gradireland Summer Fair 2013: Expert advice on how good interview preparation can land you your graduate jobPosted: June 19, 2013
On Wednesday 12th June gradireland hosted the annual Summer Fair in the RDS, Dublin. During the course of the day, nearly 3,000 graduate and postgraduate students made their way through the doors, availing of the opportunity to meet graduate employers and course providers and also attend a broad range of careers seminars and lectures.
gradireland spoke to some of the career experts presenting on the day to ask them for their top tips on how to get a graduate job in this competitive market. The key message was that preparation is key. Preparation in terms of knowing as much as possible about the company to whom you are applying, preparing how to market yourself to that company and most importantly how proper preparation can help avoid your CV joining the majority in the dreaded rejected pile.
Rowan Manahan, Managing Director, Fortify Services
“Graduates need to understand that they are the product, the employers are the customer. Jobseekers have to be aware of the stress that recruiters and employers are under. For any applicants to be successful, they must present themselves as being the solution to the employer’s problem. It’s a fact that there is a lot of intolerance and cynicism amongst the employer market so applicants need to present a very clear picture of themselves and be very aware of how they’re perceived by other people.
I encounter a lot of delusion amongst candidates as to what exactly is required in a role. They often don’t even go beyond the homepage of the company’s website. That’s lazy, careless and unforgivable behaviour and it’s sadly quite common. Graduates need to prepare seriously so that employers take them seriously. While the opportunities exist for current graduates to be better informed than ever before, frequent, common mistakes are made all the time. Candidates need to provide evidence of experience at interviews – employers don’t want to hear theoretical answers about what you would do, they want to hear about what you have done.”
Paul Mullan, Founder of Measurability
“If jobseekers get the opportunity to interview, they need to ensure they give themselves the best chance of getting the job and maximise the opportunity that they have been given. Most applicants don’t actually get to interview stage so it’s very important that they seize this chance. It all boils down to preparation. You need to plan for the interview in advance, not leave too much thinking to the day of the interview itself, which is what too many people do and it places too much pressure on them. It needs to be remembered as well that most hiring managers want candidates to do well in an interview, because at the end of the day, they have a problem and they’re hoping you might be the solution to it. What people perceive as trick questions are really just questions that are intended to provide some insight into who you are and what you can bring to their organisation. If you go into a shop to buy something, you would frequently ask questions before you purchase and that’s what interviewers are doing. It also needs to be stated that most interviews are relatively pleasant encounters; they are not these grim processes that they are frequently made out to be. Most interviews that people do go well and although they may not get the job, they’re not left traumatised by the process. The big challenge for graduates is to distinguish themselves from competitors, that’s why work experience is so vital. It allows you to accentuate your experiences in a work-based setting. Candidates need to display their enthusiasm too, and show a bit of energy in the interview process. They need to be aware of their tone and their body language and to ensure that they tailor their answers to meet the needs of the employer”
Gina Rhatigan, Founder, Rhatigan Training
“What I see a lot of is a lack of confidence, coupled by a lack of preparation. Frequently, applicants don’t do enough research on the companies they are applying to and there can be a distinct lack of knowledge of what is required to sell themselves at interview stage. Recruiters tell me all the time that they know when a candidate walks in the door if they are going to hire them. 55% of the hiring process is first impressions, 38% is what you say in the process and the final 7% is your tone and body language during the interview. It’s understandable that candidates can be nervous in an interview but basic things like demeanour and manner should always be remembered and appear natural. My own work brings me into contact with a lot of people who are very high academic achievers but don’t know how to perform at interviews. They can lack self-confidence and self-esteem and this is no surprise with the constant negativity that they hear every day. They keep getting told that there are no jobs available; of course there are jobs available. They just need to know where to look and how to apply properly.”
A recent conference in UCD, hosted by the Association of Higher Education Careers Services, AHECS, explored the whole area of work placement and how the process can be refined to offer more value to students and companies. Entitled ‘Positive Impact of Work Placement: Enhancing Employability in Challenging Times,’ the aim was to promote and refine the concept of work placement as an essential tool for building graduate careers. Research presented at the conference showed that employers are increasingly viewing the work placement process as part of their recruitment processes.
Speaking at the start of the conference, Seamus McEvoy, chair of AHECS and Head of Career Services at UCC said that the Association has established a working group in this area to “develop best practice policy and guidelines for work placement learning, produce relevant research publications and create a forum for the sharing of expertise and experience amongst Work Placement practitioners.”
