Friday, June 28, 2013

TARGETjobs News Roundup

Hello and welcome to our weekly graduate recruitment news roundup blog. Here you will find the latest career advice we published on our site this week as well as announcements, reminders and other useful information.

Let’s start by reminding the LAW STUDENTS who are applying for training contracts starting in 2015 that the deadlines for most of these are coming up at the end of next month. Find all training contract vacancies we have live on our site here. (You need to apply for training contracts two years in advance to accommodate the time to complete your third year and your LPC).

If you are in need of a little help with training contract applications, why not have a read of our latest tips , especially our interviews with graduate recruitment managers at top law firms?

Back on neutral ground, this week we also continued our advice series on answering tricky interview questions. This time: tackling how you would give an example of your lateral thinking. 

If you are interested in a career in retail, we have some advice for you on how best to write applications and ace your interviews for Aldi’s area management graduate scheme 

And now it’s time for an announcement.

I am not sure if you’ve noticed but we’ve been publishing a weekly poll on our site. If you want to share your thoughts, do take part. This week we asked you:

If you don’t get a job this year, what are your feelings about doing a masters?
-          I would seriously consider it
-          It could be a good way to improve my CV, but I’m not sure
-          I’d rather keep applying for jobs, thanks

Please scroll down on our homepage to find the poll.

Going hand-in-hand with our poll, if you are considering, or have applied for a postgrad course, this is the perfect time to apply for one of our £2,000 bursaries. There are five up for grabs. But hurry applications close on Sunday. (30 June). 

As always, we end the blog with next week’s graduate jobs and schemes deadlines. Apply now before they close. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Employability in engineering

Jake Tudge, winner of the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year award writes his view on how to improve employability in engineering. Some really great tips.

As you may be aware, I am pleased to announce that I have been awarded the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year and I wanted to write about employability in engineering and perhaps some tips along the way. So you’ve left university with a strong 2:1 in engineering – perfect! But is this enough to guarantee a graduate job anymore? Some would argue not. I was at a university employer engagement meeting last week, where my university (UWE) works with employers to further prepare their graduates for employment. It was noted that 75% of the engineering chartership process is looking for the ‘softer’ skills and employers are forever more searching for candidates equipped with a host of soft skills to successfully deploy their technical knowledge in industry. So, in my opinion, what are the easiest ways to go further than your degree?

Do you have a student representative and student ambassador system at your university? If so, get involved. Through undertaking both at UWE, my communication skills have progressed significantly through having to deal with senior members of staff within the faculty or having to meet with members of the public at open days. Furthermore, I’ve had to learn how to be presentable and articulate at senior level meetings or when simply talking with prospective students at UCAS fairs. Both schemes, which are common at most universities, demonstrate a host of soft skills which can be used as examples in interviews or situational questions. Through my time at UWE, I have progressed through to the Departmental Forum Chair of the Student Representative system, as well as acting as a Team Leader on University Open Days; both proved extremely helpful when having to demonstrate potential leadership qualities during my E.ON interview. Not to mention, the chance to act as a STEM ambassador to school children has been both extremely rewarding and great fun.

Demonstrating your motivation for a career in engineering will definitely prove to a prospective employer that you are committed to a future role and wish to progress through the sector. An excellent way to do this during your time as an engineering undergraduate is to engage with the professional institutions such as the IMechE, IET, RAeS, etc. Not only can you build up a strong network, but you can learn about the face of engineering that is so often not explained in the text books. I started off during my time at UWE by simply attending events by the three institutions around Bristol and networking with their members. As a result, I joined the committee of the Bath and Bristol IMechE Young Members branch and I volunteered to organise an event. As a student interested in the energy sector I decided to organise an Energy Question Time, hosting senior representatives from National Grid, EDF Energy, AECOM, South West Water and the Energy Institute, while I acted as David Dimbleby for the evening. (If you would like a summary, please view ) The event took weeks of organisation (and I seriously mean weeks), but the final evening was great fun and the contacts established will prove very helpful. This is just one example of showing initiative and this is something employers value; someone who can stand on their own two feet.

