Writing a personal statement for a Masters course

computerUnless you are applying for Teaching or Medicine through UCAS this will be a completely different process for you.

There are some universities which use the UKPASS system but most require a direct application to the postgraduate admissions contact for the course you are applying to. (You will find this on the university website when you search for the course details.)

What does the application look like?

  • For some it’s an application form, where you will fill in details on your education & experience and then have to write a personal statement explaining why you should be considered for this course.
  • Some will ask specific questions about your reasons for applying.
  • Some will require a CV too.

Personal statements – what can go wrong?

  1. Poor structure & disorganised ideas.
  2. Lack of research.

Typically your structure would include the following unless you are given instructions to the contrary.  The order you present the information in is largely dictated by the story you want to tell, but this is a reasonably logical progression.

1    Why this university?

Be specific – don’t make generic statements such as “Because you are an internationally renowned university with an excellent academic reputation”.
If the university itself made a difference in your choice – what was this?

  • Have you studied there before and enjoy the environment?
  • Is it’s location and the opportunity to gain work experience locally a factor?
  • Has it got a strong reputation in this particular field of research?
  • Are there specific academic staff you want to do research or study with?
  • Perhaps it offers something else unique?

2    Why this subject?

  • Your motivation – When did you become interested in this subject and what have you learned about it?
  • What is it about the structure of the course, the choice of modules, the learning methods that appeals to you? Did you attend an open day or talk to lecturers?
  • Demonstrate subject knowledge, through relevant prior learning, projects, dissertations, case studies etc. It could also come through relevant work experience in this field.

3    Academic ability

  • Academic achievement – have you got what it takes to do this course? Grades in key relevant subjects.
  • Academic prizes
  • Does it match your learning style – can you demonstrate this? Will you have to do group projects can you demonstrate teamwork or leadership?
  • Can you demonstrate the dedication and resilience required to complete the course? Ability to use initiative, problem solve, manage workload, work to deadlines, work under pressure.
  • Other academic skills relevant to the course, computing skills, knowledge of relevant scientific techniques, analytical or research skills etc.

4    Personal skills & experience

You can talk about work experience, volunteering and extracurricular activities in more depth here, but make sure you are evidencing key knowledge or skills needed for this course and your future career options.

5    Your future?

What are your career aims? How will this course help you achieve them? Knowledge, skills, accreditation with professional bodies etc.

How long should it be?

  • Some Universities will give you a word length. Do not exceed it!
  • If there is no guidance I would say write no more than 2 pages of A4. 1 page may be a little brief but it depends what you have to say and how you say it.  Think of the poor admissions officer who has to read hundreds of these. Keep it concise and to the point.

Style of writing

To some extent this is a reflection of who you are but in most cases this is a persuasive argument backed up with evidence.  Flowery or emotive language is rarely used in the UK.

If you are applying to a course like journalism your written style may be judged as part of your application.

Make sure it is grammatically correct and spell checked.

International applications

Expectations may differ country to country so do your research, contact the admissions officer to ask if there is any advice, what are they looking for?  Do you write in English or the language of that country?

If you need help with your application – book an applications advice appointment


Have you got the right skills for the job? Think hard before you say no!

Find JobFaced with a job advert it is easy to give up, shrug and say I can’t do that I don’t have what they are looking for. It may not even be that clear what they are looking for!

Don’t give up quite so easily – print out that job description, have a good rummage on their website and get yourself a highlighter pen. Now let’s do this…

To make a good application you need to be clear:

  • Why you want to do the job? You need to be able to write knowledgeably about it.
  • Why you want to work for them? (not a competitor or anyone else just them)
  • That you have the skills and experience they are looking for.

Some companies will have a full job advert backed up with further documentation such as person specifications and job description. These are great, they can help you decide if you can do the job and craft a clear and well evidenced application or CV.

Step 1 – deciphering the job description or advert.

Get your highlighter out and identify skills and abilities they are looking for


Step 2 make a list

  • Research skills
  • Communication skills written & verbal
  • Organisation skills
  • Accuracy & attention to detail
  • IT skills & including social media
  • Analytical skills
  • Creativity
  • Report writing
  • Persuasion
  • Ability to absorb information quickly

Things like administration or marketing are not skills in their own right, there will be a bundle of skills for each task. Unpick the tasks and add and extra skills to your list.