The keynote speaker on the day was Ms Una Halligan, Chair of the Expert Group for Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). She hosted a presentation based on research carried out by the Expert Group, entitled Future Fit: Role of Work Placement in Preparing Students for Employability & the World of Work.
The Group have carried out a number of studies on the impact and effectiveness of work placement schemes in different industry sectors. The overriding theme of the responses from companies in these sectors is that work placement is increasingly vital for graduates. In the bio-pharma sector, companies ”emphasised the importance of student work placements and consider them to be very valuable, giving students practical experience of the industry.” In addition, according to the report, they see a “considerable difference between graduates who have had a work placement as part of their studies, and those who have not,” and it is the experience of companies that ‘graduates from programmes with work placements hit the ground running.” The issue though is that the report also found that large numbers of students taking biopharma-pharmachem related courses do not have access to placements. For those unable to secure a placement the EGFSN recommended that students use visiting lecturers or networking with industry professionals to attain some of the knowledge and skills that work placements can provide. Companies surveyed also said that placements should be ideally between 6-9 months as it takes between 8 and12 weeks, in their experience, for students to familiarise themselves with the positions.
The theme of the growing necessity of work placements was carried through to the Financial Services companies surveyed by the EGFSN, mirrored by a similar lack of placement opportunities. This lack of opportunities was, according to companies, having an impact on the effectiveness of graduates during the recruitment process. The report says that financial companies found a lack of “industry readiness” in graduates. But the exceptions to this were colleges who included work placement programmes as part of their curriculum. According to the EGFSN; “this practice was viewed very favourably by industry with several respondents stating that quality work experience made these undergraduates instantly more employable and often placed them on a par with students who had pursued postgraduate level studies. The report emphasises the benefits of the “practical application of their education in a live work setting, and as graduates, that they can adapt and contribute immediately as they encounter less of a learning curve in entering the work environment.” In terms of manufacturing, employers emphasised the importance of graduates being reasonably ready for work, both in terms of being able to apply what they have learned, and in terms of the course content reflecting the workplace as it is now. The presentation from Ms Halligan also highlighted that “employers indicated that they see work placements as forming a major part of their recruitment process.”
The presentation also touched on the skills levels in the ICT sector, with surveyed firms saying that they “are generally happy with the graduates they see,” and “were keen to endorse work placements as a mechanism to smooth the transition from college into the workplace.”
Ms Halligan also spoke on the under-usage of the Erasmus programme and the whole issue of the shortage of language skills as a result. We’ll discuss this whole area in a future article.
for advice on work placements and internships.
Forget the corporation tax debate; our graduates should take full advantage of multinational opportunitiesPosted: May 13, 2013
In a week where the whole issue of tax being paid overseas was thrown into the limelight with the comments by Minister for Social Welfare Joan Burton regarding U2 having their tax affairs handled in the Netherlands, a UK Parliamentary Committee has also summoned Google to appear before it to explain why it has paid virtually no tax there despite accumulating €13 billion in revenue over the past six years. It turns out it’s paying its taxes here due to its European HQ being based in Dublin. With Ireland’s low corporate tax rate renowned, revered, and in places envied, across Europe, we are well used to the continuing debate over how much tax global corporations with major European operations pay here.
The facts are that resident multinationals here represent a virtual roll-call of the rich and famous of the technology, pharmaceutical and finance sectors; including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline, Accenture, KPMG, JP Morgan. In yesterday’s edition of the Sunday Business Post, Adrian Weckler wrote a comment piece stating essentially that it’s high time that Ireland stopped feeling guilty about our privileged position as a global hub in these fields and realise that these companies are “national, strategic assets in Ireland, as important to Dublin (and other Irish cities) as agriculture and tourism are to rural counties.”
For graduates, this landscape multinationals on our doorstep represents considerable opportunity. For overseas companies, the groundwork for them moving to Ireland, in addition to the obvious tax based incentives, is often laid by hard-working overseas trade delegations and IDA lobbying which focuses heavily on the quality of the workforce. Fidelity Investments International are currently seeking 50 more employees to add to the 250 they have nationwide and, also speaking to the Sunday Business Post yesterday, its President, Travis Carpico made comments which can only be interpreted as positive for both jobseekers and graduate jobseekers. “We came to Ireland in 1996. It was our first foray into accessing non-US talent. The things that you hear from the IDA are actually true. You have a highly educated workforce, a great work ethic and mesh well culturally with US multinationals and the way they like to go after things. Obviously there have been a lot of changes in Ireland over the past 17 years but the fundamentals of Ireland in terms of education, infrastructure and the business environment and the level of talent haven’t changed.”