It would be foolish of me to write a blog on employability and not mention the key work – experience. At UWE, we are extremely proud of our employability and experience plays a large part in this success. For students leaving our engineering courses, we achieve an 88% rate. That is 88% of students are within a graduate level role within an engineering company within six months of graduation. For those with a placement year, the figure is over 99%. Not bad. So why are employers so keen on experience?

Essentially, it’s the ability to apply your knowledge successfully to real world problems. During my last summer, I completed a summer internship at South West Water in their Energy and Carbon team where I was sponsored by the Environmental iNet through European Union Funding. The experience allowed me to understand the practical applications of all that theory I have learnt in lectures, but also helped me to develop those essential soft skills. As a result of my completed projects, I was awarded the Intern of the Year sponsored by Rathbones Wealth Management. This experience and the associated award, I believe, were instrumental during my E.ON interview in proving that I had the ability to apply knowledge successfully, as well as working in a new environment. So my advice, get out there, network until you are tired of talking and secure some experience.

It is argued that employability is all about successful self-marketing. It may be at risk of being obnoxious, but I believe it is essential to market yourself professionally in order to succeed and this is easily achieved through the use of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. It is often underused, but if used successfully LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for post-networking connecting and keeping in contact with those industry players. Furthermore, it can even lead to future opportunities. For example, I was contacted by a senior academic regarding PhD opportunities and this is something I could look to pursue in the future. So, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, set up an account and start populating it with information. It’s quick and free, which is always good. It’s a fantastic resource and you will definitely not regret the opportunities it may hold.

So the summary of this blog is really to understand what helped me win and what the attributes of a winner are. As you have hopefully seen, I have tried to do much more than my degree during my time at university to demonstrate attributes to contribute the assumed technical knowledge from an engineering degree; I am hoping that my placement at E.ON will only strengthen my CV. Of course, I have only shown a small range of the potential opportunities available to increase your employability while at university. In conclusion, I have one piece of advice, hunt out those extra opportunities; get involved in societies, join a sports club or search for your local professional body! Network, network, network and you could find yourself looking very employable. Remember, employers are looking for the leaders of the future.

Want to know more about improving your employability in engineering, read our TARGETjobs Engineering sector pages.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Applying for a job for the sake of it.

Our intern Hollie, shares her experience of why applying for a job in an industry you are actually interested in is essential 

When my final year at Glasgow Uni was drawing to a close it suddenly hit me that in a few weeks I would suddenly be a real person: a tax-paying, student-loan-free real-life person. When friends and family asked me what I was doing when I graduated I could no longer brush them aside with ‘but that’s aaaages away’ because it wasn’t – it was very, very soon. I panicked. I’d always found the prospect of applying for a graduate job quite intimidating, but suddenly when I found an e-mail circulated around my course advertising a scheme at HSBC my adrenaline kicked in.

My first mistake was the time at which I applied. My dissertation was due in two weeks and I had a maths report to do even before that - but I rationalised it by saying to myself that ‘I was at university so that I could get a job, and so job applications were just as important as my uni work’. Wrong. I spent an afternoon writing a covering letter, filling in the application questions and sprucing up my CV. Then, I spent another long session practising for the psychometric test they asked me to do. When I passed that I then had to spend an entire day learning about banking for the phone interview I was due to have - because that was my second mistake: I’d put no thought into what I wanted to apply to and realised that not only did I have no knowledge whatsoever about the finance industry, I also had absolutely no interest in it. It took me a full 12 hours and copious cups of coffee to force myself to read through tedious statistics, news stories and lengthy press releases about banking and the economy.

When it came to the day of my phone interview I felt so sick with nerves I kept forgetting to breathe, and when my phone rang I almost threw it under the bed. It all went downhill from there. The first question the woman asked me was merely to re-iterate the name of the exact graduate programme I’d applied for – I was so wound up I couldn’t remember. I had to fumble with the paperwork on my desk frantically until I found a copy of the application form. The second thing she asked me was to select a recent news story that involved HSBC and talk her through it - I’d only briefly scanned a few. I had to fish in my brain for the one I remembered best and find a creative way to expand what was effectively one sentence’s worth of information into an intelligent, knowledgeable-sounding answer. This prompted the first of many instances when I was left with nothing much to say after about 20 seconds. Question after question I was forced to tail off into silence and wait until the interviewer realised that no, the phone hadn’t cut out; I just genuinely had nothing to say.

