passion as you?

Why this organisation?

Do your homework on the organisation. Make sure you can answer the following:

  • What is their customer base? Is it diverse or niche?
  • What challenges do they face in the market? How are they tackling those challenges?
  • How are they structured? Do they have different divisions? What do those divisions deliver?
  • Does a particular aspect in the company really appeal to you?

You need to get your facts straight. What do you know about share price (moving up or down?), revenue, turnover, employees, profit figures, recent announcements (good news or bad news). Be prepared to put your own personal spin on this – what does all this mean to you? Finally, you need to be absolutely convincing when asked, "What attracts you to this company?". If you are going to spend 2-3 hours filling in an application form or you are going to travel to an interview or give up a day to attend an assessment centre, 30-60mins thinking about these things is time very well spent!

Why this role?

So, why have you chosen to apply for a certain role? Why have you made this career choice? It is likely that this will be your first real job outside of an internship. How have you reached the decision to be a software developer, an accountant, a consultant? Why do you want to work in marketing, HR, law? If you can’t answer these questions there will be other candidates who can! You need to make your reason compelling. Remember the person who will be interviewing you is likely to be passionate and committed to this area as they have a career in it already. If you come across as driven it is likely you will work hard to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed and make a difference. This will make you stand out from your competition.

And finally...

Be proud to talk about any research you have done. Do you follow any career specific press i.e. Personnel Today, People Management? What do you know about the CiPD. For marketing, do you follow certain marketing campaigns? Are there technology blogs that you follow? What have you done in your spare time to prepare yourself for your first step into this career choice? Work experience, job shadowing, conferences, events? Be creative and share what you have done on your application and in interviews.

Perhaps all that seems like hard work and it is! But view at as an investment, do it in a committed way and you will reap the rewards on applications, in interviews and at assessment centres.

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