The Employer - Lisa Mackenzie (Resouring Advisor - Cancer Research UK)
Name: Lisa Mackenzie
Job Title: Resourcing Advisor - Cancer Research UK
University: University of the West of England
Course: Business Administration with Marketing
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
As with any large organisation, there are some key competencies we look for, including strong problem
solving abilities, excellent communication skills and the ability to build stakeholder relationships. We need
individuals who are bright, able to make sense of complex tasks and communicate clearly. Ultimately, we're
recruiting individuals with the skills and potential to become future leaders at Cancer Research UK, so we look for
people who are ambitious and brave, as well as those who are passionate about our work and the cause. As a
progressive organisation we also look for candidates with the skills to quickly adapt to a fast-moving environment.
Our graduates will need to be able to pick things up quickly from day one in order to deliver demanding
Can you talk us through the application process?
The first stage is to complete an online application form, applications for next year are open until
4th of January 2015 and Graduates can apply via our website.
Here we're looking for applicants to demonstrate their interest in working for
Cancer Research UK specifically, and show passion for the cause. It's also important to give examples of any
experience gained outside of academic studies. It could be through a voluntary role, a paid position or relevant
hobbies and interests. In a competitive graduate market, it's important to stand out.
Once shortlisted, we'll call the applicant to discuss the graduate scheme and make sure it matches up
with their hopes and expectations. It's a great opportunity for those applying to ask more questions about the
scheme and to bring their application to life. At this stage we want to understand more about individual's
motivations for working at Cancer Research UK and hear more about the different examples given in their application
The final stage of the interview process is the 'assessment centre', which will take place in April and
May. Applicants who are invited to attend can expect to take part in a day of exercises including a group task, a
presentation and an interview. During the group task we'll ask applicants to work as a team on a specific problem or
issue. Attending an assessment centre can be a daunting experience, but here are my three top tips for success:
- Be yourself - we want to see the real you.
- Be as relaxed as possible - if you're calm you'll be
much more authentic on the day.
- Take some time before the session to relax and get prepared. Prepare for the
day by reading over your application form and reading as much about the role and Cancer Research UK as
We make final offers to successful graduates around mid-May and the scheme begins in September.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being
When reading through applications, it's really clear when a candidate has given their application some
time and thought. A common mistake is not utilising the full word-count that we offer for each answer, it's
important to make the most of it! We receive applications in the thousands, the majority from very highly educated
and intelligent individuals, but that's not all it takes to get through in a competitive graduate market. Rather
than making statements, we need some context so bring to life each point using examples. I've always found the
'STAR' framework really useful when structuring answers, it's about thinking through the whole situation and not
just one part, it's not just explaining the final outcome but showing how that result was achieved. By applying this
framework, candidates are encouraged to explain the entire story - the Situation they were in, the Task they were
faced with, the Action(s) they took and the end Result.
It's also key for graduates to research the organisation they are applying to and consider what
motivates them to want to work there. What is it about Cancer Research UK? What do you know about it? What do you
hope to get from it? What can you bring to the charity? It's clear when a candidate is just applying for any
graduate programme but if they can give good answers to those key questions then it shows they've really thought
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the Charity sector?
Regardless of where you are applying, give 100 per cent to your application. We look for people who are
highly motivated by the cause, but it's equally important to show business acumen and the ability to thrive in a
Successful applicants will be joining us at a really exciting time as we begin to make our new strategy
a reality and aim to ensure that three in four people will survive cancer within the next 20 years. We have brand
beliefs - 'stronger', 'bolder', 'sharper' - and we need individuals who strive to have those qualities as they'll be
playing a vital part in helping us reach our goal.
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
Some of our graduates have found the transition from an academic environment to a professional
environment a challenge. They go from working with their peers, to being in a position where they have to engage and
influence people from a variety of disciplines and professional levels, including heads and directors. Learning the
structure of an organisation as diverse as Cancer Research UK can be really challenging initially but it's a great
opportunity to liaise with stakeholders at all levels across the breadth of the organisation. There's also a strong
support system in place including a line manager, past graduates, a mentor, as well as HR and the graduate
development advisor - so plenty of knowledgeable individuals on hand for advice!
Graduate placements are driven by business need at the time, so one challenge is not knowing where your
next placement will be until a couple of weeks prior to joining a new team. Some might find this a challenge,
however our graduates thrive on the variety of opportunity they are offered.
Where do you see company in two years' time?