The ten biggest high-tech firms are openly seeking to fill over 600 positions, pharmaceutical multinationals have over 110 positions available and the financial giants such as Deloitte and BNY Mellon and others have over 300 positions available. While many of these positions are for experienced professionals, most of those recruiting also offer graduate programmes which provide a wealth of real-world experience, great training and long term job opportunities. The average salary for graduates is between €24,000 to €26,000 but the number of graduates being taken on with salaries over €34,000 has increased by over 6% between 2011 and 2012. With a fragile economic recovery still in its early stages and an unemployment rate that is still unacceptably high, firms that provide employment, opportunity and considerable boosts for local businesses by their very presence need to be embraced and their opportunities exploited by the highly skilled graduates and jobseekers that our universities produce. As Adrian Weckler said in his column yesterday “there are times when national interest competes with -and overrides- solidarity with EU members, even when they get into a scrape over tax avoidance. So Britain’s MP’s and its media may be ticked off with Google. But that’s not our problem.”
To search for graduate jobs and for more on graduate recruitment and the application process, visit www.gradireland.com
If you can answer YES to the above question, you will definitely want to check out the revised online edition of Do Ghairm le Gaeilge, now available on gradireland.com in both English and Irish versions. Catherine Lyster of Letterkenny Institute of Technology explains how the guide can help you discover the vast array of opportunities to use Irish in your career.
Perhaps you are a recent graduate or about to graduate in the Irish language or you may have a great passion for using the Irish language in your chosen career area but do not have Irish in your degree. Fear not! Do Ghairm le Gaeilge provides a comprehensive overview of the range of career options where competence in written and spoken Irish is a decided advantage. You will discover, for example, that opportunities to use Irish in your career are not confined to Gaeltacht areas and that the burgeoning development of new technologies have spawned career opportunities to use Irish that would have been unheard of 5 years ago, such as apps developer and opportunities in online media.
Do Ghairm le Gaeilge is thoroughly researched and presented in an attractive, user friendly manner. Section One gives an outline of interesting facts regarding usage of Irish . Did you know, for example, that job opportunities exist for bilingual researchers, producers, journalists, IT and other technical experts in the areas of broadcast media? Or that barristers with Irish make up a significant proportion of the Bar Council with more than 155 registered as having fluent or a working knowledge of Irish? This section also contains valuable hints and tips on how to incorporate use of Irish into your daily working life.
The subsequent chapters outline opportunities in sectors where competence in Irish is a distinct advantage such as Media, Translating and Interpreting, Private Sector opportunities, Culture , Arts and Language, and, of course, the Public Sector. Each chapter is concise and thoroughly researched. In the case of media, for example, the reader will gain a comprehensive overview of careers where Irish is welcome such as print, broadcast and social media. Each chapter is peppered with case studies, job and internship hunting tips, sample CV’s, facts and an extensive list of web resources. There is a special chapter on postgraduate studies which will be of interest to anyone seeking information on postgraduate courses in any of the above career areas
With Do Ghairm le Gaeilge, you will be well informed on the range of exciting career opportunities in which you can use Irish and will be provided with lists of valuable contacts and resources. Do Ghairm le Gaeilge is the essential companion for anyone looking for a career using Irish or to pursue postgraduate studies in the Irish Language sector.
There are a host of different approaches to getting a job – ask 100 experts and you’ll get 100 different answers. However, our guest blogger, Dean Ruxton, succeeded with an approach that many would discourage and some would abhor – is there such a thing as “successful spamming” and can it actually get you a graduate job?
“Spamming” in general gets a bad name. For most purposes, it amounts to inbox terrorism or a channel for shameless, viral self-promotion. However, in terms of getting a job in the shortest amount of time possible, it’s also a cost effective and economically viable method. I graduated with a BA last September and, like most of my classmates, found it harder than I could have imagined to even get a response from a potential employer, let alone a job. That’s when I decided to utilise a structured, focused ‘spam’ week to flood the market with my info; it took five days to implement and since then, I have had a 50% response rate, six interviews, three offers (one of which I accepted) and am still receiving phone calls.
Before you start, you will need:
■ A short, punchy, one-page CV. One page might seem short, but there’s actually university professors who champion their own one-page CV; just keep it concise and be ruthless.
