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.

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.




What to wear at work or for interview to make the right impression

Jeans-and-NavyI read this article the other day about how what your wear can affect what people believe your role is.

People are biased, have preconceptions and a whole load of baggage that affects the way they react to you before you even open your mouth.   You can’t change them but you can decide what you want them to see.

When you arrive for an interview or meet new people, say in a new job or at a meeting they will decide who you are from what you look like. So…

What job do you want people to assume that you do (or can do)?

You need to understand what people in different roles and levels of seniority tend to wear in the industry and sometimes the individual organisation you are working in or meeting with. Look on their website, try to attend an employer event or go past their workplace / offices and look.

At interview it’s difficult to reflect the industry too exactly because you are busy looking smart.

  • Find out what people normally wear in your role if you can.
  • If they normally have a dress down policy – find out what they would wear to an important meeting with clients.

You want to aim for smarter than normal work wear and if it’s a role where you could be meeting clients then I’d go for the business attire. ( It proves you have it anyway!)

On your first day. I’d aim to make a good impression (you may be introduced to senior managers) but you could observe or ask what normal office attire is.  E.g. you could say – “it’s my first day so I thought I better dress to impress but what would you suggest is normal office attire.”

At work You may decide you want people to react to you in a certain way.

  • If the dress code is fairly casual it may be hard for customers or external clients to spot that you work there. How will you stand out?
  • If you don’t want to be treated like the office junior (even if you are) you may need to smarten up a little. How about a  smart jacket, or a more formal shirt?
  • In meetings you may want people to realise that you are the expert or are in charge, so dress for the role. It might not mean a power suit it could just be adopting the norms for that role. Do people in technical & creative roles dress differently to those in sales or finance?

Tattoos, piercings and funky hair

They are part of who you are and I’m not going to say you should tone it down or cover up.  BUT… just be aware of other people views and how that may make them react to you.

If you have a snake tattooed on your head ( yes I know someone who does) then it’s likely that you may not be the type to want to go into a more conservative profession. Again you need to judge the industry norms.  It’s about the face the company or organisation wants to present to the world. For some jobs a cool, edgy look might be just the thing for others they will expect you to keep that for the weekend

So to take a less extreme example you could decide that for an interview you might remove a few piercings and style your hair differently. I’m not saying go bland and boring there is a middle road you could take; once you get into the job you may find you can show your style more.  It’s just getting a foot in the door.  But it’s your door – you choose what’s right for you.

See also

BBC News Should tattoo discrimination be illegal

To Beard Or Not To Beard? That Is The [Interview] Question.




Advice for psychometric tests and assessment centres

Group workingEmployers are all agree they want the best people for the job.  Employees who have the right skills, motivation & values are happy, more productive and stay longer. The company does better as a result  –  happy days!

This is the goal of recruiters, how they get there differs. This is why there are so many differences in the types of applications, tests, and assessment methods.

Employers will measure.

  • Preferences: work preference tests, personality tests
  • Behavioural competencies: in-tray / e-tray exercises, situational judgement tests, role play & interviews
  • Technical abilities: ability tests such as verbal & numerical reasoning, case studies and written exercises.

There are 2 basic schools of thought

The competency method and the strength based method.  I’ll try to show you how you can recognise them and how to prepare accordingly. (BIG caveat here … some recruiters will use a blend of both and if it’s a technical role you should expect technical questions too)

Competency based recruitment

Looks at past performance as a measure of how you will do in the future.

  • Often looks at UCAS points and degree marks and classifications
  • Usually asks you about examples of times when you have used a particular skill
  • May use verbal, numerical, technical tests. (To weed out the bottom 30th percentile. This is recommended practice but some organisations may set the bar higher to get what they need) Often retested at assessment centre to check for cheating
  • Will explore your motivation – why you are interested in the company & the role
  • May use work style preference questionnaires to see if you fit company values and ways of working.