Sometimes it’s not that easy, there may be little information on the role or skills required?

So how can you find out more?

  • Look on the company website is there any further information that helps? Graduate profiles, day in the life articles?
  • Many job advertisements list a contact to talk to about the role. It’s a really good idea to ring them, it makes you look serious about your application. Have a list of questions prepared but make sure they are not things you could have found out for yourself, do a bit of research first.
  • Have you seen similar sounding jobs advertised with other organisations? Do they have clearer information about the role? It may not be the same but it can be informative to see how it compares.
  • Use the profiles on the prospects website. They are great for giving a list of typical work activities and skills or aptitudes that you will need to show evidence of on your application.
  • Google it – put the job title in a search engine and see what other similar sounding jobs come up, it might give you some clues as to what the role involves.

Step 3 Evidence your skills

Use our skills list to help you think about ways you may have gained skills. Remember you don’t have to have done this job before,  you could have gained these skills in other jobs, volunteering, at university or via sports or hobbies.

Employers won’t just take you at your word, you need to show that you are competent by using evidence. Use the CAR model car-sandwich

  • CONTEXT – what was the situation?
  • ACTION – what did you do?
  • RESULT – what impact did you have that shows your competence.

The CAR sandwich has thin bread and a nice thick filling of actions.

Now you are ready to start that job application, remember your CV is only part of the picture, it gives the evidence but not the motivation. So make sure your read our cover letter & application form guides.

If you need help with your application – book an applications advice appointment

See also:

How to do your research for a CV or cover letter

How to do your research for a covering letter or personal statement

Employers want to be sure that not only do you have the relevant skills for a particular job but you also understand what the organisation does, how this role fits in and what it involves.  They want people who are making informed decisions and have a genuine passion for the job.

You may always have wanted to work for Virgin, KPMG, Rolls Royce etc. But now it’s time to put that onto paper and it’s not that easy!

Lets break it down:

In any cover letter & most personal statements you need to cover 3 things:

  1. Why you are applying to this company? – What makes them stand out from other similar companies?
  2. Why you are applying for this role? – Your motivation for applying, show your understanding of the role.
  3. The skills and experience you have that match the job description.( see next blog post)

1 So why do you want to work for us?

It’s often a question that’s asked at interview so do your research at the applications stage and you are saving time.

Often it’s a gut feeling, I’d love to work there, or I love their products or they are highly successful. But what do you REALLY know about the business and the way they work?

Here are some ideas for things you can investigate.

  • What makes this company different? What are their unique selling points – what differentiates them from their competitors? E.g. Tesco vs Sainsbury’s or HSBC vs Barclays. Why would YOU chose one over the other, how would you decide?
  • What products and services do they offer, and what do their competitors do? What are the differences and why is that important?
  • Who are their clients? Perhaps they work with a particular sector, demographic or country, why does that appeal to you?
  • Where are they based and where do they do business? Find out about company size, location and business catchment area.
  • What are their values & ethos, do they fit with yours?

You can usually find all this information on their website. BUT look at the website as if you were a prospective client or wanted to purchase something from them.

If the organisation has a public presence like a shop, hotel, leisure facility or bank visit some of their branches to get a real feel for what they do. Be a mystery shopper for your career!

If the organisation makes a product that is sold in supermarkets or stores, go and look at the products, who are they competing with, what’s the branding like, who buys it?

Do they advertise? Check magazines, TV adverts and billboards who are they aiming their marketing at?

2 Why are you interested in this job?

This one is all about the actual role. Now some graduate schemes cover a number of roles so  it’s helpful to investigate them all and have an initial opinion of where you think you fit.

Have you REALLY considered what working in this job is like?

  • Read the job description – what do they say the role is all about. What are the tasks, what will you be working on, in a team or on your own etc?
  • Read between the lines – what do you think it would be like in this organisation why might it be different to other companies? You might get some hints about this from the recruitment website, graduate profiles, talking to them at events.
  • Read up about what typically this job is all about. Prospects profiles & our Which Career? pages will help.