The interview was supposed to be 40 minutes long, and it’s safe to say mine only lasted 20. Amongst the plethora of awkward, grimace-inducing silences I’d been faced with many questions that I didn’t know how to answer and many more questions that I really didn’t care about knowing how to answer. In short, I realised I wouldn’t have wanted the job even if i’d (miraculously) gotten it.

So, if blogs were the Aesop’s fables of the modern world, the moral of this story would be this: make sure you know what you want to do, before you do it. Sounds simple enough right?  If you can’t bear a 40 minute conversation about the subject matter, then you certainly won’t want to be immersed in it every single weekday for the foreseeable future. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to start thinking about what I wanted to do while I was still in my second or third year instead of leaving it until the last minute (mine was a four-year course). I would have saved myself all that post-interview hyperventilating if I’d just given some consideration to what I actually wanted to use my degree for. I assumed that with maths I’d probably end up working with numbers; what I didn’t realise was that I could also go into IT, marketing, law – in fact I know now that there are bucket loads of graduate schemes on offer that don’t require a specific degree discipline. Also, a lot of graduate schemes have application deadlines earlier in the year and if I knew I could have applied at a much more convenient time.

When I finally did do an interview for a job that I actually wanted, well, it wasn’t intimidating at all – I really quite enjoyed it! So, readers, go forth and research what’s out there - otherwise you’ll end up knowing far more than you’d ever care to about equity capital markets…



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A surreal experience, but an exciting year ahead...

Well, I said my second blog would feature employability in engineering, but this has been postponed for the third blog!

It’s been two incredible months since I was named Engineering Undergraduate of the Year 2013, sponsored by E.ON, at the spectacular final for the Undergraduates of the Year at Canary Wharf. The initial shock took some time to wear off and I am starting to understand the exciting future this opportunity has provided me with - a year placement with one of the UK’s largest energy suppliers, E.ON.

I suppose the first thing I need to mention is that I definitely was not expecting the award (as Adam Cox pointed out in his TARGETjobs blog). The competition was extremely fierce and upon meeting all the other finalists I certainly felt very privileged to be among such equally motivated peers. The arrival at the venue was unlike any event I have been to before; an outstanding setting with a champagne reception and string quartet. After meeting all the other finalists (some of whom I had met at interview), I had an opportunity to meet with finalists for other awards, which was a fantastic opportunity to network with employers and finalists from across other industries. Following the rather lavish reception, we were shown to our tables and I met with E.ON employees, including Maria Antoniou (HR Director, E.ON UK) and Neil Price (Performance Leader), who now happens to be my placement manager. Personally, I think we were set up to dine next to each other.

After being seated in this wonderful venue, I remember just smiling and feeling incredibly privileged to be sat there. And then, Sir Trevor McDonald was welcomed onto the stage to give, what I would refer to as, a truly inspirational presentation. I don’t know how he did it, but he related to every single person in the room and drew us in with his exciting experiences and wit along the way; a remarkable man. Next was the presentation of the awards; for each award, it was great to see a variety of students from a range of backgrounds. When the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year award finalists were announced, I felt extremely proud to be representing UWE among the other finalists.

The long-anticipated moment was looming and the winner was announced by Sir Trevor and Maria, I remember just being perfectly still in shock and Adam, who was sat next to me, telling me to get up and go! After a few moments, I made my way up to the stage and had my photo taken with Maria and Sir Trevor. As I made my way back to my seat, Sir Trevor read out my biography of accomplishments and it suddenly hit me; all those morning meetings and late evenings of work were worth it. I’m in the extremely fortunate position to be the first in my family to attend university and I think my parents are still in shock I’m even studying for a degree. When I phoned my mum, who was in Tesco at the time, to say I was stood in Canary Wharf and I had been announced as Engineering Undergraduate of the Year, she just burst into tears…

