FAQs: Your questions answered by real employers

We asked our graduate users to give us their questions about graduate job hunting. After receiving loads of responses we sifted out the best and put these to real employers. Below are the best questions and answers we received.

Got a great question for employers? Send it to marketing@graduate-jobs.com

Name: Anthony Takyi

Job Title: Student Recruitment Manager

Company: PwC

What makes applicants stand out from the crowd?

Phoebe, University of Bristol

A: It is a given that applicants make a number of applications to a range of employers but one major pitfall which leads to applicants not standing out is a generic initial application either through a CV or covering letter or an application form that incorporates competency based questions. Lots of applicants tend to use buzzwords and show a very limited understanding of the organisation that they are applying to.

Candidates who stand out take the time to research the employer and role that they are applying to. When compiling a CV and cover letter think about the skills required for the role and those attributes valued by the employer. In showing your understanding of what you are applying to, go beyond information on the graduate recruitment site. The same principles can be applied to answering competency based questions on an application form and always ensure that the information you present is in a clear format where key points easily stand out.

Other than work experience and academic records, what do you look for?

Graham, University of Southampton

A: Work experience is not a requirement for internships or graduate roles. The focus is on whether you have the underlying skills to succeed in your chosen business areas and the organisation as a whole. For example skills such as teamwork and organisation skills amongst others are highly valued and stand out candidates are able to convey how they have demonstrated these in an interview format through their past experience as well as utilise these skills in practice during an assessment day.

Being a well rounded individual is important, becoming involved in societies, sports teams, volunteering or general work experience all provide great avenues to develop skills valued by an employer and to allow you to vary the range of experiences used in an interview.

Coupled with the above and overall passion and desire to work for the organisation and in the area that you are applying to is of vital importance to demonstrate at all stages of the recruitment process.

Name: Jim Selley

Job Title: Training & Recruitment Manager

Company: London and Country Mortgages

What's the first thing you look for on a CV?

Bilaal, University of Huddesfield

A: I like an applicant to have worked through their degree, the actual job itself is less important than the fact they were working consistently - particularly in the final year. If someone can give evidence they balanced the demands and stresses of a final year while still working part time alongside it, it goes a long way to showing they can cope with the demands of our job and the depth of learning that goes with it.

When interviewing candidates, what's the worst but most common thing they can do or say?

Danielle, University of Ulster

A: Not listening to or answering the question! If we ask for a specific thing then please answer it rather than trying to turn it into an answer you want to give. For example if we ask "What were your targets and tell me how you did against them" Some people start talking about what makes them good at hitting targets and how they approach them, often in some fairly garbled language. On a similar theme, stay away from buzzwords. We promise not to interview like the guys on "the Apprentice" as long as candidates don't answer questions like the contestants.

Name: Rob Farace

Job Title: Senior Programme Lead Resourcing

Company: NHS

Does what university you go to effect your chances of getting the job?

Emma, University of Northampton

A: For the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme the university you've attended has absolutely no bearing upon your application and chances of getting a place on our Scheme. We don't take this information into account when assessing your application - we are only interested in how you perform in our various online tests. However for some organisations this is very important and is part of their selection process.

Therefore you need to check as soon as possible with your preferred schemes if this is an approach they take. If they do you need to think carefully about which university you decide to study at. Remember it may not be as simple as is the university is in the Russell Group - for some employers it may be around the reputation of a university in a particular field e.g. Engineering.

What do you think of the 'CV blind' approach to applications? Do you believe it may create more diversity in a work place?

Alexander, University of Leeds

A: This is not a magic bullet and therefore not the only solution to improving diversity in a graduate intake. Diversity is a complex issue and as such requires careful consideration and a thoughtful approach from organisations. But this method certainly helps! For the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme we have used this approach for many years. Our interview panels see no details of the candidates they interview except their name. Likewise at the assessment centre our assessors only know the name of the candidate they will assess and nothing else.

For us it is important that the assessors only concentrate on what they see and hear the candidate do in front of them on the day. Our diversity statistics for the Scheme are positive and we typically recruit people from approximately 60 different universities so it suggests this approach does help diversity including social mobility. It is certainly an approach that seems to be catching on and we are now slowly seeing a trend of graduate employers going down this path.

Name: Ashley Hever

Job Title: Talent Acquisition Manager UK & Ireland

Company: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

What makes you want to hire someone from a CV/Cover letter?

Lynsey, Glasgow Caledonian University

A: If someone has used their CV as a sales tool and has demonstrated a passion in their cover letter to come and work for your company. Rather than just stating what they have done in a role eg. team leader at X company. They are able to show what results they achieved in this role eg. developed 3 employees to achieve promotion, increased sales Year on Year by 15%

What do they themselves enjoy most about working in the industry?

James, Queens University Belfast

A: I wouldn't say I have a passion for the car rental industry but what I do enjoy is the fast paced nature of Retail. Throughout my career I have always been driven by sales and looking for new business opportunities, as well as interacting with customers daily. As a manager I have throve on seeing my employees enjoying their job and getting promoted. The car to me is the product not the driver (no pun intended) to my enjoyment.

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