gradireland Summer Fair 2013: Expert advice on how good interview preparation can land you your graduate job

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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.”

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