If you’re considering applying for next year’s award, then I have one piece of advice – go for it! I’m not going to make it seem easy by saying I applied last minute, because I don’t think that would be possible. I submitted my application in December if I remember correctly, so that I could complete my January coursework without worrying about the application. It was certainly arduous, but understandably rigorous thorough. For the initial application, E.ON simply required personal details and confirmation that I was on track for a 2.1 degree in Engineering. Note: I study Aerospace Engineering, so don’t let it put you off if you don’t study mechanical. I specialise in aerodynamics and flight mechanics – not exactly relevant to energy industry! Although, lots of transferable skills and knowledge which will definitely help me during my time at E.ON.

Following the initial application, I was asked to complete three essay questions. I believe these are a true test of commercial awareness and leading industry issues. For example, I was asked about risks within the power industry and how I believe I could address problems in the sector. My advice would be to spend a lot of time on these, as they are really the only opportunity to showcase your motivation to E.ON. The application provided no opportunity to list extra-curricular activities, so make sure the essay answers are perfect and perhaps include examples of your extra-curricular activities. Subsequent to the questions, I was invited to undertake a number of numerical, verbal reasoning and personality tests. These are certainly not an activity for a Sunday morning when you are feeling a bit worse for wear after a Saturday night out! I decided to spend a whole day in uni completing these and I remember leaving the library when it was dark outside. So, my advice, leave plenty of time to complete your tests and perhaps don’t complete them all in one day? I found it extremely tiring and I would certainly recommend completing practice tests beforehand as well.

To my surprise, I was invited to an assessment centre with E.ON at their Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottingham. The assessment centre was a full day exercise incorporating group activities, a personal interview, a presentation task and role-play situations. It was an extremely exhausting day, but you can understand how E.ON gains quite a colourful picture of your personality by the end of the day. In terms of advice, there isn’t a great deal to offer. All I would say is that E.ON want you to be there and would like you to do well. We were made to feel very welcome by E.ON and this certainly made me more relaxed in the interview. Regarding the personal interview, it was interesting to note the lack of technical questions; yes, there were a few, but not many. The majority of questions wanted to understand my extra-curricular activities, my commercial awareness of the energy industry and situation examples I have encountered. If I could offer advice, it would be to research the STAR method and learn an example for lots of different situations. Furthermore, know your achievements, strengths and weaknesses, as well as reading a newspaper or energy magazine before the day. The assessment centre is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the company, as well as make some good friends.

So to conclude, a long process. But worth it? YES! The opportunities that I have had opened to me, as a result of this award, have been huge. The ability to add such a prestigious title to my CV and get my foot in the door with one of the world’s largest power and gas companies; it’s a dream come true. UWE were absolutely delighted with the award and I received personal congratulations from the Vice-Chancellor himself, which meant a lot to me. I hope I have inspired others that, regardless of your background, you can achieve what you dream. I live my life through two goals. The first is to approach things with an open mind and never dismiss an opportunity. The second is to embrace new challenges with good humour. 

Regarding my future, I’ve secured a year placement with E.ON and a trip for two to Sweden to visit key energy projects. The future is looking exciting and I hope I have a successful year. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to TARGETjobs for their wonderful organisation of this award and E.ON for sponsoring this award and providing me with the opportunity I’ve been aiming for. I would also like to congratulate all the finalists of the Engineering Undergraduate of the Year award. I’ve made some fantastic friends and I look forward to our forthcoming social events.

And to those still reading; remember, it just takes one application and you could be the Undergraduate of the Year. 

If this has inspired you to apply for next year's Undergraduate of the Year awards pre-register today to be the first to know when the awards applications open in September. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

What part of your CV matters most to employers

What part of your CV matters most to employers

Last week we ran a poll asking you ‘what part of your CV matters most to employers.’ We knew you would think work experience was important, but it’s very striking how much you believe recruiters care about it. It trumped all other elements by a substantial amount of votes. Next in line are your academic performance and your personal statement. And judging by the number of votes, these two criteria are pretty equal in importance in your opinion.

