9 Tips for Job Interviews

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Post by Laura Burden, final year student at Hallam

So if, like me, you’re coming to the end of your time studying at Sheffield Hallam, you’re probably starting to think about getting one of those job things. I’ve had a few job interviews recently; I wanted to share some of my experiences and tips.

Let’s assume, for the purpose of this post, that you’ve secured an interview. Pat yourself on the back because that in itself isn’t easy. Clearly, there’s something in your application that they like!

So here’s a bit of a roundup of what I do before, during and after a job interview.

Research the company/organisation

No matter what I know about an organisation, I do a sweep of all the interview and job description information I’ve had and make notes. Then a quick Google search and a poke around their website provides some more general information about the company.

It’s all useful to know and trust me; it’s really obvious when you’ve done your research.

Know where you’re going and who you’re meeting

If I’m not sure where I’m going I do as much research as possible about the place I’ll be going to for my interview – is there parking available, what time will the train arrive there, what if the train’s late?

I’ve arrived more than an hour early for an interview before because I was nervous about being late, thankfully there was somewhere nearby where I could have a coffee. Try to arrive no more than 15 minutes early.

Have you got everything?

Typically you’ll need to bring some ID with you such as a passport. You might also need proof of any qualifications you mentioned on your application so, don’t forget your certificates. I also like to have some water with me (although it’s usually provided in interviews) and some pens and paper. Make sure to check the interview information and see whether you need to do any prep, in the past I’ve had to prepare a presentation and take it with me.

What type of interview is it?

I’ve been to group interviews, presentation interviews, panel interviews and one-to-one interviews; it just depends on the organisation, department and specific role you’re applying for. Each interview type has its pros and cons, usually I find it less nerve-wracking if there’s more than one person interviewing but really it depends on the people! It’s always important to know what type of interview you’re going to, and try to find out the name/s of the interviewers.

First impressions are vital

I know it’s a cliché but it’s true.

Dress smartly (yes, you have to iron your shirt), smile, introduce yourself, shake hands with your interviewers, please and thank you etc. Don’t sit down until a seat is offered, sit up straight, listen to your interviewers carefully and ask for clarification if you’re unsure about something.

Make eye contact and nod or respond where appropriate. Address the person who has asked you the question but also make eye contact with the other members of the panel.

The questions

Top tip – have a look at the job specification; you can usually work out what kind of questions you’ll get. I’ve had questions on personal strengths and weaknesses, working through a difficult situation, why I would be suitable for the role, and everything in between.

I definitely recommend having a couple of examples of situations you’ve been in and do some personal reflection.

If you’re struggling to think of the best example to use or how to answer a question, ask if you can come back to it. I’ve done this a few times – they aren’t judging you for it.

STAR

The most important thing to remember for interviews – use the STAR technique.

I’m really bad for waffling and trying to cram in a lot of information – have you noticed? The STAR technique helps me give focused, concise answers.

Situation – Who, what, when, where and why

Task – What was the challenge or problem, what was the end goal?

Action – What did YOU do?

Result – What was the outcome?

Ask your own questions

Always ask at least one question yourself. It shows you’re interested – in the job, the company, the people sat in front of you. Rather than trying to think something up on the spot, I tend to go with a few questions in mind, and then whatever isn’t answered; you’ve got some questions to hand.

Just make sure you don’t ask anything that’s already been answered.

After the interview

Before you leave, make sure they have your contact details and that you know when they will contact you. When they do get in touch, I make sure to thank them for their time and for contacting me, I also always ask for feedback on my interview – even if I’m offered the position.

If you need to take a day to consider a job offer, don’t be afraid to ask for some time. Remember, even though a job offer over the phone is brilliant, it’s not binding, and it’s important to ensure you get some kind of written offer.

Good luck out there and remember to check out the Careers Central Interviews page for more advice, tips and to book a mock interview if you’re feeling unprepared or unsure!

Make the most of your Summer – The Future is Yours

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What will you be doing this summer? Now’s your chance to shine and give yourself the best possible opportunity of starting a successful career by taking control of your future.