As an organisation there is so much we will be looking to achieve over the next two years. Reflecting
on the last two years gives an idea of how ambitious we are as an organisation. Just a few of the charity's
achievements include: investing in TRACERx, a groundbreaking study of lung cancer that will unlock the secrets of
how tumours develop and evolve; launching our first ever Citizen Science project, which saw us produce a game that
harnesses the power of its players to analyse cells; launching a refreshed brand; being part of the development of
the Francis Crick Institute; successfully launching the Stand Up To Cancer campaign; setting the standard for plain
cigarette packaging; and increasing our fundraising income by over 6% to £490 million!
There's a lot going on here! And that's what makes it one of the most exciting and motivating places to
work. Whatever area of work, we're always looking for opportunities and as an organisation we're constantly driving
As previously mentioned, we've recently launched a new strategy and our goal is to accelerate progress
and see three in four people survive cancer within the next 20 years. In two years' time I'd like to think we'll be
even closer to that ambition, having pushed the boundaries of success to eventually make this a reality.
If you weren't a Resourcing Advisor, what would you be?
There are plenty of opportunities at Cancer Research UK and I can certainly see myself continuing to
progress and develop here. We're very supportive of progression within and across departments, so who knows!
Longer term, and if I were to ever have a career change, I'd think of a way to combine my passions and
interests with the desire to run my own business. Having said that, one of the main things I enjoy about my role is
building strong professional relationships and providing advice and guidance to others, so it'd be great if I could
somehow throw that in too!
The Employee - Daniel Hunt (Graduate Trainee (Policy, Information and Communications) - Cancer Research
Name: Daniel Hunt
Job Title: Graduate Trainee (Policy, Information and Communications)
University: University of Durham
How did you find your graduate job in the Charity sector?
I researched for graduate schemes for charities in my final year of University, and was particularly
interested in the Cancer Research UK programme. I worked through the interview process of an application form and
online tests, before a telephone and face-to-face interview, and was fortunate to be offered a position at the end
of this process.
I work on the Policy Information and Communications stream of Cancer Research UK's graduate scheme, and
there are also streams for Fundraising and Marketing, Scientific Strategy and Funding, Finance and Technology.
Why do you think you were successful at Next?
It's hard to answer without sounding headstrong! I hope that it was because of my proactive and
positive approach to my work, and demonstrating a willingness to get involved. At University, I worked for a young
carer's organisation and volunteered at a local homeless charity in between terms, which really got me interested in
public health and the ability of interested people to bring about meaningful change.
What do you actually do?
The graduate scheme offers four sets of six-month placements. I have worked on evaluating our health
campaigns and running an online insight community to test how effective our communications are. I have also worked
in policy and public affairs, which involves engaging parliamentarians in the life-saving work of the charity. I am
currently helping to produce a paper which will form part of our prevention strategy, outlining our future research
interests - in areas such as tobacco, obesity and alcohol - to help people reduce their risk of preventable cancers.
In between placements we take part in various development activities aimed at developing core skills and greater
self-awareness. For instance, recently we undertook presentation skills training and started action learning sets.
Post-scheme there are various talent programmes we can look to join as well as online career support in the form of
our Career Development Zone.
What skills do you need?
Having strong written and verbal communication is important, as is being able to multi-task and
prioritise your workload. I really like that a lot of my work is quite academic - I feel I learn something new every
day - so a willingness to learn and develop is also important.
What is the best thing about your job?
I love that the work we do engages people with the charity cross a number of different audiences. From
supporting and engaging patients, to providing health information to the public or policy recommendations to MPs and
peers, we are working towards the common goal that we will bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
What is the worst thing about your job?
That's a tough one! I really enjoy my work, so I would say that one challenge is that in the second
year we need to begin thinking about transitioning off the scheme into substantive roles. Whilst researching and
applying for roles takes time, we receive plenty of support internally from our mentors and HR, as well as career
workshops - focused on CV writing and interview skills - and in the form of career coaching from a qualified coach.
Over the ten years of the scheme, the majority of trainees have been successful in finding internal roles with the
charity, which is good to know!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope I'll still be working in the voluntary sector, and ideally still at Cancer Research UK. In
particular, I've really enjoyed working on policy and political campaigns on behalf of the organisation, so I hope
I'll still be doing something similar.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to Cancer Research UK?
I would say it is really important to consider why you want to work for Cancer Research UK, as well as
in the charity sector. I found it really useful to read the core documents that the charity produce, namely our
annual report and research strategy, as it helped give me a good understanding of the aims and ambitions of Cancer
Research UK. In addition, having a good understanding of our current and former political campaigns and how we
provide health information through the media is also useful. Finally, having a good understanding of your strengths
will allow you to feel confident with what you can bring to the role.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with Cancer Research UK, please take a look at their minisite.