To prepare:

  • Look at the company core values – you need to be a good match. If you are not it’s likely would not be happy even if you managed to get through all the tests.
  • Explore your own motivation why do you want to do this, no really, apart from the money?
  • Be able to articulate your motivation, what have you found out about the company that makes you want to work for them?
  • Research the role – what does it really involve not just tasks like using maths or programming but what are the environment and working conditions like?  Will you be on your own all day and have to motivate yourself? Is it target driven with long hours and lots of responsibility but big rewards? If those things don’t excite you, then consider something different.
  • Practice skills like numeracy, verbal reasoning & logic, by using test books and online tests. You can improve by revising techniques and understanding how the tests feel, but you are not likely do go from GCSE grade C to an A overnight! Practice ratios, percentages, multiplication & division. You may not be allowed to use a calculator! For highly technical roles you may need to revise simultaneous equations and more complex maths.
  • Understand the sector and commercial pressures and how they would impact on the organisation.
  • Always check spelling & grammar.

Strength based recruitment

Focuses on what motivates you and makes you happy as well as your basic skills. Can you do it and love it?  It looks at:

  • Performance – Do well
  • Energy – Feel good
  • Use – Do often

It may be used by companies who want to look at social inclusion as it looks at your potential rather than past performance. So people who have not had the advantage of internships or impressive looking work experience can still do well by using examples from other parts of their life.

  • You may not be asked for exam results or grades.
  • You could be asked about your family background as part of equality monitoring.
  • Situational judgement tests are likely.
  • At interview you may be asked lots of quick questions and there may be little or no probing.
  • You may be asked how you feel about situations.
  • You may be expected to provide brief examples from different parts of your life, education, work experience, interests etc. If you use a behaviour or skill often it probably shows you enjoy it.

How to recognise & practice strengths & weaknesses

Try asking a friend these questions.

  • What does a great day look like?
  • What are you like at your best?
  • What do you not like doing?

When you are talking about things you are good at and enjoy you will be relaxed, energised, passionate and talk quickly.

When you talk about things you dislike, you may struggle to say much about it, have no examples to talk about and appear anxious and down-beat.

Recruiters will be observing these things, even by phone!

Trends in recruitment

  • Strength based is definitely increasing.
  • Companies are looking at retention and fit, so expect more work preference & personality type assessments.
  • Skype, telephone and recorded interviews are increasing as a way to get a feel for candidates early on in the process.
  • Gamification – it’s expensive, but it engages candidates and is a good way to see how people behave and is relatively gender neutral.

 Lessons learned

  1. Really research the company & the role and reflect on your own preferences is it a good match?
  2. Brush up those basic skills like maths.
  3. Understand the company values and ways of working. It might give you a hint of what to expect in a situational judgement test or role play. But if you don’t match it’s unlikely you can fake it.
  4. If you don’t get through – don’t feel too bad. It may not be a good match for you, perhaps you just dodged a bullet!








Why do you want to work for us and other tricky questions

Person Holding Hire Me Sign in CrowdQ. Why do you want to work for us?

It’s implicit isn’t it that if I take the trouble to send a CV off or fill in your overly complicated application form OBVIOUSLY I want this job.  Why on earth are you asking me this question?

Actually it’s a really good question that measures your motivation and understanding.  Have you just seen a job and banged out a CV or do you really want to work for them and understand what they do?

So what is the employer expecting?

  • Cover letter or personal statement that explores your reasons for choosing them and the role.
  • CV – tailored to the role
  • They may even ask this exact question on the application form.
  • At interview it may be asked and they will expect a more in depth answer.

How to answer…

Use your research skills to critically assess the company.

  • Most companies provide a service or make or sell something to clients or the public. Find out about what they do /make/ provide.
  • If you were a client looking at their website and or their store what would you see as the main reasons for choosing them over any other organisation doing something broadly similar.
  • What are their unique products? What is their unique selling point?
  • Where do they fit in the commercial landscape? Who are their competitors and how do they stack up!
  • Who are their main clients? or who is their target group?
  • Are they local, national or international?
  • You can also look at the training they provide and what you would be expected to experience working for them.
  • What is the company ethos? How are they portraying themselves – what do they care about?

Now ask yourself – why does that appeal to me?

Q. Why have you applied for this role?

The employer wants to know that you understand what the job involves, and have carefully considered how you fit in and what you have to offer.

