Students Staff
University of Essex

September 20, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 4:22 pm


Yes, it really is the final issue, and we hope you’ve found the newsletters useful throughout the summer. Don’t forget that as an Essex graduate, you can use all the services and support offered by the Employability & Careers Centre for up to three years, so keep in touch. Even if you don’t live in the area anymore, we offer appointments via Skype and phone.

In the meantime, keep reading for the final round-up of opportunities, news and advice.

Job spot

Waitrose Graduate Leadership scheme

Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership, have a graduate scheme that has been designed to find the potential future leaders and board directors of the business. They are looking for inspirational, commercially-minded, strategic-thinking visionaries, with their sights set on the future, and the goal of being a leader.

Their three year programme will develop candidates’ talent by giving insight and experience across as much of the business as possible. Successful graduates will spend time working on projects in a broad spectrum of functions, in retail and head office, as well as participating in training alongside graduates from other parts of the John Lewis Partnership.

The successful candidates will also spend time studying for a postgraduate level qualification, to give them theoretical business management knowledge, in addition to the hands-on experience.

The application process is open now, for two months. Apply online.

Careers Adviser’s top tips

We’ve given you a range of tips over the summer, key things to help you stay motivated in your job seeking, and make the most of opportunities. Here’s a reminder of the key points we feel you should remember:

  • Be focused in your job search. Identify what opportunities really suit you and invest your time and effort into applying for those. This will be far more fruitful than lots of half-hearted attempts.
  • Be creative in your job seeking. Not all jobs are advertised, especially those with SMEs. Some jobs take effort to find, but it can be worth it. Take advantage of Social Media, get networking and do your research.
  • When sending your CV, or completing an application, ensure you tailor it to the opportunity you’re applying for. Clearly show each employer that you tick all their boxes.
  • Lots of employers have many stages to their selection process and preparation is vital to success. Do background research, and if likely to be faced with online tests, start practicing!
  • Finally, don’t give up. Just because you don’t hear back from every employer, doesn’t mean your application was terrible. The graduate labour market is competitive, but there are jobs out there, and sooner or later, there will be one for you.

For more in depth advice relating to these points, and related resources, you can review the previous issues of the GradFocus newsletter.

Can you help us?

We’d really like to hear from you. How are you getting on? Do you have any advice you could share with other graduates, and with students who will be in your shoes next year? Whether it’s things you’ve learned from your job seeking experiences, or good news stories such as how you got a graduate job or other opportunity, we’d love you to get in touch. You can do so using the reply box at the bottom of this page, or email with Gradfocus as the subject. Thank you.

What’s new?

English Teaching Graduate Scheme

In many regions around the world there is a huge and growing demand for English language teaching and a need for quality teachers to meet this. A new programme, the English Teaching Graduate Scheme from the British Council aims to help provide unemployed graduates (from the last three years) with a gateway into an exciting and dynamic career which gives an insight into other cultures and communities, while also helping people around the world to meet their own goals and aspirations.

Successful applicants will receive a British Council training grant of 50% of the course fee (tuition only) of a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL course, to be undertaken in the UK only. They will also be given a place on an additional one-day teacher training course run by the British Council, which will provide guidance about starting a career as an English teacher overseas or in the UK.

The scheme is currently open for applications, but you need to act fast: CLOSING DATE 1ST OCTOBER!

Good news

As this is the last issue, and we’ve already equipped you with a wealth of hints and tips for graduate job seeking, we thought we would round off the season with some snippets of good news to show you that it’s not all doom and gloom and give you a positive outlook for the future!

Because you’re worth it

The Graduate Market in 2012 survey by High Fliers Research shows that almost half of graduate employers expected to recruit more graduates this year, a good sign of the ongoing improvements in graduate recruitment since the big dip at the height of the recession. Further good news, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, is that graduate starting salaries are set to rise in 2013 after remaining static for a number of years.

Yes, definitely worth it

New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that about 60% of UK employers don’t offer any routes into their organisations for non-graduates, so having a degree is definitely in your favour. The CIPD’s research, based on a survey of almost 800 employers, reveals that 71% of employers believe they have a role to play in tackling youth unemployment, with 56% planning to recruit young people in the coming year. Further good news suggests that employers who have taken on young people have found it a positive experience, with 90% satisfied with those they have recruited.


On the up

As mentioned, signs are that graduate recruitment is still improving, with growth in particular in public sector organisations, engineering & industrial companies, IT & telecommunications firms, high street banks and retailers. With September seeing the start of a new cycle in graduate recruitment, it’s a key time to be making applications. Many of the top employers, who receive huge volumes of applications, will stop considering applicants when they fulfil their needs, even if this is before their original deadlines.

Over and out

As we said, we really hope our series of newsletters has proved helpful to you over the summer. We wish you all the best for the future and invite you to continue to avail of the support available to you through the Careers Centre. From support to look for jobs at the right level for you, to preparing for interviews and everything in between, don’t forget we’re here for you. You can also continue to take advantage of our internships team, have a look at their facebook page for details. Farewell for now…and all the best for the future.