Don’t forget if a contact is listed on the job advert and you have questions give them a ring! Most people don’t bother, so taking the initiative could be the difference between your application and everyone else’s.

Check out our cover letter, application form & CV guides

If you need help with your application – book an applications advice appointment

See also:

Why generic CVs and cover letters end up in the bin!

Choices You’ve just sent me a CV & cover letter for a job.  You and possibly several hundred others so I’m going to spend just a few seconds skimming over it to see which pile you fit in.  Yes, No or Maybe.

I have a check-list of all the skills & qualifications I’m looking for and if you don’t tick any boxes you’ll be going in the No pile.

Why generic CVs fail.

  • They often talk about duties you performed not the skills involved.
  • The skills you are talking about may not be on my wishlist.
  • Personal statements clearly not targeted at this job or sector.

Why generic cover letters fail

  • Bad cut and paste jobs – even referring to the wrong company or wrong job.
  • You clearly haven’t done the research into who we are or what we do, why should I consider you? I want to see that you want to work in my organisation not ANY organisation.
  • Completely missing the point of the organisation or job role.

I’m not good at guessing!

I’m not going to just assume you have a skill or qualification either. Just because you say you have worked on a reception desk, I’m not going to imagine what that might have involved or that you might have been good at it.

SHOW ME – I want evidence that demonstrates your effectiveness.

  • You don’t necessarily have to have done the same job before, i’ll happily look at a skill gained in another context.
  • If you have done similar tasks or roles in the past I want to see specific details – now you have me really interested.
  • If it sounds believable and consistent you’ll move up the pile.
  • If you have more ticks on my wishlist than other people i’ll interview you to see if you live up to expectations.

So go on make the effort, even a bar job deserves a CV tailored at typical bar work skills!
Check out our CV & cover letter guides 

See also:

How to do your research for CVs and cover letters 

February News and Updates for Masters students

The work of the Careers Service is designed and delivered to give you control over your career (= job + life). None of us can ever have 100% control but through self-awareness and other skills of career management, you become more able to adapt and overcome adversities that are out of your immediate control, and able to seek guidance for support and advice for dealing with things both in and out of your control.


With this in mind, I’ll be re-running some of the Careers Essentials workshops in February, for anyone who missed them last time around. You can find out more on our Postgraduate Events page:

Careers Essentials for Postgraduates


It’s not too late for a PhD

Currently jobs.ac.uk is advertising 884 global opportunities and find a PhD has over 11 000

Don’t forget to check out our online resources if your just starting think about further study: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/study/

Getting ready for making applications?

Not sure where to start?Why not here?  http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/postgraduates/masters/masters-apply/

Broaden your search

Look out for jobs with employers you’ve never heard of, whether large or small. After the autumn rush, the majority of jobs are for smaller or less well-known employers. Note: “Smaller employer” does not mean “smaller job”. Just imagine getting in on the early days of a company who could be the next “Google” or “Red Bull”.

Build and maintain your support network

Our recent research indicates that graduate who move quickly and smoothly into good graduate jobs tend to share career and employability tips and advice amongst their friends and social contacts, not just with employers or academics. Everyone’s heard of the high profile graduate programmes advertised in the autumn. Your contacts could be the way you hear about less well-known jobs or postgraduate programmes (particularly PhDs) available later in your final year.

Last but not least…

Find out how to ask for references: https://manunicareersblog.com/2016/03/07/how-to-ask-for-letters-of-references/

January News and Updates for PGRs

A big welcome to all the new PGR students who’ve just arrived at the University of Manchester!

Spring is in the air. It’s true. Leaving work in the evening, I’ve detected a glimmer of sunlight lingering in the western sky.  More significantly, snowdrops, that well known harbinger of British Spring, have appeared in our garden (we live 200 m higher than Manchester, so I come into work to get warm).

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was an early English poet in North America (unusual for being a published poet at a time when, according to her contemporary, Edward Hopkins, Governor of Connecticut (my home state for anyone interested) writing and reading should be left for men, “whose minds are stronger”).  Amongst her literary legacy, a particular quote of Mrs Bradstreet’s seems apt as we perch on the threshold of Spring 2017:

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

Anne Bradstreet, Meditations Divine and Moral

The work of the Careers Service is designed and delivered to give you control over your career (= job + life).  None of us can ever have 100% control but through self-awareness and other skills of career management, you become more able to adapt and overcome adversities that are out of your immediate control, and able to seek guidance for support and advice for dealing with things both in and out of your control.