So you need to ….

  • Read the job or person specification carefully. These can be quite lengthy and give a good idea of the level of skill and breadth of tasks you will be expected to perform.
  • Read between the lines – sometimes the information can be vague or brief so you need to dig a little.
    • Is there a person listed for informal enquiries? It would be foolish not to ring really (and not many do! ) Ask sensible questions that you really can’t find out the answer to.  What would a typical day be like?
    • Look for similar job titles with other companies – are they broadly the same across the board?
    • Try prospects for generic job role information, it will give you the basics of what the role is usually like.
    • Are there other jobs advertised on the company website – where does yours fit in?
  • Ask yourself why does this appeal to me?
    • Be specific – an organisation could have hundreds of  roles. So why this one in particular?
    • What aspects of the job do you find most interesting? Working with a particular client group? Working on a particular product?
    • Is there an opportunity to use specific knowledge, strengths or talents?

Q. Do you have any questions for us?

Another question that is often fumbled at the end on an interview. Lets face it often you just want to get out of there, but wait… don’t drop the ball now.  This is your opportunity to have proper conversation.

Often questions will come up naturally along the way so if possible ask them in context but if not store them up and remember them. Ask questions that open up an opportunity to find out more about the role or company. But be prepared some of these questions could get flipped on you.

  • What would I expect a typical day to look like?
  • What do other graduates in this role find most challenging?
  • What roles do  graduates typically do after the graduate scheme?
  • What do you find most exciting about your job?
  • When will I hear if I have been successful?


For more interview questions check out our Guide  or ask about our interview feedback file and see if anyone else has been for an interview with the same company.




Telling your Story – create impact on your CV and at interview

iStock_000013550480Small Man thinkingWhat is it that makes a CV, application or interview performance stand out and have real impact? It could be the story.

Telling stories is a powerful way to communicate. It allows the author to reveal something unique about themselves; evokes emotion and is something other people can relate to. Story telling is an ancient tradition and is still popular today.

Applied to job hunting, the story is often the magic that links together what the employer wants with what the candidate has done to date, bringing them together with interesting and distinctive examples.

 Try storytelling for yourself

Are there any threads running through your life which will strike a chord with an employer?

  • For example, have you taken apart electronic equipment from an early age, built your own PC, and set up a network for your housemates? Even if your degree is geography rather than computer science, many IT consultancy firms would find your background very interesting.

Can you illustrate your skills with examples beyond your degree?

  • A few degree-based examples are fine, but everyone else on your course could give the same examples.

In your work or social life, what have you done which had a specific end result? Was it quantifiable?

  • For example, “I raised £600 for charity as a team of 5 by organising an end-of-term ball, negotiating £200 of sponsorship from a local pizza take-away”.

Have you had any unusual or distinctive jobs, or had to take on extra responsibility?

  • Have you spent a summer working in a completely new environment, either location or type of workplace?
  • Working in a family business, such as a local take-away or on a farm, could give you real commercial awareness and resourcefulness from an early age.
  • A summer picking fruit at local fruit farm could turn into a short-term business as a supplier to all your friends and family.

What has been your proudest achievement within a job so far?

  • For example, you might have worked in a call-centre, but what about the call you took where you had to deal with a crisis – which got you an “employee of the month” award?

Why do you want to be a [lion tamer?]

  •  What has been your journey of discovery as to why you are interested in doing a particular job or pursuing a particular dream? Who have you encountered along the way to inspire you and shape your thoughts?

How have your international experiences shaped you?

  • Whether you are an international student or have spent time abroad, stories of your global experiences and cultural encounters can provide an interesting illustration of your ability to see others’ perspectives on life.

What makes a good story?

  • It is simple and concise, told from your own perspective
  • It has meaning for you and is told with confidence and enthusiasm
  • It includes a dilemma or experience that the audience can relate to and that captures their interest
  • It often has an element of uniqueness or strangeness about it
  • It finishes well – with a happy ending, a learning point or with hope for the future 

The Art and Power of Storytelling in Workplace Communitiest Put together by The National Managers’ Community (Canada), this resource takes a closer look at our love of storytelling.