September 6, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 3:53 pm



As we highlighted in the last newsletter, many organisations with graduate schemes have already started accepting applications for 2013 starts. You’ll be competing with new final year students, as well as other graduates from this year, and even the last few years, so apply early if you’re interested! Check the websites of employers that interest you, or check Prospects, Milkround and TARGETjobs.

Job Spot

Scottish Widows Investment Partnership re-opens graduate scheme

Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) has revived its graduate investment manager programme. The two-year programme, which was cancelled for 2012, will be based in SWIP’s Edinburgh office and will train four graduates to become investment managers. A graduate position is available in each of the investment departments – Global Equities, Fixed Income, Investment Solutions and Real Estate – for a September 2013 start.

As part of their role, graduates will get involved in company analysis; research and portfolio construction; risk; and desk support. They will also be supported to study towards professional qualifications: for the Equities, Fixed Income and Investment solutions programmes, the Investment Management Certificate and the Chartered Financial Analyst program; for the Real Estate programme,  Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors accreditation.

A minimum 2.1 degree is required, but SWIP does say it will consider those with a 2.2 if they have relevant experience and/or further qualifications. Candidates will also need impressive problem-solving and communication skills. The application closing date is 1 November, apply online.

Careers Adviser’s top tip

Do your research!

If there’s one way to frustrate a potential employer, it’s sending an application, CV or covering letter that shows no insight whatsoever into who they are, or any knowledge of the industry they work in. Put yourself in their shoes: if you were advertising a job opportunity, and you received a CV and covering letter that were obviously the exact same CV and covering letter the applicant had sent to loads of other employers, would you be impressed? No? Well neither would they.

Employers want to know that you are attracted to working for them specifically, that you know what they’re all about and that you understand what’s happening in their industry and who their competitors are. your application needs to have that personal element, giving the impression that you really want that job, that you’re right for it and that you would fit in. Don’t forget, the Essex CV pack takes you right through this process. Researching an employer is just as important from your perspective – if you can’t relate to what they do and what their values and goals are, then are they really the right employer for you?

If the employer does impress you and you are genuinely interested in the job, this background knowledge should help you make a good application, and hopefully get you invited for interview. At that stage, research is just as important, if not more so. Be prepared to talk about why you want the job, why you want to work for them in particular and anticipate questions they might ask you based on what they’re looking for, having examples ready to demonstrate you have the knowledge, skills and experience they require. Good luck!

What’s new?

Tech firms looking to expand

UK technology firms could create a host of new IT roles, a recent survey has found. Data collected by Intellect, the trade association for the technology industry, shows over two-thirds of companies were looking to expand, with 43% ‘very likely’ to hire staff in the near future. This is potentially great news for graduates who are looking to enter the IT industry.

Kick start your graduate career with an internship

Opportunities are still being added regularly by our internships team, keep an eye on  their facebook page and email to register. How can you stand out from the crowd?

How can you stand out from the crowd?

Heard about the “Jobless Paddy” billboard? Seen the innovative CV of Graeme Anthony? As you’re probably sick of hearing, it’s a competitive job market out there, and in response, savvy graduates are trying to stand out from the crowd. From ‘message in a bottle’ applications to social media appeals, the good, the bad and the ugly of approaches have been showcased in the media in the past couple of years.

Graduates attempting to stand out from the crowd have been creating infographic CVs, resorting to colourful stationery and glittery envelopes, or even sending items with notes, such as the graduate who sent a Kit Kat to a marketing company with a post it note saying “have a break…then give me one” with a link to his online CV.

While creative approaches are best left to candidates applying for creative roles, it highlights the point that it’s important to stand out from the crowd!  A designer CV may impress in media, marketing and advertising for example, but is unlikely to have the same impact in science, finance or technology. So if you feel the traditional black and white approach is best for you, what can you do to shine?

The simple answer is be yourself, or if ‘yourself’ isn’t quite impressive enough yet, then work on it. You should know by now that a degree alone is not enough, and that work experience is essential, but surely there is more to you than that? What do you do in your free time? What interests you? If you’re unemployed, what are you doing while you are job hunting? Show an employer that you’re not just sitting around waiting for a job to come to you. Get active! Hobbies, interests and voluntary work are all ways you can demonstrate that you’ve got more to offer. Think about the skills and qualities you’ve developed and actively use through these activities, and take examples from them to sell yourself to potential employers. Demonstrating that you’ve got the skills an employer wants in your CV or an application doesn’t need to be evidenced from your academic and employment experiences alone.

Another way to impress is to show the employer in your application or covering letter that you fully understand the job you’re applying for and can see how you would fit in with this. It’s also a big plus if you tell the employer why you want to work for them specifically – as advised in the ‘top tip’ above, demonstrate that you’ve done some research into their organisation and tell them what impresses you about them and what it is about them that you can relate to.

In a week with news that graduate recruitment is likely to grow this year, and that graduate starting salaries could be set to rise for the first time since the recession hit, it’s important to keep trying and to put the effort into really emphasising what you have to offer. Remember that the Employability & Careers Centre is open throughout the summer, and available to you for up to three years after your graduation from Essex, so you can contact us if you need help.

