Smile during interviews, don’t rely on a downloaded CV template, and never underestimate the importance of networking - this is what employers are really looking for in a graduate recruit.
This week sees the 2021 Insight to Business Awards Event taking place in Liverpool.
Organised by Liverpool Hope University’s Business School, it sees successful students being presented with sought-after work experience opportunities at some of the region’s most influential firms and organisations.
To mark the event, some of the companies offering these lucrative placements have revealed what really makes a candidate stand out from the crowd - whether that’s for a work placement or a full time job.
And from showing passion and enthusiasm, even if it’s not about the role, asking questions and being curious, or simply being approachable, some of Merseyside’s leading industry figures have shared their advice.
Sometimes inexperience can be a good thing
Peter Smith is Head of Marketing at Marketing Liverpool, the Liverpool City Region’s Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), dedicated to promoting the region as a great place to live, work, visit, invest and study.
And Peter says personality and attitude can get you a long way, even if your CV isn’t brimming with prior experience.
He explains: “It’s difficult for graduates to have relevant experience, so we look more for attitude and personality - people who can show they’re happy to get out of their comfort zone, be a good team player and to show they’re passionate about something, even if it’s not directly related to the role.
“People think inexperience is a bad thing but it can be an asset. Graduates haven’t been conditioned into a particular way of thinking. You might have a completely different idea or approach, and you might therefore question if there’s a better way of doing things.”
Marketing specialist Peter, based in Liverpool’s historic Cunard Building, Pier Head, gravitates to candidates who are not afraid to ask questions.
He reveals: “It’s important to understand what the placement, or job role, involves and how your skills, interests and experience might fit that role.
“I like people who are curious and who ask questions, no matter how basic. Email the company and see if you can find out more about what’s involved in the role and the projects they might be working on. It shows initiative.”
Demonstrate that you’re a team player
Hayley Reynolds is Senior HR Advisor at RSM UK, a global firm specialising in audit, tax and consulting services.
And Hayley says being able to provide concrete examples that you can be a team player can be really beneficial.
Hayley, headquartered in Chapel Street, Liverpool, says: “During the interview stage we like to hear experience of teamwork in examples and it is always interesting to hear about the candidate’s life outside of work or university, as we look for strong personalities.
“This could be volunteer work, involvement in societies or sports teams. As well as teamwork, giving examples which shows you can manage and juggle conflicting deadlines or priorities is brilliant, as this is what our students need to do given they work full time and are studying towards a professional qualification.”
Answer the actual question…
Hayley says candidates can often make the mistake of issuing a rehearsed, pre-prepared answer, rather than actually listening to the question being asked.
She advises: “Candidates should focus on the question to fully understand what is being asked, ensuring they support their answer with a specific example from either their personal, work or university experience. A common pitfall may be answering a question you want to be asked, as you have an answer and example prepared. It’s also obviously important that the candidate produce good credible answers with examples, but another key factor - and which is arguably just as important - is their engagement. We want them to show us their enthusiasm and passion for the role, and for RSM.”
Don’t skip the networking sessions - it could lead to a job in the long run
Hayley adds: “We have an excellent recent case study of a student who attended an event with us. She asked questions and got involved at the event and she even connected with us on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, the role she applied for was filled before she got the chance to come to us for an assessment. But around ten weeks later, we had an additional role made available, and she was at the forefront of our minds as she had made an impression with her enthusiasm and follow-up contact - we got back in touch with her to see if she would still like to be considered for this role. And she’s now joining us in August. It is always worth attending events and networking. If she hadn’t have put the effort in, we would not have known her to get back in contact. Attending careers events are also very rewarding for students. Even if you don’t know anything about the organisation, ask questions, show an interest, be enthusiastic - as the above case study demonstrates, it could lead to a job offer and the first steps in your career.”
Don’t rely on downloaded CV templates
Nanette Mellor is CEO of The Brain Charity, a respected organisation that offers emotional support, practical help and social activities to anyone with a neurological condition and to their family, friends and carers.
And Nanette, based out of Norton Street, Liverpool, wants candidates to really think about what their CV says about them.
She reveals: “While a CV is undoubtedly a formal document, it’s still very important to let concrete examples of your skills, attributes and experience shine through. Too often, CVs look identikit based on online templates and are filled with unnecessarily complex language – meaning it can be difficult to gain a tangible sense of what the candidate’s strengths are – or any feel for their personality. Write succinctly and in plain English, giving a clear overview of your responsibilities in previous roles. The basics are still important though – always check, and double check, for spelling and grammatical errors!”
Don’t forget to smile!
For organisations like The Brain Charity, being friendly and approachable is hugely important.
And Nanette says that if you want your personality to shine through, a polite smile can go a long way to winning hearts and minds.
She says: “For us, the interview is the time where candidates really have the opportunity to open up and reveal more of their personality. One tip many people forget in interviews is to smile – it instantly makes you seem more approachable! This approachability is vitally important not just to build a rapport with your interviewer but in any role at The Brain Charity. As our building also houses a community centre visited by people with all forms of neurological conditions, it’s important for all our staff to help foster a warm, welcoming, supportive atmosphere from the second a client walks through the door.”
** The 2021 Insight to Business Awards take place Wednesday May 5th at 3pm - and you can watch the virtual ceremony live by heading here.
Other key firms taking part in the Awards include Everton FC, LLS, Ghosh Medical, BWM Chartered Accountants, Liverpool Chamber, Lloyds Bank, Haines Watts Liverpool and MSB Solicitors.
As Peter at Marketing Liverpool points out, the awards are ‘a brilliant opportunity for employers to find out more about graduates and a great opportunity for graduates to meet new people and make a lasting impression.”