By Amanda Conway
Careers Consultant

Are your hobbies and interests really that interesting to an employer?

Phil skydiveSometimes it feels a bit like filler on your CV. You scratch your head to think of activities you do outside work and study and you come up blank. What exactly do you put?

It’s not an absolute must have if you can’t say anything sensible or relevant; but most people can!

Think about the heading – what sounds best?

  1. Hobbies
  2. Interests
  3. Activities and interests
  4. Extracurricular activities

3 and 4 probably sound strongest and have most scope.

If you spend all your spare time volunteering this may replace this section entirely.

 What can you include?

Almost anything but it needs to tie in to the purpose of your application – WHY is it relevant, what does it show about you?

  • Sport: playing on a team or leading a team or activity. If a solo sport – it could show dedication if you achieve goals or compete.
  • Peer / pass mentoring if you have not included a volunteering section.
  • Staff /student or Hall rep positions.
  • Volunteering or charity fundraising if it does not warrant its own section.
  • Societies – if you are or have been involved in organising or doing something.
  • Travel – if you gained something from it. Cultural awareness, independence, problem solving, work experience. Simply going on holiday is not enough.
  • Fitness activities like going to the gym, running, yoga etc; can be included but you need to show some reason why they are relevant – do they show dedication or achieving personal goals. Perhaps you use them to wind down and gain perspective and a refresh yourself if you have a busy life.
  • Activities like gardening, cooking or knitting for example. If you just mow the lawn, bake the occasional cake and have knitted a scarf, that’s nice but why do I want to know?  Do you bake for charity, do you knit for friends and family and challenge yourself with new techniques?  Do you grow your own fruit and veg and teach others how to?  What’s your angle?
  • Learning a new language – could go in here until you reach a level of competence, then it and it could go in your skills section.
  • Theatre, dance, drama as long as you are participating in some way – not just watching.
  • Writing  for student or local newspapers even blogging can be useful to build a portfolio.  What’s your thing? What do you write about and why?

If you are the captain of a team or have a committee role in a society or similar these could go in a positions of responsibility section. CV formats are be fluid to reflect your circumstances and the needs of the employer.

Dodgy ground

  • I like socialising and going clubbing  with friends.  (Thanks for sharing but really do I care?)
  • I love reading and watching movies. (Well who doesn’t. What skill are you trying to tell me about?)

If you were part of a book or film group or you had a blog and you critically discussed literature or film – it could show skills like critical thinking, the ability to present and defend well reasoned arguments. (As well as showing you are able to make friends and communicate effectively!)

Perhaps your passion for film / music / literature / art / computer games is actually pertinent to the job. In which case I want detail. What exactly is your passion and how have you demonstrated this?

How do I sell it?

  • What skill do you need to show evidence of? Check the job description.
  •  Which situation will show this off best?
  • Remember CONTEXT ACTION RESULT. What was the situation, what did you do and what was the outcome.

Have a look at our example CVs for some ideas.

Application forms and interviews

You may be asked questions specifically looking at extra curricular activities. Many employers want to see examples of skills from across your life not just work and study.

When writing a personal statement on a job application form, think where your best examples of skills come from. You will often need to cover a long list of requirements from the job description so give a little variety in where you choose to take those examples from.

Is your hobby your life?

For some people their extra curricular activities are the biggest part of their life. Their education or job is there to perform a function it’s not what they live for.

The trick is to ensure that those strong examples of skills that some people get through part time jobs or internships come from your sport or interest.

Just be aware that the person employing you needs to know you will commit your energy to this job. So its a good idea to talk about how you have balanced demands and ensured that your education or work commitments were not affected.

After the Interview: A Recent Experience

In the last month I’ve had some interviews for full-time graduate roles – two with a Manchester-based marketing agency and one for a graduate scheme at a PR agency in London. I thought I’d share my experiences to help you think about how you could approach any interviews you have coming up.

After the Interview

If you’re anything like me, you’re an over-thinker and excessively analyse any situation. It’s very easy to do this with interviews – to beat yourself up about how long it took you to answer this question or how you should have shaken their hand more like that – but it won’t get you anywhere as you’ve done all that you can do in the interview itself.