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.

August 23, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 3:24 pm

TOP TIP: You can catch us on Twitter @UoE_Careers as well as on facebook

Recruitment of graduates is an annual cycle, and it’s just starting over again for 2013 opportunities. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of opportunities still open to you right now, but it does mean that if you missed out on any graduate schemes last year, some are already open and accepting applications. Read on to find out more.

Job spot

Sainsbury’s Trainee Manager Programe

The supermarket has re-launched the programme to build on the success of last year, with 150 new places available.

Trainees will spend a year learning every aspect of how to run a Sainsbury’s department while being mentored by an experienced store manager. After this time successful trainees will have the knowledge and skills to become a department manager – a key role which involves overseeing a large team and a multi million pound budget in one of the 1,000 stores across the country.

Got at least a 2:1? As well as the Trainee Manager programme, as part of their ‘2020 Leaders’ scheme, there are Commercial, Operations and People programmes covering routes into areas like Buying, Marketing, Human Resources, Customer Service, Communications and Corporate Responsibility. They also have their ‘Own Brand Scheme’  for you science graduates with an interest in food.  

Other graduate schemes

Lots of employers have already started recruiting for their 2013 graduate schemes, targetting recent graduates and final year students, including BT, TeachFirst, Ernst & Young, Barclays, Unilever and KPMG for example.

Careers Adviser’s top tip

Don’t give up

Ever applied for a job and wondered why you didn’t get any response? Don’t be disheartened! It’s become common practice for employers only to contact job applicants they have decided to interview.

In a recent report by the Prince’s Trust, following a survey of about 3000 16-30 year olds, more than two in five regarded finding a job over the next year as “unachievable”, with three in five describing job hunting as “demoralising”.

Not having any response at all when you apply for a job can be frustrating and can feel like rejection, but it’s important not to take it personally when you don’t hear from an employer. Due to the competitiveness of the labour market and the volume of applicants for most jobs, employers simply don’t have the resources to respond to everyone. Some employers will even state when they advertise jobs that if you don’t hear from them by a certain date, then you haven’t been shortlisted. But if not, and you don’t get a response, it doesn’t mean your application was terrible, it’s just likely that on that occasion there were more suitable applicants than you. Keep trying and tailoring your application or CV to the role, and eventually you will be one of the applicants whose knowledge, skills and experience match what the employer is looking for and get invited for interview.

That said, you can always take your chances in following up with the employer if you are unsuccessful and requesting feedback on your application. Some will be willing to offer advice on why you weren’t shortlisted, which can help you to improve future job applications. Good luck!

What’s new?

Funding for graduate law studies

The College of Law is launching a Gold Awards scheme, providing up to £3,000 for top performing graduates keen to enter the legal profession by undertaking the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

The GDL gives non-law graduates an entry route into law professions. Students who have achieved a first class honours undergraduate degree in any subject or a distinction at Masters level and wish to study the GDL at the College starting in September 2012 or January 2013 can apply for one of the 60 awards on offer.

The Gold Awards are open to students who accept a place on the course at any of the College’s eight centres nationwide by 16 August and will go towards the cost of their tuition fees. The aim of the scheme is to attract top class, non-law students to the legal profession.

Eligible students should email for information on how to apply.

Are you ready?

If you’re still reading this newsletter, the likelihood is that you’re one of the many graduates who have put off applying for jobs until after graduation, and are still looking. As outlined above, many large graduate recruiters are already accepting applications for their 2013 programmes. Did you know that many other large employers start their recruitment cycle between now and Christmas, often with tight deadlines? Competition will be fierce as always, with organised final year students and postgraduates applying too, but by being prepared you can maximise your potential of securing a job. 

In past issues we’ve dealt with things like being flexible and creative in your approach to job hunting, and considering SMEs, which are really important, but many of you may still be keen on securing a place on a graduate scheme, to join a large company offering training and the scope to develop your professional career. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that quite a few graduate schemes require at least a 2:1 for entry (some also stipulate minimum UCAS points requirements), but some will accept a 2:2 so it’s worth checking the entry requirements if you’re in that category and are interested. 

While the websites used by large graduate recruiters (Prospects, Milkround and Targetjobs to name a few) may seem rather sparse at the moment, from now onwards they will be flooded with opportunities. So if a graduate scheme is your goal, and if you’re well prepared, one of these opportunities could be yours. 

One of the most important steps in preparing to make applications is to do your research. Firstly, analyse all the graduate schemes that appeal to you and prioritise the ones you feel really match your expectations. Making an effective application takes time, so making an effort with a few is more likely to lead to success than rushing through lots of them. Secondly, being in a position to indicate to an employer that you fully understand the role you’re applying for, and that you have done your homework on their organisation, is sure to impress. Employers offering graduate schemes generally make this easy for you by having a careers section on their website detailing their opportunities, as well as things like the history of the organisation and their values, achievements and goals. Swot up on these and you will be a step ahead of the game, and ready to give a convincing answer when they ask you why you want the job. 

