We understand that navigating the graduate jobs market can be tricky (we all started out at Give A Grad A Go as recent grads ourselves), that’s why our expert team are on hand to try and help. Every day we’re working with some of London’s most exciting businesses, from burgeoning tech start-ups and SMEs to globally renowned corporations.
We understand what these companies are looking for in their graduate employees, so we’ve compiled this handy guide, full of hints and tips for landing yourself a great graduate job.
These pages will take you through each stage of the job hunt covering Your CV, Your Application, Your Interview and Your First Day!
As a recent graduate, your CV should be no more than two pages long. You need to be as concise as possible to maintain the attention of your reader. Use bullet points and an easy to read font (both Arial and Calibri work well). Your education and work experience should be in chronological order (with the most recent first).
Give A Grad A Go’s top tips for structuring a great CV:
- Personal details – your name, email, address and phone number
- Profile - a short personal profile outlining your key skills and your career ambitions (Make sure your profile isn’t a generic statement that could be describing anyone, but is instead personal to you)
- Education -include dates, where you studied and the results you obtained. You don’t need to list all of your GCSEs, instead use a format along the lines of “9 GCSEs all A – C”
- Work experience – set out the company name and your job role / function. Add any responsibilities or achievements using bullet points. Try and limit it to 3 or 4 bullet points per job
- Awards / achievements / interests – sports, societies, academic awards. Add information here to make the CV a bit more personalised
While you can use a CV template to help with the layout of your CV, you should keep your content as non-generic as possible. This is your chance to shine, stand out from the pack and really get yourself noticed.
Written communication skills are so important in so many areas of industry so if your CV is written well it can be a huge positive. If it’s written badly then it might go straight in the bin even if everything else about you is great.
Give A Grad A Go top tips to getting noticed:
- Sell yourself - through action verbs ('managed', 'presented' etc.) to demonstrate your achievements and show you have a good commercial understanding
- Give evidence for each skill you have - If you say you’re a great leader, you need to back up your claim with an example of when you have successfully used your leadership skills
- Tailor your CV to each role you apply for - If your CV states that you're keen to break into Accountancy but you're applying for a role in Digital Marketing, then you'll be fighting a losing battle right from the off!
Applying for the right roles
It’s tempting to send hundreds of blanket applications to hundreds of different employers in the hope of landing an interview. However, it's better to apply for a few positions carefully, than to fire off dozens of applications at a time.
Give A Grad A Go top tips for making each application count:
Go through every job description carefully to get an understanding of what the job function actually is. Only apply if you’re convinced the opportunity is:
a) something you would genuinely enjoy
b) something that you have the minimum requirements for
- Make sure you make a detailed note of every application you make (see ‘creating the best first impression’ below).
- If a company or a recruitment agency call you about an opportunity that you’ve applied for and you can’t remember the job they’re calling you about, or don’t know enough about the opportunity, then your application might not get very far. The more diligent you have been then the better you’ll perform if you receive any unexpected calls
While you should cherry pick each opportunity you apply for, don't pigeon-hole yourself into a particular industry or role if you’re not totally sure on what it is you would ideally like to do. Try to be open minded. Research around several industries and opportunities, you may find yourself interested in things that had never occurred to you before. A good recruitment agency should also be able to help to you with this!
Before you meet any potential employers, you need to thoroughly research their industry, their company and your potential role within it.
Get a good understanding for what the company does: the markets they operate in, how long they've been established, who their competitors are, their recent highs and lows, as well as their culture, ethos and values.
While the company website is a good place to start your research, you'll need to go beyond this to really impress your interviewer. Search the company's social media channels, have a look if they have been in the news recently and read up on industry-specific blogs.
Go through the job description thoroughly, picking out all the traits being asked for (whether that’s leadership, written communication or commercial awareness); then think of examples where you have demonstrated these skills, so you’re not caught off-guard!
You should be able to concisely describe exactly what the company does in 3 or 4 sentences and be able to identify what makes them unique, their place in the market and who their competitors are.
Candidates who have prepared well and done their research will always stand out in interviews above those that haven’t.
Give A Grad A Go's top tips for the perfect interview:
- Be on time - If there is one way to ruin your chances in a graduate interview, it’s by being late! Trace the route you need to take a few days before your interview, so you know where you’re going. Aim to arrive 10 minutes early, if you arrive before that go for a walk or grab a coffee before you knock on the door!
- Dress appropriately - If you’re in any doubt of what’s appropriate, it’s perfectly acceptable to call or email the company beforehand and ask about their dress code. If you still aren’t sure, always err on the side of smart, and make sure anything you wear is clean and crease-free
- Ask questions- While you don’t want to bombard your interviewer with endless questions, it’s important to appear interested in the role. Use your research to think of unique questions to help you stand out. Avoid asking questions about holiday allowance or bonuses (unless you’ve been offered the job!)
- Finishing the interview – At the end of the interview make sure you finish with a confident handshake. And, if you think the interview has gone well; ask to take a business card or even better, ask your interviewer when you’ll hear back, what the next steps will be or what they think your chances are. It helps to show a bit of tenacity and enthusiasm.
You’ll give off the best impression by coming in prepared on your first day; this means:
- Arriving on time (of course!)
- Bringing relevant documentation e.g. any qualification certificates which have been requested, your ID, bank details and P45 form etc.
While your first day in a new role is always going to be nerve wracking, it’s important to hide any anxiety and portray yourself as cool, calm and collected! Be smiley, friendly and upbeat. Introduce yourself to people in your office, get to know them and make conversation.
In all likelihood, you’ll spend your first day being bombarded with lots of information, by lots of different people! Take a pen and notepad and take down information so you don’t forget anything important.
Don’t feel like you’re pestering by asking questions, your new colleagues will expect you to be inquisitive on your first day; it shows your enthusiasm for your role and can be great way to get to know your workmates.