Log onto UniHub, search the jobs field with the words Summer 2017 and start building a standout CV.

Summer to remember

You can change your summer by:

  • Volunteering – Get involved in local and national opportunities which make a real impact for charities, festivals and events as well as equipping you with real world skills and experience.
  • Global Internships – Get stand-out global work experience through summer internships with organisations worldwide.
  • Cantor Bursary – Your chance to apply for a flexible bursary of up to £500 to help you experience living and working overseas.
  • Summer Campus Jobs Earn cash in a flexible and familiar environment on campus here at SHU. Be an Ambassador, a Shelver in the library, a Mentor for fellow students or a crucial part of an administration team.

This is your opportunity to get employability experience and give yourself the best possible opportunity of finding a career you love, whatever your year of study.

Be employable and make this year the one where you gain new skills and make an impact locally or globally to stand out from the crowd. 

To view these opportunities, please click here or log onto UniHub and type Summer 2017 in the jobs field.

Come to our careers fair on Thursday 23rd March

With our Spring Fair taking place on Thursday 23rd March, this is your chance to meet with dozens of local, national and international employers who are offering graduate recruitment, internship and placement opportunities.

If you want to hear five great reasons why you should attend our careers fair, have a look at the video below:

To book your attendance at the fair, please click here.

If you’re already attending, then here’s some great student tips on how to prepare for the fair!

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday 23rd March between 11am – 3pm in Hallam Hall and the Careers and Employability Centre.

The Sky’s the Limit with Statistics

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Many students cover research skills, statistics and SPSS on their courses, but may not have considered how these abilities could help them in their career. Patrick graduated from BSc Psychology in 2014. Here he explains how his aptitude for figures led to an exciting career opportunity as Statistical Officer for the Civil Service and how research modules and careers support helped him on this journey.

Patrick

“I currently work on the Statistical Consultancy and Survey Support team. We offer an internal support service for anyone in the department. Customers can come to us with any issue related to analysis, research, or surveys and we will help resolve their issue efficiently and professionally, from delivering advice to taking on the projects ourselves and returning to the customer with a tailored analytical report. Highlights of this role include working with many different customers allowing me to see a range of work across the department, as well as allowing me time to meet other young statisticians at networking events and conferences, the most recent being the Young Statistician’s Meeting 2015 in Cardiff.

After graduation, I worked briefly (4 months) as a Research Analyst Trainee for a private sector market research company. This was a great development role as it gave a first taste of full-time employment. As it was a trainee role it also helped develop analytical skills I had gained at University (Excel, SPSS, and PowerPoint etc.) and apply these in a real-world setting. I then accepted a role with the Civil Service. I mainly use analytical skills in my current role, so everything learnt in our research methods modules from my Psychology degree has been useful. I also use a lot of SPSS to conduct analysis, so learning that was helpful. Knowing how to conduct research and how to conduct it ethically is a big help in my current role, as this is where a lot of our work comes from. Finally, an official writing style learnt from writing essays is helpful when drafting reports or briefings.

The Careers and Employability Service were vital to my getting my current role. It was following an ADAPT session (personal development module) that I begrudgingly went to the careers office to start thinking about what I’m going to do after third year. It was there I was told about the Civil Service Fast Stream Recruitment. I applied and eventually made it through every step, going from online numeracy tests to two full day assessment centres held in London. I unfortunately didn’t get the Fast Stream role, but due to my statistical knowledge was offered a general stream role instead, which only really adds a couple of years to my progression ladder so isn’t too much of a letdown!

To prepare for my interview, the main thing I did was revise all my statistical notes from the last three years. There was a statistical techniques interview that was a large part of the assessment and so revising for that was a must. I also booked in to have a mock interview with the Careers team. It was quite a scary process as I’d never really had a proper interview before, but the team was very helpful and provided me with lots of feedback on how I did, as well as where they thought I needed work. It was a very helpful process and definitely helped me improve my interviewing skills.

 I would advise students to make sure you use the careers team, my employment adviser was immensely helpful in finding me roles to apply for (She also emailed me about the research analyst trainee role that I mentioned earlier) so without her I wouldn’t have had either of the jobs I’ve had! Definitely make use of the mock interviews too, it might seem daunting but trust me it helps!