It’s also important to believe in yourself when you apply and to show the employer that you are confident you could do the job. Are you more inclined to start sentences about your experience and skills with “I’ve haven’t really done much of…” or with “I’ve developed some experience of that through doing…”? Be as positive as you can. Employers will be interested in your potential, so even if you’re experience in something is minimal, it’s worth highlighting it rather than making light of it, and show them that you are interested and willing to learn.  Look at the skills big employers are likely to require and have positive examples at the ready to demonstrate that you’ve got them. 

Finally, review all the tips and advice we’ve provided in these newsletters, from tailoring your applications to practicing psychometric tests and you should be ready to click apply and make effective applications when employers with graduate schemes that interest you start recruiting. 

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.


August 8, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 3:08 pm



It’s August already! The summer is flying by and there are still lots of opportunities for new graduates. In this issue we’ve got some tips on using your social networking skills to investigate employers and find opportunities, and we’re also highlighting the potential of considering less well known employers in your job hunting.

Job Spot

Are you a UK citizen or resident with fluent Arabic or Persian? An office of the US Embassy London is recruiting for Current Affairs Officers. Duties will include coverage of media developments and breaking news, production of translations and multimedia, web content management, research, and written analysis. The starting salary is at least £27,000. Closing date is 20 August. Interested? Full details on JobsOnline, search current affairs.

Don’t meet the criteria for the vacancy above? Check out JobsOnline anyway, there are lots of live graduate vacancies listed, with more being added daily.

For wider vacancies, check out graduate vacancy sites such as milkround, prospects and TARGETjobs as all still have live graduate vacancies, many with deadlines in August. There are opportunities GCHQ, Siemens, Deloitte, ITV, Rolls-Royce, Thales, Arcadia Group, Bloomberg, PwC, Abercrombie & Fitch, EDF Energy, Logica, BskyB, Heineken, Danone, Shell, Capital One, FDM, Majestic Wine, Next and many more.

Careers Adviser’s top tip

Make the most of social media

Networking can be the key to getting hired, taking advantage of people you know, contacts through family and friends and making a good impression at events such as careers fairs. But did you ever think you’d be using your social networks to look for a job?  Employers are increasingly using social media to recruit and there are constant developments enabling them to promote opportunities.

While there are new social media sites popping up all the time, indications are that LinkedIn and Twitter are the most effective for actual job hunting.

LinkedIn is a professional social network, allowing you to have a CV style profile and the potential to join groups related to your career area, connect and network with professionals and search for jobs. While it tends to work best for experienced professionals, it is also good for graduates to research companies and people, and is likely to be more widely used as more students and graduates engage.

Twitter is widely used by people both advertising and seeking vacancies. Where it excels is in terms of making connections, making a good impression and building relationships which can lead to finding opportunities. 

However, as with all job search options, there are do’s and don’ts! It’s important to keep your personal and professional networking separate. There’s a mine of information online to help you to use these resources effectively – here are some useful sources to help you get started:  

 Graduate guide to LinkedIn

 Getting a job through twitter

Remember, it’s not all about LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook is increasingly used by organisations to promote their graduate opportunities and to engage with potential applicants, including providing advice and tips on their selection processes. You can also explore potential employers through other media such as relevant blogs, YouTube and Google + to name but a few. So get networking!

What’s new

Channel 4 launch PhD scholarship scheme

Channel 4’s Audience Technology and Insight department want to build a team of technical analysts to deeply mine the data they collect from viewers. The media industry is moving towards big data platforms with real time & predictive analytics.

They are looking to invest in upcoming talent and graduates that have the raw skills and technical training, but perhaps lack the practical experience in industry. Successful candidates will study part-time for a PhD/MPhil in Statistics at University College London alongside their role, on a salary of £30,000.

Diane Herbert, Director of HR at Channel 4 said: “We are incredibly passionate about providing opportunities for people enthusiastic about a career in the media industry, regardless of their experience or background. The Scholarship Programme is just one of Channel 4’s work related initiatives designed to help people into their desired career.”


They are looking for candidates with 1st class or 2.1 BSc degree, or an MSc with merit or distinction in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or a related quantitative discipline.


Don’t hang about if you’re interested, the deadline for applications is midnight on 15 August. See to apply.

Think it’s all about graduate schemes? Think SMEs 

You may, like many, be wondering, what SMEs are? That would be Small and Medium Enterprises, referring to all private businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Approximately 99.9% of all UK businesses are SMEs, and about 60% of private sector employees work in SMEs. The South East has the largest number of enterprises with 16.3% as compared to London’s 15.8%. If you are not already considering SMEs as potential employers, think about how much of the labour market you could be missing out on.