With this in mind, I’ll be re-running some of the Careers Essentials workshops in February, for anyone who missed them last time around. You can find out more on our Postgraduate Events page:

Careers Essentials for Postgraduates


For new PhD students – don’t miss:

10 and a bit things you should know about the Careers Service: https://manunicareersblog.com/2016/09/14/10-and-a-bit-things-phds-should-know-about-the-careers-service/

Would building better relationships help you adapt and be resilient?

Read this guest blog post on by Sue Colbeck to find out more about the skills of relationship building with colleagues: https://manunicareersblog.com/2015/03/20/relationships-are-they-a-skill/

Getting ready for making applications?

Not sure where to start? A first port of call is the Applications and Interviews section of the Careers Service website – find out what you do know, what you don’t know, review your application and interview strengths and weaknesses – then take action before that crucial deadline. http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/applicationsinterviews/

International students –

Don’t forget about the 12 month visa extension for PhDs.  Find out about this and more on our International pages: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/international/

Help! I need to ring or email an employer, what do I do?

phonelaptopjpgAs part of your job search it is inevitable that you will have to write to or ring employers.  You may be applying speculatively for work experience, asking for more information about a job or have a query about the application process or interview.

Employers are not ogres but they are busy and will have expectations about how you should communicate with them.

  • Some employers will put their name and contact details on a job description. They want you to ring / email them and ask questions, it helps candidates  and should mean the applications are of a higher standard. Don’t expect an immediate response though they do have jobs to do, recruitment may only be a small part of it.
  • If no contact for enquiries is given you need to get creative, look on the company website, ring their switchboard and ask for HR, graduate recruitment, the head of marketing or whatever function you are applying to.

You need to be professional in your communication at all times, this will create a good impression and make the employer more likely to take you seriously. Really, you would cringe to see some of the emails I have received with regard to jobs I have advertised.

By email

  1. First decide – is this an appropriate conversation to have by email? If you need information quickly or to explain something complicated it might be better to ring.
  2. Are you contacting the most appropriate person for your enquiry? Do your research first.

Your email should be a formal business communication, the language you use should be similar in may ways to a cover letter. See examples in this guide

You should be quite formal starting your letter with Dear XXX  and signing off appropriately.  If the recruiter chooses to reply using Hi XXX then it would be acceptable to mirror this in your next communication. However, don’t make the mistake of becoming too informal, this is not a text to a friend.  If sending emails from your phone encourages you to be brief and take short-cuts in your language and grammar, wait until you can get to a computer and do it properly.

  • Be polite.  It is easy to send an email that sounds quite demanding or aggressive.
  • Get to the point, be clear and concise. No one has time to read long emails.
  • Answer any questions you have been asked.
  • Read it again and check for spelling and grammar errors.

By phone

Are you ringing a switchboard and asking to be put through or ringing a specific person on their number.  You need a game plan, what happens if the person is not available, will you leave a message or find out when to call them back?

What specifically do you want to know from the call, and how will you ask? Good preparation helps you sound, and feel, more confident.

  • Be clear, who are you, why are you ringing, what do you want?
  • Be polite, is it convenient to talk now?
  • Make notes – what do you want to say, what information did they give you.

A note on Social Media & LinkedIn

If a company has a graduate recruitment Facebook page or Twitter account, you can ask questions there. Again be polite and don’t expect an immediate response.  It’s also likely that any response may be quite generic or measured as this is a public arena. Be aware also that by doing this you are practically inviting that recruiter to look at your profile, make sure it’s respectable!

LinkedIn can be a good way to find out information about companies, and you may be applying to jobs advertised here too.  This is a professional networking site so if you are asking questions be polite and professional in your language and approach, and again make sure your profile is up to date. See our guide on LinkedIn  and our Jobsearch guide for tips.

5 popular employer selection tests for students, and strategies for handling them!

Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant

The keys of successYou open the email, it’s from the employer and (yes!) you’ve been invited for interview. But wait, you have to sit a test first? Is it time to panic, or are there any top tips for acing these tests and fast-tracking yourself onto the “selected” pile? We think so.