 I’d like to stay in this career for a while and make my way up the ladder to a more senior role. There lots of opportunity to move to different teams, with the option of staying analytical or not. This should allow a lot of variation in work whilst maintaining nice job security. Later in life I’ll probably head back to the private sector in another analytical role, or try to move abroad, possibly to Canada as there are plenty of statistical roles over there.”

Interviewed by Caroline Hanson, Employment Adviser, Careers and Employability

Careers: Myth Busting…

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In today’s post we bust five common myths around careers.

“The Careers Service is no use to me until my final year”

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There are lots of reasons to use the Careers and Employment Service before your final year. Some of the things we can help you with include:

  • Finding a part-time job
  • Drawing up a strong CV, or a LinkedIn profile
  • Finding summer work experience
  • Meeting employers at one of our Careers Fairs

In fact this year so far, 60% of all appointments at the service have been made by students who are not in their final year.

 

“I can’t use the Careers Service until I know what I want to do”

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We see lots of students who don’t know what they want to do – you are not alone! You can make a careers guidance appointment with a Careers Adviser, who will talk through with you what your ideas are, what your options might be, what you feel your strengths are, and what you would like out of a career. You might be surprised at how helpful it can be to talk these things through with someone who is impartial. Our aim is that you leave with a clearer idea of what your next steps might be.

 

“I’ve got my CV sorted. I’m going to send it out to as many vacancies as possible, the more I apply for the better chance I’ve got”

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Employers tell us this is a big mistake – they want your application to be tailored to them and their vacancy. So think quality rather than quantity. It is FAR better to make fewer applications, but to make sure your application is tailored to the job. Make sure you have picked out what the employer is looking for, use their keywords and give evidence to demonstrate your skills. Research the company and the role, and show that you have done this. Have a look at our Careers Central pages on Applications and CVs then make an appointment with an adviser if you aren’t sure how to tailor an application.

 

“I am rubbish at interviews, there isn’t anything I can do to change that”

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Everyone can improve their interview technique. It’s a matter of:

  • Preparing – really read the person specification and job description, which will be full of clues to what you will be asked at interview. Make sure you can talk about yourself in relation to the skills, attributes and experience they are looking for – what evidence can you give to show you have them? Really think about the role – why are you applying?
  • Practising – in front of a mirror. With a friend. Use our interview simulator package. Or book a Practice Interview at the Careers and Employment Service – we will tailor the interview to your needs, and give you detailed, confidence-building feedback.

 

“There’s no point thinking about my career in my first year, it’s too early to do anything”

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Many first year students don’t know what they want to do, and that is very normal. However, there are steps that you can be taking that will really benefit you in the long run, and these can be summed up as “DO SOMETHING”! Such as:

  • Get a part-time job
  • Do some volunteering
  • Try to get some work-experience/work-shadowing in an area you are interested in
  • Join a club or society
  • Become a student rep
  • Learn a language or new skill
  • Start a blog

WHY? Getting involved in some of these things will help you develop new skills, give you new experiences, meet new people, find things out about yourself, and develop your confidence. We know that employers really value the skills and experiences you can gain from activities outside of your degree.

 

Teacher training interviews: How I prepared

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Sally is a Childhood Studies student applying for teacher training. This is her second post for us:

Well the day arrived… I had received all three interviews for teacher training places to start in September 2015! As you can imagine I was over the moon, however, the nerves and worry kicked in straight away. I printed everything off that I was sent in emails and highlighted all the important information, which at the time felt like the whole sheet! Before I went to my interviews I spent lots of time reading through The Teaching Educational Supplement (TES). This was so I was aware of everything that was happening in the world of teaching and I would feel confident answering questions around teaching in the media. I also used twitter to keep track of news within education by following organisations such as – BBC Education (@bbceducation) and Department for Education (@educationgovuk). I also printed off lots of practice questions and practised them with my cousin and countless cups of tea!