There are SMEs in most industries, and some sectors are dominated by SMEs. Some of the key areas include:

  • Advertising, sales, marketing and PR
  • Charity and not-for-profit
  • Construction and engineering
  • Fine arts, performing arts and design
  • Hospitality, leisure and tourism
  • Human resources and recruiting
  • Information Technology
  • Law
  • Logistics and transport
  • Management and consulting
  • Media and publishing
  • Science, research and development

Given the nature of a SME, it won’t come as a surprise that they don’t generally share the recruitment and advertising budgets of large employers, so you won’t find their opportunities on the big graduate recruitment sites like Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround for example. Finding jobs with SMEs may require more effort on your part, but could lead to just the right opportunities for you, especially if you prefer the idea of being a big fish in a small pond, rather than the other way around, or if you’d just rather stay local to where you live.

So how can you go about finding a job with an SME?

Firstly, do some research. Find out what employers are based in your area or in the area you’d like to work. A quick start would be a search using an online directory e.g. Yell or try the Federation of Small Businesses directory. You could also try searching via your local authority, as most have information on local enterprises, such as a business directory. If the sector you’re interested in has a Sector Skills Council or an industry body, these could also be valuable sources of information and support.

Once you’ve found employers you think would interest you, check if they have a website to find out more about them, they may have a careers or jobs section. Also see if they are active on social media pages like facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Other possible sources of vacancies with SMEs include specific job sites for their industries, or specialist publications for the sector. Recruitment agencies may also source talent on behalf of SMEs, but if you use this approach, it’s not enough just to register. You need to speak to your Recruitment Consultant regularly to let them know you’re actively seeking work so they keep you in mind when suitable opportunities come up.

The other approach you can take is to make a speculative application. Thoroughly research the employer you’d like to work for, think about what you could offer them and tailor your CV to emphasise this. Then in your covering letter, tell them why you are contacting them, why you are interested in working for them and what you think you could bring to their business. Even if they don’t have an immediate opportunity they may keep you in mind. You could also use the opportunity to inquire about work experience as well as job vacancies. See the Essex CV to make sure your  CV and covering letter make the best possible impression.

Don’t forget, employers can advertise free via the Employability and Careers Centre so keep an eye on Jobsonline. You can also access opportunities through our Internships team, these are usually with SMEs. If you identify an employer you’d like to work for, you could try getting a foot in the door to impress them through an internship. If you email your CV and details of the employer you’re interested in to they may be able to help you by contacting the employer on your behalf. For more information and current opportunities see their facebook page.

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.


July 25, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 3:20 pm

TOP TIP: stay informed between newsletters through regular updates on our facebook page

We hope you all had a great day for your graduation last week, it was nice to see some of you on square 5. Now more than ever, you may be focusing on your career as a graduate, so keep reading for the latest job opportunities and news, as well as advice and tips to help you show potential employers how good you are.

Job spot

Ever thought about being a Police Officer?

The Metropolitan Police Service has a new Police Officer Graduate Entry Programme. They are looking for commitment, resilience and integrity for entry to the foundation training stage, which can lead to their Graduate Development Programme, with exceptional candidates being selected for their Accelerated Programme.

You need to act fast if you want to apply, only the first 4,000 candidates with at least a 2:1 who pass the telephone screening by 10 August will progress to the next stages, with assessments being undertaken from 1 August. Training would start in March 2013.

See their website to find out more, including how to start applying.  

 Civil Service Fast Stream

Interested in doing a job that means having an impact on life in the UK? The Fast Stream is the talent management programme for graduates who have the potential to become the future leaders of the Civil Service.  It is ranked in the top ten “Times Top 100 Graduate Employers”.   

There are routes open to all degree subjects, and some specialist routes including for economists, statisticians, social research, operational research, HR and technology. There are also opportunities to apply to work in the EU and Northern Ireland. Applications for all Fast Stream schemes open from mid-September 2012 for entry in 2013 so start preparing now by researching opportunities on their website and filling any skills and experience gaps you might have.

Careers Adviser’s top tip

Practice for employer’s selection assessments

Psychometric tests are often used by larger employers as part of their recruitment and selection processes, often after the application stage and before inviting candidates to assessment centres and/or interviews, but sometimes even as the first step. They’re not as scary as they may sound, they’re simply tools devised to assess things like numerical, verbal and logical reasoning, situational judgement and personality. However many candidates fail to progress past this stage of selection due to lack of preparation. Some assessments may be timed and without practicing similar tests in advance, completing them can be very challenging. 

Many students and graduates ask what the best practice tests are, but there’s no easy answer for that. Each employer will design their own tests, often with the advice of Occupational Psychologists, to assess candidate’s suitability depending on their own specific requirements in what they are looking for in new employees. However, just practicing these types of tests in general can help you become familiar with the process and get you thinking in the right way, improving your reaction speeds for answering questions in timed tests. So why not make a start in advance of the new cycle of recruitment for graduate schemes now? The Employability & Careers Centre website has a section dedicated to helping you get to grips with Psychometric Testing, including links to practice tests. Some employers even have their own practice versions of their tests, usually available through their careers pages on their websites.    

What’s new?

Santander funds internship programme for small businesses

Santander has launched a new scheme to support the provision of 500 internships for British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The bank will provide funding towards basic salaries for the students and graduates who take part.

The small business internship programme will be open to final-year and recently graduated students with the aim of promoting the benefits of working for SMEs, who make up the majority percentage of employers in the UK. It will also provide SMEs with access to valuable graduate talent.