  1.  The “does your brain melt when the clock is ticking?” test

AKA: The verbal, numerical or logical reasoning tests

Still a firm favourite and used by over 70% of the major graduate employers, these tests explore how well you can reason with either written, numerical or diagrammatical data.

Our tips:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact that familiarity can have on your result. Whilst these tests are generally good at predicting future performance, they don’t account for you simply not being prepared to sit a test. Take a practice test and feel more comfortable with what follows.
  • Watch out if your basic maths is a bit rusty! Check out the free video tutorials on the basics of numeracy from percentages and ratios to exchange rates and beyond. Think “Year 11 type stuff”… nothing more.

Watch out for: The clock will be ticking, but don’t worry too much. Although you need to work quickly, you don’t usually have to finish all the questions to go through.

Best places to practice: Without a doubt, the Graduates First site is our number one go-to recommendation – you get over 20 different practice reasoning tests to try for free, video tutorials for numeracy and better-still, you can even find out what the right answers were and where you went wrong, too.

  1. The “how soon could we let you loose on our clients and customers?” test

AKA: The Situational Judgement Test

Relatively new, and yet increasingly popular, these tests are a “Do you know much about what this job really involves” test where you have to decide on your most (and least) preferred ways to respond in a series of scenarios.

Our tips:

  • Find out more about the job you are applying for – the skills sought and the qualities required. Job profiles on the organisation’s website or on prospects.ac.uk will help.
  • If you need a steer, perhaps think about the importance of customer focus, client care, professionalism, effective communication or taking action.
  • Doing nothing in a situation is often not a good strategy!
  • Take a look at the employer’s website and explore the values or behaviours they aspire to- this could give you a few more clues about what is important to them.

Watch out for: Think carefully over your least preferred option – it’s not just about selecting the most appropriate one. It’s also about being able to recognise how not to behave.

Best places to practice:  Beyond Graduates First, we would also recommend taking a look at Assessment Day.

  1. The “will others want to sit next to you?” test

AKA: The personality questionnaire

Only joking, of course they will. (Why wouldn’t they?) For many jobs and roles, organisations seek a diverse workforce who approach problems differently and bring in alternative perspectives. However, joking aside, for some roles employers find it useful to consider whether your typical approaches are appropriate for their jobs. For example, would you really want to see someone who is not particularly “rule conscious” serving in your police force or someone who doesn’t come across very confidently with new people in your lead sales role? Some jobs just utilise particular strengths more than others.

Our tips:

-Try to answer honestly and consistently – it’s about your future fit and happiness in a role after all.

– Have a go at some of the online questionnaires now, as they could give you a steer on jobs that may be a good fit for you.

– Try not to worry too much about these assessments. Firms often look more at extreme behaviours that would not be a good fit rather than only looking for the narrow profile of an ideal candidate. They will tend to use other indicators from your application or performance to inform their selection too.

Watch out for: Impression management scales are present in many tests to uncover whether you are trying to impress the employer. For example, have you really “always got on with everyone?”

Best places to practice: Graduates First has a personality assessment questionnaire that you can try out. Jobmi.com is also a great site for getting a sense of some of your strengths. 

  1. The “I am no longer a test, I am now a fun computer game” test

AKA: Pymetrics or Games-Based Assessments

New for this year, and being used by a few of the big names, these tests involve either short online rapid-response games like memorising number sequences, sharing winnings (or not), and responding to images, or playing longer interactive games. It’s not always easy to be sure what these tests are getting at but scoring could reflect how you approach problems, whether you plan ahead, your determination in the face of setbacks and your ability to stay focused. Testers stress the value of collecting data from these real-life in-game scenarios, as opposed to relying on how you say you would behave!

Our tips:

– Are you clear on the rules before you begin? Maybe worth reading one more time before you click start?

– Have you made sure you won’t be distracted mid-game? Are all your notifications switched off, is your battery fully charged on your device and have you been to the loo? (This may be one time you don’t want anyone tweeting you the latest “Fail” video or a shot of rabbit on a scooter)

Watch out for: Don’t try too hard to second guess what these games are looking for – different firms will have their own individual requirements from each game. You may choose to focus on making the most profit, for example, to show your commercial flair, when a game may actually be looking for your trust in others.