‘Reflect’ on your performance…

However, it is good to reflect a little on how you think you performed to help you better prepare for other interviews. For example, in my first interview with the Manchester-based company, I was caught out when I was asked how my current manager would describe me in five words. Although I managed to string a few adjectives together at the time that fit the company profile and job spec, afterwards I made sure to think about how I could answer that question more effectively if I was ever asked it again.

In my interview with the London PR agency, I was asked which of their clients I would most like to work with. Cue the mental blank. I knew their clients – I’d researched and revised them – but with the two PR professionals staring me down across the table, I just couldn’t think of a decent answer. On the train home to Manchester, it occurred to me that one of their clients is related to my sports marketing career aspirations, and I kicked myself for not remembering that earlier.

Once you’ve had a little think about what you could do better next time, set the interview aside for the time being and distract yourself with other things – your studies, your current job, or any other applications or interviews you have to do – until the employer chooses to get in touch. And rest assured, it’s very rare that someone comes out of an interview situation and says “Yep, I absolutely smashed that”.

If the interviewers haven’t been in touch by the time that they said they would, it’s okay to drop them an email just to politely check if there have been any updates. And if you’re offered the job? Well, that’s up to you. (But you can find some advice on handling job offers here.) If you’re not successful? Ask for feedback so you can prepare better for the next one. Sometimes you may have the right skills but you’re just not the right ‘fit’ for the company, and sometimes you’ll get that vibe yourself during your interview.

During the Interview: A Recent Experience

In the last month I’ve had some interviews for full-time graduate jobs – two with a Manchester-based marketing agency and one for a graduate scheme at a PR agency in London. I thought I’d share my experiences to help you think about how you could approach preparing for any interviews you have coming up.

During the Interview

On your way in, be polite and friendly with everyone you meet – from staff at the reception desk to the interviewers themselves. You want to leave a good impression with the company as a whole.

My first interview with the Manchester-based company focused mainly on the role, the skills it required, and my personality. The position I had applied for, whilst in the marketing sector, was quite different to the sort of work experience I had done before, so the interviewers were keen to hear why I was interested in this line of work and to determine whether or not I was up to the job.

The interview itself flowed more like a conversation than an intense questioning, and I was excited to see what questions they would ask and work out how I would answer them. We discussed the ins and outs of the job and current trends in the industry, and I was able to talk about some recent campaigns I liked that I had read about in the weeks leading up to the interview. The interviewers had obviously looked through my CV in detail, and asked me lots of questions about some of the things I had mentioned, including my study abroad period and my love of Formula 1. In return, I asked some good questions about what the goals of the department were around this role, about their reactions to industry trends, about the challenges of the job, and about the next stage of the process.

uppsala snow

Studying abroad in Sweden enhanced my ability to adapt to new situations – such as carrying two huge suitcases through four feet of snow!

The second interview for this role was a lot more intense. The very first question was “Describe our company as a brand”. Obviously I had researched the company and its values beforehand, but what a question to walk into! Then we chatted a lot about my study abroad period in Sweden and how challenging that had been and how I had adapted to living alone overseas. This interview wanted me to prove that I would throw myself into this new and different role and pick it up quickly. We talked about negotiating and building relationships, and the previous experience I had of this, and I was asked about any digital marketing work I had done during my current role. Again, I had some good questions to ask – I asked about a recent sponsorship campaign that I knew one of the interviewers had been involved in, and again asked about the challenges of the job, what their goals were around this new role, and about the next stage in the process. Don’t feel like you need to leave your questions until the end; if you’re chatting and the topic comes up, ask away.

Then, finally, I was asked how many petrol stations I thought there were in Manchester. They didn’t expect me to know the answer, of course, and the interviewer revealed that she didn’t know the answer herself. Unexpected questions like these are designed to test your reactions and how you would approach answering them. I made an educated guess based on the number of petrol stations just in my small local area of Manchester.

On your way out, thank the interviewers for their time and the opportunity, and be polite to those you meet as you leave.

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