Ana Botín, Santander UK chief executive, explained, ‘We hope our new programme offering 500 student internships to SMEs can help provide our talented graduate community with the opportunity to gain vital experience in the workplace, whilst opening their eyes to the benefits of working for smaller companies. SMEs have not typically attempted to compete with the graduate recruitment schemes of the big FTSE players and we hope that this initiative will give a wider range of companies the benefit of fresh, young talent.’

The internship programme has been set up as the result of the partnership between Santander and sixty British universities and higher education institutions, or which Essex is one. Santander will work with its partner universities to find students/graduates and companies who will benefit from the scheme and will help with placements and administration.

Our internships team should have more information on this soon, so keep an eye on their facebook page for updates.

How to impress at graduate job interviews

In the last newsletter, we guided you through effectively applying for jobs. Getting that right should (hopefully) be your ticket to succeeding the selection process through to interview. It’s pretty much guaranteed you will be asked why you are interested in the employer, so do your research and think about how you will tell them what attracts you to working there. You should also think about how you will talk about your interest in the role, and what makes you suitable for this, including what you believe makes you stand out from the competition.

Could you do the job?

Having focussed on proving you have the skills the employer is seeking at the application stage, you can also use these to help you to prepare for competency interviews. This type of interview examines what you can do. The questions are likely to a little deeper into the skills you provided evidence of in your application. The STAR approach we outlined as a technique for making effective applications is equally useful when preparing for competency interviews, as questions are likely to be phrased with the expectation that you really prove yourself. You may be asked things like:

  • This role would require you to work effectively as part of a team in a busy and challenging environment. Can you tell me about a relevant time when you’ve contributed successfully to a team effort and what the outcome was?
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are critical for this role. Talk us through a time where you’ve used these skills effectively in the past.
  • Good organisational skills will be key for success in this role. Can you outline an example from your university or other experiences where you’ve demonstrated this skill?

Would you fit in?

In addition to having the skills the employer is looking for, you may also want to give some thought to your strengths and areas of interest. Strengths based interviews are becoming more popular with some organisations, so it is good to be prepared in case this is what you face. Unlike a competency based interview, in a strengths based interview, an employer will expect you to talk about what you like doing, your interests, what you think you are good at. The passion that comes from talking about these things helps to bring out the real you. It’s important to an employer to select not only someone who has what they are looking for, but someone they feel will fit in well and make a difference. Strengths based interviews are more difficult to prepare for as it’s more difficult to anticipate the questions, but it would help to spend some time considering questions such as the following:

  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • What are you most proud of? Why?
  • How do you know when you’ve had a good day?
  • What energises you?
  • What things come naturally to you?
  • What gets done first on your ‘to do’ list? What never gets done?
  • When are you happiest?

At the end of the interview, the employer will ask you if you have any questions for them, so you should prepare what you want to ask in advance. The best questions are ones that reinforce your interest in the employer and the role, so resist questions about pay and holidays at this stage! Things you might want to find out more about are the training and development opportunities, what a typical day or week is like in the team or department you’d be joining, or asking questions around anything topical for the employer at the moment by researching their website, their social media pages and the media in general.

Are they right for you?

Finally, remember that the job descriptions and research you are doing on a job or employer should also help you to decide whether or not the job is really for you. It is just as important for the employer to match your requirements as it is for you to match theirs. Don’t force yourself into a role that you are not going to enjoy, you won’t perform to the best of your ability and it will be reflected in the quality of your work. Don’t say things you think the interviewer wants to hear – be honest so that they get to see the real you. Talking about things you are interested in and passionate about is much better than trying to force yourself to be someone you are not. Be honest with yourself about what you are looking for, your strengths and weaknesses and whether or not the job is really for you, you will be much happier in the long run.

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.

July 12, 2012


Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 2:14 pm


TOP TIP: visit our stand on Square 5 during graduation to find out more about the Essex CV and get a free USB stick with a copy uploaded!

As graduation approaches, for those of you who don’t yet have plans, finding a job is likely to be on your mind. We’ve put together some useful articles for you again in this issue, with a focus on finding jobs in what’s sometimes referred to in the ‘hidden job market’, and also, continuing from the reference to tailoring your CVs and applications to employer’s requirements, some specific advice to help you to do just that. 

Keep in touch

 Why not ‘like’ the new Employability & Careers facebook page for regular news, tips and features in between newsletters? Internships Essex are also on facebook.


Job spot

Channel 4 launches first ever graduate programme

The television broadcaster has announced the launch of its first ever graduate programme, offering graduates firsthand experience at the centre of the organisation. Three successful applicants will work within either the channel’s Marketing & Communications department or Audience Technologies & Insight department for 20 months, gaining valuable experience within these business areas as well as a wider view of Channel 4 and the media industry.


Careers Advisers top tip

Be creative in your job search

Did you know that not all job vacancies are advertised? Sometimes employers rely on people taking the initiative to enquire about opportunities and show an interest in them. This is particularly true for smaller companies who may not have large budgets to advertise opportunities.

If there’s somewhere you’d really like to work, find out how they recruit. If they don’t have a specific cycle for hiring, then do some research into the employer and find out what they value in their employees and future candidates. Then send a customised CV with a speculative covering letter to the relevant person in the organisation, highlighting your interest in possible opportunities, why you’d like to work for them and what makes you a suitable candidate. Even if they don’t have a job vacancy when your CV lands on their desk, they might contact you when something becomes available.

For tips on writing an effective CV and covering letter have a look at the Essex CV pack via our website where you can see annotated examples of CVs and a covering letter and use our checklists to ensure you’re not missing anything important.

What’s new

Award winning employers lead the way in graduate recruitment

Teach First, the charity that trains high-achieving graduates to teach and places them in disadvantaged areas, won an award this week for its selection and assessment process. The charity was singled out for its achievements in this area as part of the 2012 Association of Graduate recruiters (AGR) Awards, which aim to champion best practice in graduate recruitment.

Other graduate recruiters who won awards were; Ernest & Young, who won both the Integrated Marketing award and Best Employer Brand award; Allen & Overy who won the Literature award and Barclays were awarded the Digital Marketing Strategy award.

Confidence is low, but engagement is high

Twice a year, undertake research of their registered graduate jobseekets. Their latest findings show that fewer than 2 in 5 of these graduates expect to get a job in the next two months. However, they are putting the effort in, with 2 out of 3 spending up to four hours per application, so maybe their efforts will pay off and they will be pleasantly surprised.

Their research also found that over half of the surveyed graduates believe their degree has equipped them for the world of work, with three quarters feeling their degree has boosted their employability. The majority of respondents studied Economics/Politics/Business or Social Sciences, with strong responses from IT/Telecommunications and Mathematics also.

Other Snippets…

  • Against expectation, graduate salaries are beginning to rise
  • More than three quarters of graduate recruiters now expect at least a 2:1
  • The current craze in the graduate recruitment is the strengths-based interview (more on this next issue…)
  • 17% drop in graduate vacancies with law firms is expected this year
  • Large increases in vacancies for IT and engineering graduates, including in energy, water, utilities and telecommunications anticipated this year


Meeting employer’s expectations

Last week we mentioned tailoring your applications for the employer and job that you are applying for and making sure that you are pulling out the skills that are relevant to the role. But what are the best ways of doing this, and how do you find out the skills or competencies that are required?

The first place to look is the person specification for the job. It should list the employer’s requirements, including skills that are essential and desirable for the role. You need to clearly demonstrate you have all the essentials to stand a chance of getting selected for an interview.

To find out more about what the employer might be expecting, do a bit of digging around and creative thinking to see what wider skills they may be looking for. Look at the employers’ website to see what their values are, if not at the application stage, they will very likely question you on or around these during the interview process. See whether they have online presence through social media such as LinkedIn, as then you can look at the profiles of current employees to see what skills they have. Look at graduate websites such as Target Jobs employer insights and Prospects job application advice to see what employers are asking for. Consider the skills that the Times 100 employer’s state as a prerequisite for graduate roles: teamwork, communication, problem solving, confidence and creativity. Now you have some insight into what skills are required, how do you demonstrate that you have them?  Look at the variety of things you have done through your degree. Did you work in project groups? What role(s) did you take and which did you find the most interesting or challenging. Think of the variety of ways you communicated ideas and projects, who you communicated them to and the different programmes or medium that you used. What approaches did you use manage your time, be organised and to solve problems, and which were the most successful or beneficial?

Look also at the other things that you have done outside of your courses, both in and out of university. What societies were you a member of and did you hold a position of responsibility? Did you have a frontrunner position, any part time work, volunteering, internship or other work experience? What skills and experiences have you gained from each of these? What did you learn about yourself, other people, or a situation that relates to the job you are applying for? Think about all the experiences and try to see how you can use them as evidence to demonstrate that you have the transferable skills that employers are looking for.

When preparing your CV or answers on application forms, consider the STAR approach to help you to give complete, structured evidence: Situation (put the scenario into context) Task or Target (what you were aiming to achieve) Action or Approach (what approaches you considered and then which you actually did) Result (what happened? Were you pleased with the outcome? What did you learn from it?  What could you have done differently?).  Remember that not everything that you do is a total success – be honest; if something did not go well then say so. But also say why it didn’t go well, what you have learned from it and what you have perhaps done since to prove that learning.

Follow this advice and you should be doing everything possible to tick all the employer’s boxes and as a result, hopefully stand out as one of the best candidates and get invited for interview. Look out for the next newsletter in a fortnight for advice on what to expect in an interview and how to prepare.


We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate you in advance of your graduation next week. We’ll be on square 5 throughout the week if you need any help, or just come and say hello to get a free lollipop! Enjoy the celebrations.

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.

June 28, 2012

GradFocus 1

Filed under: Newsletters — Dee Hardcastle @ 3:00 pm

Hello and welcome to the first GradFocus newsletter of the series, aimed at our 2012 graduates. Over the summer, we will keep you up to date with relevant news, tips and advice to help you establish your graduate career…so please read on to get started.