Best places to practice: www.pymetrics.com or www.arcticshores.com

  1. The “bet you wish you had kept that grammar text book” test!

AKA: Blended verbal reasoning test

The final test in our big five line-up is a new test for 2016, the Blended Verbal Reasoning Test, being used by a few financial services firms this year. Picture a blend of traditional verbal reasoning questions combined with ones about grammar, spelling, punctuation, choosing writing styles for different audiences and communication techniques.

Our tips:

  • Get the basics right and practise your verbal reasoning test taking, then take it up a notch by revisiting some of your old work on Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation. Just googling “Key stage 2 / 3 English Literacy” can help you to access sites like BBC Bitesize http://www.bbc.co.uk/education, and IXL https://uk.ixl.com/
  • To help with professional versus informal communication styles you could compare the style of annual reports or executive summaries with the way organisations present themselves on social media or in the PR section of their websites. Comparing the written styles of the broadsheet newspapers to the tabloids is another strategy.

Watch out for: Although this one is a real newbie, with the stress employers are placing on accuracy and professionalism, this test could really take off.

Best places to practice: CAPP have kindly put some sample questions online at: http://practice.cappassessments.com/Vrt/VrtPage.html

Ready to click go?

So our run-down is complete and now it’s up to you. Get practising, pound the pages of Graduates First and other free practice testing sites and then go show them what you are made of!


Presentations – My Recent Experience and Top Tips

hannah blog1

By Hannah Watson

It’s that time of year when you may be getting called to assessment centres and interviews. What if someone asks you to give a presentation?

In my Psychology degree I didn’t deliver presentations often. In three years I gave two presentations as part of coursework modules to a few classmates and tutors.

A year later, in my MGP role at the Careers Service, the day arrived – I was asked to create and deliver an hour long presentation to an audience of 40 students (yikes!!!). This was a little larger than what I was used to.

I thought I’d share this experience with you and give my top tips for your next presentation – whether at university, in an interview or in a workplace.


No matter what size your audience is or who is in it, you will more than likely suffer from nerves. I definitely felt nervous beforehand and especially when I stood up in front of 40 people. I saw my nerves as a good thing! I took a deep breath to relax. I used my nerves to make my hand gestures, body language and voice energetic. Turning my negative fear into positive power really helped me combat my nerves and deliver a good presentation.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Remember that famous saying? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Cliché but it’s true. So if you can prepare in advance, do it. I repeatedly read the slides to learn the content and rehearsed my delivery to colleagues. Practicing in advance steadied my nerves on the day and helped me get my message across to the audience. I was careful not to practice too much to avoid delivering a rehearsed script – I really didn’t want to switch off my audience.

When you’re given little information about an interview or assessment centre, be prepared as they may surprise you with a presentation. They may ask you to present on yourself, industry trends, an aspect of the job description etc. You can prepare in advance by thinking about how you would present these topics. If you’re given little time to prepare on the day, practice the key points of your structure in your head to make sure you deliver a structured, clear message.

Delivery – ooze confidence hannablog2

Here’s a handy checklist I followed:

  • Speak louder than feels natural – I ensured my audience could hear me at the back. Avoid speaking too fast and pausing too often.
  • Body language – I used my hands when I was speaking to be open and approachable. Avoid touching your hair or fiddling with a pen.
  • Eye contact – I looked at the audience, not over them. Avoid focussing on individuals for too long that they feel uncomfortable.
  • Have a glass of water – it helped me to relax and project my voice.
  • Only use the slide as a reference – the majority of us will have attended lectures where the slides are just read out word for word. The audience will disengage if you simply read off the slide.

Involve the audience hannablog3

It was appropriate in my presentation to get the audience involved. I asked them questions and designed three tasks that got them thinking about my content – the tasks even got them out of their seats!

We all have limited attention spans. By asking the audience to participate, I gave them a break from just listening to my voice. It also allowed me to take the focus off myself for a few minutes to re-gather my thoughts. Note: this might not always be appropriate.

