Want to be in demand by Ireland’s top graduate employers? Take the gradireland National Student Challenge

The National Student Challenge (NSC) is open again offering a great opportunity to students and a chance to kick start their career in the best possible way, writes Fergal Browne.

The annual event, run by gradireland alongside some of the biggest graduate recruiters in the country, tests the abilities of students throughout Ireland and finishes by finding Ireland’s brightest student.

The possibilities coming from winning the Challenge are massive. “I’ve had job offers come into my LinkedIn from Google, Accenture, a lot of companies and recruitment consultants just because I won the gradireland National Student Challenge”, says Ava Mahoney, 2014’s NSC winner.

Ava, who is going to complete a PhD in Taxation in University of Limerick, can’t speak highly enough of the challenge. She tutors 3rd year Taxation students and has told them all to go for the challenge. “It’s great practice. It’s great for getting your brain active”.

The Challenge takes on two forms. The first is a series of online exercises to test the competencies that make for a great business person. It consists of a range of tasks in four categories; verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning (make sure you’ve a pen and paper close by for this part), commercial competency and multitasking. The latter was added this year in response to employer’s desires for candidates to demonstrate this necessary attribute.

Ava advises that it’s best to do the test when your head is clear. “Make sure you don’t do it at the end of a busy day. Just be as relaxed as possible”.

The competition culminates when the 60 best performers in the online competition come together for a series of tasks as provided by some of Ireland’s leading recruiters. The students will be split into groups and must complete a series of tasks, which are chosen by Ireland’s top graduate employers.

It’s this opportunity to network with some of the country’s most prestigious employers that can be the biggest benefit. “It’s just unbelievable the networking opportunities that comes from it”, says Ava.

“One piece of advice I’d give to anyone who takes part in the event is to stay back after the day is finished and talk to the companies. It’s a great chance to impress them further and I heard of some candidates who got interviews just from the chat after the event was finished”, she adds.

The leaders are listed on gradireland’s website. At the moment Trinity College leads in terms of entrants in both the top-60 with nine, while Ireland’s oldest university also boasts a quarter of the top-20 and the coveted number one spot.

Despite its seeming strength this year TCD has never boasted a winner with two former winners coming from Northern Irish universities – University of Ulster and Queens University Belfast – while last year’s victor was Ava from University of Limerick.

The overall winner will receive €1,000 and recognition as Ireland’s brightest student, while each contest is sponsored by a company who will offer a prize to the best-performing student in their category.

With the cash prize an incentive, it’s still important that students don’t be overly-competitive. “Just relax and be yourself”, says Ava. “Employers will see straight away if you are putting on a persona to win”.

The online test is open to all students, undergraduate or postgraduate, and is available here if you think you are Ireland’s brightest student.  Make sure you have 40 minutes to spare and your head is clear. After all, you only get one chance.

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