Students Staff
University of Essex

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.