Let’s investigate this further.
The graduate recruitment market, although improving, is still highly competitive. Once you would have been well placed to land yourself job and a high-flying career simply because you had been to university. Now more is needed to even get your foot through the door.

It is no longer the case that getting a good degree is enough in itself. Work experience is vital and judging by these results many of you feel it is more important than your degree result. Research by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit into the employment of 2009 graduates highlighted work experience as key to maximising chances of getting a graduate level job after university.

-          79% of graduates who had done work experience said their job was appropriate for someone with their skills and qualifications, compared to 61% of the overall sample.

Find more details on the survey here. 

Employers also use internships as part of their recruitment process.

The 2012 AGR (Association of Graduate Recruiters) summer survey showed how internships are an important recruitment tool for its members. Just under four-fifths (78.5%) of employers used the same selection process for their internships as for their graduate programmes, and on average 30.4% of all placement or internship students went on to become graduate recruits.

If you missed out on doing an internship as an undergraduate, you may still be in with a chance. The survey revealed that over half (52.0%) of employers accepted applications from graduates for their internship programmes, rather than limiting placements to those who are still university students.

It is no wonder then that at the end of May we reported on another TARGETjobs poll finding that the majority of respondents would work for free if the benefits outweighed being paid. (insert link) It is all about employability: your ability to find and keep employment. This requires both good academic results and work experience. And judging by these results, you would go to great lengths to boost your employability.

The good news is that universities are full of opportunities for you to get work experience. The earlier you start the better. Joining a student society for example can provide you with great employability skills such as team working, time management and so on. Your careers service will have an extensive list of resources for you to search for work experience, and more employers than ever are offering internships and placements. In more good news, as university holidays are particularly long, especially in the summer, there is plenty of time to get some substantial work experience.

If you are searching for a particular employer to see if they offer work experience, why not check out our A-Z of employers that provide this? 

Volunteering gives similar benefits to work experience, as you will still be picking up employability skills. Volunteering also shows initiative and self-motivation, two key soft skills that boost your employability.

A part-time job, even if unrelated to the career you are interested in can also provide you with valuable employability skills. Why not find out what great CV skills you can pick up from a retail part-time job, for example?

The pressure to get work experience is growing for students and recent graduates. Employers’ expectations vary depending on the career you are trying to get into. So make sure you have done your research. Remember that what really counts is boosting your employability skills, and a traditional work experience placement or internship is not the only way to do this. Extracurricular activities, volunteering and part-time jobs are all great ways to get the skills employers want. The key to strengthening your CV is knowing where to find all available opportunities and how to identify and sell your newly acquired skills.

-          Search for work experience, internships and placement here.
-          Find out more about a range of top graduate careers. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

TARGETjobs news roundup

Welcome to the weekly graduate recruitment roundup. This is where you find the roundup of all the latest graduate career advice we have written this past week.

This week we’ve focused on tricky interview questions and have given you the inside track on how to answer the following:

-         Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?

-          Give an example of a time when you showed nitiative

When it comes to interviews it’s always best to have examples set aside for these types of tricky questions. Have a look at the possible responses we have come up so you pass with flying colours.

As well as general interview advice, we talked to financial services employers. They told us they look for client skills as well as numeracy in their actuaries. Have a look at how to show recruiters you have the necessary people skills. 

For those interested in hospitality, we shared the top ten tools (skills and knowledge) you need to getting a graduate job in this industry 

If retail management is more your career of choice, you may find our latest application and interview advice for Aldi’s area management scheme helpful.

But if none of these take your fancy why not browse next week’s graduate job deadlines. Although it’s traditionally a quieter time for graduate recruiters, there are still quite a few going. 

Hope you have a lovely weekend,


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Editorial: Part 1

Our intern Craig is the first to take the plunge and write his first blog. A really interesting piece. Hope you all enjoy it. 