Job spot

Win work experience for a graduate career in hospitality!

Students who are considering a career in hospitality, leisure and tourism can win work experience placements with top employers via an online competition organised by People 1st, the sector skills council for the industry. The next round of the work experience competition is now open and is offering the winner a chance to win a week’s work experience with the catering company Baxter Storey.

The hospitality industry provides a great opportunity for students wishing to pursue a career in management. The hospitality sector can be an attractive option because it offers its graduate recruits the chance to gain face to face management experience at an early stage in their careers. A quarter of managers in the sector are under 30, so it is an area in which it is possible to make your mark soon after graduation.

Management jobs in hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism are also expected to increase over the next few years. It has been predicted that the sector will need another 34,000 managers in the UK between now and 2017.

Click here to find out more and to enter.

Careers Advisers top tip

Focus your job search

One of the biggest challenges of job hunting for new graduates like you can be finding jobs at the right level, where your knowledge, skills and experience match the employer’s expectations. Keeping your job search general can often lead to finding vacancies where your qualifications are not relevant or required, or where considerable relevant experience is a prerequisite.

To find graduate schemes or graduate entry level roles, it’s more effective to search for jobs by focusing on the right sources – those that are targeted at people like you. Also, bear in mind the average starting salary for a graduate is £18-23k, so aiming too high, or even worse, too low, is unlikely to lead to successful applications.

Start with the Careers Centre website where you can use ‘JobsOnline’ to search for current vacancies aimed at graduates and then dig deeper using the useful links we’ve put together in our ‘Looking for Work’ section to help you find those vacancies aimed at people like you, and learn more about different approaches to job hunting.

Why not join us on facebook to share tips with each other? Throughout the summer we will be using it to keep our new graduates up to date with key news, events and opportunities. You can also use it to help each other out by sharing your ideas, thoughts and experiences.

What’s new?

Marks & Spencer enter the banking sector

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is set to create 500 new jobs in the UK by the end of 2013, with the launch of the new M&S Bank this summer. The roles include 400 customer-facing positions in-store and 100 roles at the company’s Chester head office. Over the next two year, 50 M&S branches in total will open in M&S stores across the UK.

What’s going on in the graduate labour market?

According to High Fliers Research, who annually survey one hundred of the UK’s best-known and most successful employers, almost half expect to recruit more graduates in 2012 whilst more than a quarter plan to maintain their intake at 2011 levels, which were significantly higher than 2008 and 2009, when graduate recruitment was hardest hit by recession. However, competition for opportunities remains high. Graduate employers say they receive an average of 48 applications per graduate vacancy, So how can you work towards being one of the successful job hunters? What can you do to stand out from the crowd? We’ve put together some advice to help you on your way and kick start your graduate career so read on to see what you can do.

For starters, work experience is essential. Nearly three-quarters of recruiters warn that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process, and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes. In addition to this, many vacancies with top employers are being filled by graduates who completed work experience with the employer through placements and internships while they were students. If you haven’t already got work experience, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start. There are many ways to build on your experience to develop your transferrable skills such as internships, volunteering and making contact with professionals in roles you’re targeting to request discussing their career with them or work shadowing. Also, don’t forget to consider the skills you’ve gained through your degree, part time jobs or holiday jobs, voluntary work and general life experience.

Secondly, don’t underestimate the value of networking. Not all vacancies get advertised, particularly with smaller employers, and many people secure jobs through knowing the right person, or being recommended. Think about who you know, and who their contacts are. Do any of your family members, friends, friends of friends or lecturers have links in the industry you’d like to work in? Do they have any insight to offer about recruitment, or could they help you to make contacts get some work experience? Could you make links through social media? Many employers now use social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with people and recruit, so you can use these as an alternative method of searching for jobs, and also for researching organisations and their employees. We will be exploring networking and social media further in this newsletter over the summer.

Finally, when you find those opportunities you really want, you really need to tailor your application or CV for each role you apply for. Sending exactly the same CV for 100 different vacancies is far less likely to lead to an interview than making 10 applications that are tailored to each role and clearly demonstrate to the employers that you have the knowledge, skills and experience that match their criteria. Use our new resource, the Essex CV, and you can’t go wrong. Show an employer that you’ve got exactly what they are looking for and they are far more likely to want to meet you.

So there you have it – the graduate labour market is more competitive than ever but there are jobs out there, and if you persist and put the effort in, there’s no reason why one of them can’t be yours. Stay positive, learn from experience and don’t perceive an unsuccessful application as a rejection. Eventually your hard work will pay off and don’t forget that your Employability & Careers Centre is open throughout the summer, and remains available to you for up to three years after you graduate. We’ll be happy to help you at any stage of your career planning and job hunting, and keep an eye on your inbox for the next issue of this fortnightly newsletter for further useful tips and advice.

To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an email to with ‘unsubscribe gradfocus’ as the subject. To change the email address you provided to receive this newsletter, please use ‘update gradfocus’ as the subject.


September 15, 2011

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