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For my first interview for a PGCE course, I had to teach ‘something new’ for 8 minutes to a group of other candidates,  have an individual interview, and read a 12 page article about studying at Masters Level and present on it for 5 minutes. As you can imagine I was totally overwhelmed and petrified. I’ve not had an interview since I started my job in retail nearly 5 years ago. Straight away I booked myself  an appointment with Andrew Walton, our university Employment Advisor. We spent some time generally talking through the tasks that I would have to complete on the day but also about how the day would most likely be structured. Straight away after the meeting I felt much calmer as Andrew explained I was lucky to have been selected just on the basis of my personal statement.

When I arrived at the PGCE interview I was very apprehensive, mainly because I just didn’t know what to expect or how my day would turn out. All I kept thinking was – What if I’m rubbish? What if straight away they decided I’m not the right person for this course? I knew I had to stop thinking like this and tried to think as positively as possible. My first task was the teaching activity. Eight  minutes is such a short period of time that I was actually worried I wouldn’t be able to ‘teach’ anything, never mind something! I felt that my teaching task went fairly well, but as soon as I had finished I knew areas where I could improve. Next was the individual interview, which was the part I was most nervous about. As soon as I entered the room I instantly felt at ease. It was not at all what I expected, fairly informal and the interviewer was lovely.

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Next interview was for a School Direct place, which was completely different. As well as a teaching task and  individual interview, I also had to complete a written task, which was a reflection on my teaching activity, and about my educational philosophies. After this I had a Maths and English test. Probably like most people, I have not studied Maths since I finished my GCSE’s in year 11, so straight away the Maths was going to be my biggest problem, especially when I had less than a week to revise. Thankfully the day ran smoothly and my teaching task, which was 20 minutes, was a lot better than my first interview. This was mainly because I’d had chance to improve my resources and probably because I was more relaxed.

My last interview was for another School Direct place. I felt as though this was the best and most enjoyable interview day that I had, perhaps because I felt a lot more comfortable and confident within myself. My teaching task was 15 minutes long and due to the fact it was the third time I taught it I felt as though it ran really smoothly. I even received positive feedback from both the children and the interviewers. Following from this was a 30 minutes written task about OFSTED and behaviour management within the classroom setting. I also felt that my individual interview, even though it was the most formal and had 3 people on the panel, went very well. This was probably due to the fact my confidence had built up during the other interview days and I knew what to expect.

My advice to anyone who has an interview coming up is – make sure you are totally up to date with everything that is current in the news. Also, I would advise going through practice questions just so you can be prepared. Interviewers aren’t trying to trick you, but they may ask you questions that may never even have crossed your mind. I would also strongly recommend practising your teaching task, whether this is in front of a friend/family member or just stood in front of the mirror in the privacy of your own bedroom. This way you can see exactly how you are coming across and you can time yourself.

Thankfully I had my mum and other supportive members of the family around me constantly encouraging me to strive to do the best that I could during the interviews. It is a stressful and worrying process, especially when you have other university work to worry about. It’s important to make time for yourself, whether this is having a bath featuring a glass of wine and some Shania Twain playing or just reading a book. Spending too much time worrying about interviews will only make you more nervous for the day. Hopefully my next blog will feature positive news of some teacher training offers as I am currently in the waiting process. Good luck to anyone who has an upcoming interview… Remember positive mental attitude!

 Up-date: Good news – Sally has received offers, and is currently considering her choices!

 

 

 

 

 

A student’s story – Producing a Radio Show

by Kayleigh Gray

Charlotte Perry headshot

Charlotte Perry is about to graduate from her BA Honours Journalism course. For the last 8 months she’s been co-presenting a hospital radio show in Sheffield and last year spent some time as a Radio Team member at My Student Style.  She’s keen to pursue a career in radio journalism, so it made sense for her final year project to write and present a radio show with a careers and employment theme – talking about interviews, jobs and university. We asked her to tell us a about it and how she’s increased her employability.

Tell me about the radio show that you did, why you did it and what was successful and unsuccessful?