Hi, as well as interning this summer I am the editor of The Saint, St Andrews’ independent student newspaper. Whilst in this position I got to thinking that although most people consider student newspapers for experience when interested in journalism there is so much more a newspaper can offer, even to those looking for work experience in IT, design/production, sales, and finance. If you have any questions about what is mentioned below, or maybe something which isn’t, feel free to contact me at

Let me explain this:

IT jobs: Since news has become a multi-media, multi-platform business, with the majority of people getting their daily news through their phones, tablets, and computers, student papers have had to adapt to survive. The transition from print to online news, however, can be very complicated if done well, and this is where I think newspapers need IT specialists. If you have experience coding websites, either for a computer science degree or as a hobby, I think you could easily find a job there. Why not develop an app for the paper, or create a version of the site for mobiles? This kind of extra-curricular project is fantastic for a CV. One person can make a huge impact in this area – be that guy.

Sales and marketing: Although some newspapers are subsidised, there are plenty of others that rely on revenue gathered from the sale of adverts to allow them to print.
Student newspapers can be a brilliant way to get experience in sales, dealing with clients ranging from local takeaways to international banks. This work often goes on behind-the-scenes, but is definitely a crucial part of the process. Most offer on-the-job training and shadowing, allowing you to build up your confidence before hitting the streets on your own. I think that the experience this section can offer can be invaluable to someone looking to go into the profession – why not give it a shot?

Design/Production: I can’t speak for other student newspapers here, but The Saint is designed and laid out on professional software called Adobe InDesign, part of the Adobe Creative Suite, which also includes products such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver. From my experience, this software, among other programs, is used by newspapers and publishing houses throughout the country to lay out content before it goes to the presses. If you are serious about going into journalism or publishing, a working knowledge of this software can be a major plus point on your CV. Get in touch with your student newspaper to see what opportunities they can offer you to familiarise yourself with this software. Or, if you are unsuccessful there, you can take matters into your own hands. If you can prove you are a UK student, there is a fantastic website called which offers the latest software for reduced prices. Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6) is, at time of writing, available there at a significant reduction. It is a lot of money, but consider it an investment in your future. There are plenty of manuals and Youtube training videos available.

Finance: Someone is always needed to keep an accurate record of the income and expenditure of any business. There are usually fewer positions available for this kind of job with student papers, but it can’t hurt to ask – drop the editors an email and see what they say.

If you have any questions about what is mentioned above, or maybe something which isn’t, feel free to contact me at

This month’s interesting journalism law fact: My copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists is in the post. Sorry to disappoint, I know you were looking forward to this paragraph so much!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How else can you use STAR?

This post can definitely be read on its own but is probably more effective as an add-on to my blog on the STAR approach which you can find below or at 

What is STAR?
To quickly recap, the aim of the blog on STAR was to introduce you to the approach and how to use it in interviews by outlining a Situation you faced, the Task you had, the Actions you took and the Results of those actions. The STAR method is not only a great way to structure your answer to keep you clear and focussed when nerves begin to kick-in, but it’s also making sure that you’re ticking the boxes for the recruiter by answering the questions in a way that they’d ideally want you to answer them.

Does it work for CV writing?
Now, this method works for interviews, but this got me thinking about my CV and how STAR can help articulate skills and experiences on paper. It might seem a little strange; STAR, after all, is a method of answering questions whereas a CV isn’t designed entirely for that. So it got me thinking about why we write a CV.

For me, the aim of a CV is simple; it’s used to convey what your strengths are through experiences that you’ve had and to prove that you have the academic record employers are looking for. For now, assuming we have the academic qualifications, the important word in there is, maybe surprisingly, ‘through’.

Why? Well, how many times have you written on your own CV or read someone’s CV that had either;
a) Skills with no context. E.g. ‘I’m a leader and organiser.’
b) Experiences with no skills. (Listing Duties) E.g. ‘I was the committee member at my society for x number of years and was responsible for this, this and this.’

In an interview, if you’re vague or provide context but not much impact, the interviewer can ask you questions like ‘And how did that experience benefit you?’ or ‘How did you build your communications skills to be at the level you’re at now?’ However, when reading your CV, they can’t! This result in potentially excellent candidates not even making the interview stage and with a change of approach, this risk doesn’t even have to exist.