■ A couple of stock cover letters. For higher level positions, you will have to tailor your cover letters, but you can also utilise a couple of general ones; for example, you might have one that could satisfyingly cover any retail, hospitality or customer service positions.
■ Paper, stamps and envelopes.
This is an aggressive distribution process that will involve applying for 40 positions in a 4 day period. First, you will need an A3 piece of paper, ruled out into four sections, each representing a day of the week; my own template spanned Monday-Thursday. This frees up Friday to catch up on any day targets you didn’t reach, or to follow up on any very promising contacts you made during the week.
Within each day section, list the numbers 1-10 (how you orientate the page is up to you – just make sure you can follow it). It’s important that you write the name of the company you’re applying to and the position – this makes for a quick reference point should you receive any unexpected calls and removes any chance of a fatal error on on your part by forgetting what position you applied for within a company.
The name of the game is efficiency in distribution. You will be using four main channels; the mailed CV, walk-ins, online applications and online job-posting sites. The biggest mistake you can make here is over-relying on generic jobs boards like jobs.ie; due to the sheer volume of applications, your chances are dramatically reduced from the get-go. Here’s an approximate percentage breakdown guide to using these channels:
Mailed CV- 50%
If possible, ring ahead to get a manager’s name and put it on the envelope (if not, “Hiring Manager” will do for general serving, retail and hospitality positions). This method really is your best friend for our purposes; it’s quick, casts a wide net and makes sure your information reaches its target.
Online (position-specific) applications 25%
They’re looking to fill a position and will list the role responsibilities and desired characteristics; it’s up to you to hone your educational credentials and experience to convince them you’re suitable.
More suited to local positions in retail, bars etc. For customer-facing types of roles, it can’t hurt for the manager to get a glimpse of your presentation and demeanour.
Job sites 10%
Again, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re being productive by spending too much time surfing these websites. You can get lucky, but the statistics aren’t in your favour.
For a week, this is your job. Get up early, get dressed and then begin your shift. It gets more difficult to find places to apply to as the week progresses, but remember that any job is a good job. However, don’t waste your own or anybody else’s time by applying for a position that deep down you know you would not accept. By all means have a broad outlook, but also know what jobs you would or would not accept. While waiting for responses, it can only help to keep going. Keep networking, calling, surfing and emailing for leads. If nothing happens, change something. It could be your CV, your approach or your attitude. It is true that you need a certain amount of luck, but you can increase your chances dramatically by altering your methods, reviewing your strategy and marketing yourself effectively.
This approach may not be a fast track to your desired career path, but the fact remains; it’s a lot easier to get a job if you already have one.
This “Successful spamming” worked for Dean. What do you think? Has anyone else tried this approach (and with what results)? What do careers advisers and graduate recruiters make of Dean’s strategy? Let us know! And if you want to take a more considered approach to speculative applications, read this advice on gradireland.com
Of course, distance learning is nothing new, aided originally in the 18th century by an innovation known as the Post Office. And The Open University was established in the UK way back in 1969, shortly before Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon.
But thanks to the internet, distance learning has never been more popular. In the UK in 2011, nearly 11 per cent of students were distance learners; while in 2010, there are 7,500 students from Ireland registered to do courses with The Open University. That institution saw an ‘unprecedented’ 34 per cent increase in 18 to 24-year-olds doing a distance learning degree in 2010.
I recently interviewed several recent graduates who had undertaken postgraduate study online and all gave a positive assessment of this approach to gaining a qualification. One woman doing an online teaching course with Hibernia College noted how she worked during the day and did her course work in her available time. ‘You’ll find a lot of people who are changing career who will do it this way,’ she said, ‘because it allows them flexibility.’
Another person I interviewed did an Open University postgraduate diploma in marketing while working as a teacher. It enabled her to eventually change career and become a consultant.
And one of the best features of modern distance learning is that it enables you to do a course in a top university in another country without ever leaving the comfort of your house. Most top universities in Europe allow people to enrol in courses remotely. The University of London’s international programmes, for instance, have over 50,000 students, from 190 countries, enrolled in distance learning courses – including over 200 from the Republic of Ireland. These programmes include undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the London School of Economics, Kings College, Royal Holloway and the Royal Veterinarian College.
And new approaches are now being developed, such as that of Coursera, which offers free online short courses from universities including Princeton and Stanford and has had over 1.7 million people register since April 2012.
For more ideas on choosing a postgraduate course, see postgradireland.com.