It was part of my applied project, and it had to have an academic side to it, portray some information.  So I went to my academic tutor and he said ‘why don’t you do something on employment because that’s what you’ll be doing when you finish university and it’ll probably help other students too.’ We were given guidelines about what we were meant to achieve with our show and I couldn’t solely do it based on employment so I decided to do it on careers and university as well, and then the ideas kind of built up and up and up and I ended up doing interviews too.

It was really quite interesting actually because I spoke to Maggie Bamford (Employment Adviser in ACES) and got loads of ideas and I ended up doing something that was based around BBC Radio 1 listeners and their age range; we had to write a little bit about what we’d done as part of our project and we had to include an audience, so I thought Radio 1 audience would encompass everything because I interviewed a student, a full-time worker and a graduate. I wanted prospective students to know more about going to university. I interviewed Maggie Bamford and then I had a section about interview clothes, so it had a bit of fun to it.

What is Soundcloud, can you tell me a bit more about it?

You can get a free account and it entitles you to 2 hours of broadcasting but you can than upgrade and see who’s been listening and where from. You can freely put your sounds on it whether you’ve made a radio show or music that you want to put out there, it’s a bit like YouTube but without the video to be honest.

How and where did you record it?

We have a studio in Cantor building, it’s a mix of a TV and radio studio but I also hired out equipment to go and talk to Maggie in her room. I had the student, graduate and full-time worker in the studio and we recorded that there, including what to wear to an interview.

How did you establish your connections with Maggie and then the graduate, student and full-time worker?

The three were people I knew from university, home and school so it was fairly easy to make those connections. But with Maggie I just emailed her through our university email system and then booked an appointment with her at Cantor reception.  Then I interviewed her again because there were a few questions I missed out, but she was happy to do that for me. The employer was actually my mum; she employs a lot of people on a regular basis.

What was the Twitter fashion exercise?  Did people tweet which outfits they liked?

Charlotte Perry emp blog 1My fashion article was about what to wear for an interview. I went out and created 2 outfits for a girl and 2 for a boy.Charlotte Perry emp blog 2 One being appropriate and one inappropriate. I got an employer to comment on each outfit and posted the options on Twitter and invited comment.

Yes, I had a lot of engagement and people were asking where the outfits were from. People did vote which ones were the best and they could see a clear division between the appropriate and inappropriate outfits. I liked the exercise because students don’t seem to know what they should be wearing.

Have you ever experienced people dressing inappropriately at interviews?

Yes, I remember someone wearing loads of jewellery to an interview at Beaverbrook’s and it looked out of place. She clearly felt she needed to wear it because of the company but, as was said in my radio show, too much jewellery doesn’t look professional.

Were there any challenges with the recording?

I had a lot of support and I’ve studied radio so I know how it works but there were a few bits where there are a few jumps. I used music in the studio to set the scene and calm the interviewees because it can be daunting if you’ve never been in there before, so we played some background music but when we came around to editing it my microphone was in the wrong place and we had to record it again, but obviously the music was already there so it sounded a bit jumpy, but that’s something I’ve learned as a result.

If it’s your final year project then how is it submitted? Do you write a report with it?

Yes, I submitted mine on memory stick and we had to do an action plan at the start to say what we’re going to do, you don’t need to be really strict, but you do need to outline a timeline and audience and then you do your actual show and then a bit of a reflective log about how you did things, how you’d do it differently, bits like that.

Why did you choose a radio show?

I want to go into radio, I really really want to do that. I could do a dissertation about radio and listeners but I thought if I go to an employer and they ask what I’ve done in radio then it would be so much better to give them something I’ve actually made than a dissertation on it – they’re not interested, they’re not going to read 12,000 words.

Finally, if you had your time again at university, what would you do differently to progress your career plans?

I don’t know to be honest, it’s pushed me in the right direction, made me realise what I want to do. So I don’t think I’d do anything differently, I don’t think there’s anything I’d change. I’m glad I’ve got a direction because I’d be worried if I was going travelling not knowing what I’m going to do, but I do know.

You can listen to her show at https://soundcloud.com/#charlie-a-perry/the-fix, follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/charlieaperry and see her profile on LinkedIn.