Bridging the skills/experiences gap.
The STAR does something else very effectively, something which wasn’t really touched on in my previous blog; it bridges the gap between skills and experiences. The STAR approach is a really effective way of saying to an employer ‘I have these skills and can show you because of this.’

Using the STAR approach is slightly different in written format for a few reasons;
1) You have limited space to answer therefore you have to be more concise.
2) There is more of an emphasis on implying your skills because the one they’re looking for isn’t explicitly asked for by a question.
3) You can really highlight areas of importance. If you have an area you want to jump out, then you can draw attention to it through different font techniques.

Looking at your CV and how STAR can be applied.
Now look at your CV, particularly your experiences section. Do you have a section in there that could benefit from using this approach? If so, take a look at the following format and compare it to what you’ve written;

I’m going to use a common example, a part-time retail assistant role, to demonstrate this method. However, this can be used for anything, so if you’ve got something else you want to use, go for it!

Part 1; Situation and Task
This is the part that outlines your role and task and should be no more than 2-3 sentences. This gives the recruiter some context and basically gives them the ‘Why?’ behind what you did.
‘In my part time role as a sales assistant, I was tasked to tidy the men’s apparel area of the store in order to make it more appealing to consumers. I noticed the product was good and had potential but the way it was organised didn’t justify this.

Part 2; Your Actions
This is where you have identified an area that you can have an impact on and have taken steps to do so. Your actions should be justified to demonstrate your reasoning and thought process.
‘I reorganised the section, making sure there were clearly distinguished places for the different apparel products, rearranged them by colour order and freed up floor space for customers to actually enjoy shopping in the area.’

Part 3; Result
The result is the stamp of approval. No matter what you did, if you can provide tangible benefits to your actions, you’re showing an employer that you can create successful outcomes.
‘As a result, that day alone we saw more interest in the apparel section and I was given the opportunity by management to share what I had done with colleagues and briefed them on the new organisation of this section.’

Look at this  example from an employer perspective. Tick the boxes!

This isn’t just the story of how this person made a store section better. Go through this again and think like an employer would.
ü  This person noticed a problem
ü  They were pro-active and sought to come up with a common sense solution to this problem.
ü  The person was organised and understood what consumers would respond to.
ü  This affected interest (and sales) positively.
ü  The person was then given leadership opportunities to help colleagues adopt the same understanding.

Compare and contrast.
I’d like you to compare the example, above, to the one below.
Retail Assistant;
  •          Responsible for organising areas of the store.
  •          Serving customers and recommending products.
  •          Teaching other staff on aspects of store organisation.
  •          Increasing sales in apparel section.
  •          100% time-keeping.
Ask yourself...
If you were recruiting for a job, who would you rather speak to based on their retail experience?

The Final Word
The STAR approach is a technique that, with some slight alterations, can be adapted to make your experiences stand out on your CV. No matter what you’ve done and achieved, by using this format you can effectively communicate and prove to an employer that you can make an impact based on your skills. The format also helps you steer clear of listing skills and not showing that you actually do have them and also makes sure you don’t fall into the trap of listing duties without really articulating what skills you developed through your experiences.

Chris Milborrow 
18th June 2013
I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and I welcome your feedback on any of my entries so far.

You can connect with me on Facebook and LinkedIn: ‘Chris Milborrow’ or on Twitter: @ChrisMilborrow 

Friday, June 14, 2013

TARGETjobs Graduate recruitment news roundup

Welcome to this week’s graduate recruitment news roundup, where we summarise all our weekly career advice pieces in one easy read.

Let’s start with two tricky graduate interview questions:
‘What is your biggest weakness?’ and ‘Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?’

If you, like many, struggle with these two questions, read our advice on how best to answer both of them –  as well as what not to say.

We also ran an article on salaries. If money is your motivator, find out what the median graduate starting salaries are in different sectors, according to a survey carried out by the Association of Graduate Recruiters. 

In finance, we discovered that graduate employers look for client skills as well as numeracy when recruiting for their actuarial graduate job positions. So here we are telling you how to show you have these skills. 

We also looked in depth at financial services and consultancy firm Mercer, listing five things you should know if you’re applying for a graduate job there

And, if you are interested in applying to Mercer, check out our article on how to impress at its graduate assessment centre 

We conclude, as always, with the roundup of the graduate job deadlines closing soon 

Happy weekend,


Thursday, June 13, 2013

10 reasons why you should apply for The Undergraduate of the Year competition:

Ella Jakubowska winner of the Female Undergraduate of the Year Award sponsored by Rolls Royce tells you ten reasons why you should applying to 2014's awards. 

1) You might discover something you never knew about yourself:
I almost didn't apply to the Undergraduate of the Year awards because I was worried that I was not good enough. I also almost bailed at the first hurdle upon seeing that the online psychometric tests involved a considerable amount of maths. Not only am I incredibly glad that I persevered, but I realised as a result that I absolutely can not be as bad at maths as I thought, and I must have done fairly well at the logical reasoning and business analysis sections too. I am a lot more confident in my business-related skills now.

2) You might discover something you never knew about a company:
Until a few months ago, I thought that Rolls-Royce made cars. I also thought they would have absolutely no need and no opportunities for an English Literature student. I was wrong!

3) You might benefit from the challenge:
To say that the application process was rigorous would be something of an understatement. It was difficult but it was a similar process, I am told, to Rolls-Royce's graduate scheme application. Even if you don't win, the process helps you gain experience and build confidence that will be invaluable in your last year of university when you're competing for the best jobs, internships or graduate schemes.

4) You might meet some really wonderful, like-minded people:
The other women in the Female Undergraduate of the Year competition that I met were an intimidatingly successful but also interesting, impressive and kind bunch of people. At the assessment centre some of us went for dinner and it was really reassuring and made me feel like no matter who won, I would be really genuinely happy for them. I also got the chance to meet many Rolls-Royce employees, particularly high performing females, giving me an insight into what it is like for strong women in stereotypically male-dominated businesses.

5) You might make some connections that could influence your entire career:
I have met people from Rolls-Royce, TARGETjobs, other Undergraduate of the Year categories, and my LinkedIn inbox has been overflowing with congratulations from professionals from big companies ever since I won. With networking being so important to a career, these effortless connections are sure to help me once I leave university.

6) You might benefit from the overall experience:
As I mentioned, it is challenging. But you come to realise that although it is such a privilege to be in the last round of selection, you got there because of your hard work. Being able to stand up and stand out in an environment filled with strong candidates is something that you can genuinely feel very proud of, even if you don't win. I actually had a lot of fun during the process, which was something I was not expecting.

7) You have nothing to lose but potentially a lot to gain:
One of the things that the overall process has reinforced in my mind is that you should always go for everything, take chances and a lot the other clichés about how if you never try you'll never know. As Thomas Edison supposedly said: "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work".  As if you can’t tell from the title of this post, I can’t emphasise enough how strongly I advocate going for it and just applying for one of the categories next year because it can not do any harm but could do a world of good.

8) You might get to go to the (swanky) Awards Ceremony:
The venue...The drinks reception...The food...The speeches. Before the winners are announced, the top 10 from each category are invited to a very prestigious awards ceremony and not only is it a gorgeous venue and really exciting event, but the main course was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.

9) You might meet Sir Trevor MacDonald:
I think this one speaks for itself. 

10) You might just win:
I hadn't even hoped that I might win. The other candidates were so strong but I must have been stronger than I thought I was to win it! Not only did I win an iPad and a fantastic internship that I am greatly looking forward to starting in a few weeks, but I feel like I am making positive things happen that are shaping my entire future. The more I learn about what my internship will entail, the more excited I become - it will not be your standard making tea and doing photocopying internship! As I sit here writing this on my shiny new iPad, it is ridiculous to think that the night before the initial application was due in, I almost went out instead of staying in to submit my application. I'm glad that there was a little voice in my head telling me that despite all my doubts, I might just win.

By Ella Jakubowska, winner of the 2013 TARGETjobs Female Undergraduate of the Year.

Are you tempted to apply - pre-register here to be the first to know when the awards open