Asking for feedback

Feedback is important to improve your presentation skills for next time. Nobody’s perfect right? I was thrilled with the positive feedback I received – my presentation was delivered confidently and engaged the audience. My voice was a little quiet at the start so to improve in future presentations I will take note to project my voice. Ask for feedback at appropriate opportunities.

Hopefully my experience has given you an idea of what to expect for your presentation. After mine, I felt elated and wanted to jump straight into doing another… I’m sure you will too!

For lots more top tips on coping with nerves, structure and delivery read our Presentations Skills guide.

Got a presentation coming up as part of an interview or assessment centre?
Have a chat to the careers information team for some tips or book a Guidance Appointment with us to practice and receive feedback.

How to prepare for interview success.

 interview queueWhether you have had an interview before or not it’s always nerve racking when you get the call / email inviting you to come along.  The more you want the job the more daunting it feels!

Interviews can be: Competency based, Strength basedTechnicalBy Phone, Video or Skype, Panel, 1-1, a chat over a coffee or incredibly formal.

There are lots of different ways to interview but essentially the employer is always looking for the same thing.

  1. Someone who understands what the job involves and wants to do it!
  2. Someone who can demonstrate that they have the right skill set to be able to do the job.

The good news is if you have been invited to interview the employer already thinks you CAN do the job.  Now they need to see which candidate would be best.

Motivational questions

  • These look at your reasoning for why you want to do this job to see if you really have enthusiasm and passion for it
  • They also want to see if you really understand what you have applied for.
    • Do you understand what they company does / makes
    •  Do you understand their values and the way they do business (are they your values too)
    • Do you know what the role involves

The expectation is that you will have done your research, this might be:

  • The company website – find out about the job, internship. Read profiles of staff who do that role if available. Look at the website as if you were a client going to buy a product or service. Why would you pick them, what are their unique selling points, who are their competitors?
  • Talk to staff at events & fairs on campus, even ask questions on social media if available.
  • Understand WHY YOU want to do this. Where has your interest come from?

Skills / strengths / knowledge / personality

  • Knowledge could be gained through your course e.g. specialist knowledge of engineering or economics. Or could be gained through work experience, volunteering or other activities.
  • Skills / competencies  – could be a technical or specialist skill, but just as likely to be skills like problem solving and leadership that you could gain at University or in extracurricular activities.
  • Strengths – what are you are good at and what do you enjoy doing.
  • Personality – now this really is a difficult one.  I use it to mean right fit for the role. There may be 10 candidates who can all do the job BUT a combination of the way they answer questions, the examples they use and the enthusiasm in their voice will indicate that which one is the best fit for the team or role.

Your research would include:

  • If specialist knowledge or skills have been asked for it’s likely they will be needed in the role. So think about where specifically these might be needed and what you might be expected to know or be able to do. Do you need to find out about particular process and how it works, understand formulae or data, know the state of the market and how various factor might influence it?
  • Know yourself and where you can demonstrate good examples of having used skills or strengths. Some may be in a relevant context others may not, so think about how you are going to tell that story to make it relevant.  Consider not only examples of when things went to plan but also when you had to overcome problems.
  • Understand what the organisation is looking for in a candidate and what type of person would succeed in that role.  It’s really not something you are going to be able to fake successfully – this is why Situational Judgement Tests are often used.

And there’s more good news… if you did a good application you should have already done much of this research. The bad news is you probably researched a number of companies so now it’s time to recap and go the extra mile!

Finally… Think about some questions you can ask in the interview.

A great interview is like a natural conversation where both parties may be sharing information and asking questions. However you will find that most interviewers have set questions they have to ask and your questions may be at the end.

Your questions should not be about things you can easily find out on the website – that looks lazy. Consider…

  • Questions about the company or the interviewer.  What do you think is the most enjoyable thing about working at XXX?  What are the biggest challenges? What does an average day look like for a new starter, intern etc.
  • You can ask about specific aspects of the role you are interested in.
  • There are cunning questions that may allow you to introduce new information or emphasise a skill. e.g. You mentioned earlier growth in your overseas markets is that something a new graduate would be involved in – i’d love an opportunity to use my languages?
  • Questions about salary, working hours, holiday – can be asked but be careful. I would probably leave these until you have a job offer on the table.




%d bloggers like this: