Guest blog: Interview Tips for Graduates

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert careers@soas.ac.uk

Interviews can be nerve-wracking even for the most confident and experienced of people. Graduates embarking on potentially their first job search need to prepare extremely well and practice the art form of giving a good interview. If you’ve been invited to interview then you’re doing better than most already but the hard work has only just begun. Here at Wayfair we’ve put together some tips for students and graduates on achieving interview success and getting your foot on the first rung of the professional ladder!

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Step One: Preparation

The more you know about the company you’re interviewing for, the more at ease you will feel and the more you will be able to impress the interviewer. Knowing about what the company does, their size, and their presence in the marketplace shows interest and engagement in the company, something that is crucial if you want to win a job offer.

You should also think about how the division you’re being considered for fits into the company as a whole. This’ll help you gain a better understanding of what type of person they might be looking for and which of your experiences is most relevant to the role.

Tip: Always look at the company’s website and read any information provided, including the job description, prior to the interview.

It may be that you don’t have an abundance of relevant professional experience which means that you will have to draw on other experiences to show that you’re the right person for the job. To prepare well, study the job description and make notes on what skills and experiences the company are looking up. Then line up your CV with the job description; work out which of your own experiences tie in with what they’re looking for and make clear in your own mind which of your experiences and skills are most relevant to the job so that you can talk about these clearly at the interview.

The next step is to think about what questions they might ask and how you might answer them. You could always try practicing interviewing in front of the bathroom mirror or with a friend or family member.

Another good way to prepare is to think of some questions beforehand that you might like to ask at the end of the interview. This is an opportunity to show that you’re engaged with the company and also gives you the opportunity to ask about aspects of the job that are important to you and find out if the company suits you.

Tip: It’s a good idea to check the news on the days running up to your interview, just in case anything major is happening that involves or might affect the company that you’re interviewing for.

Step Two: Planning

It’s extremely important to be punctual for an interview. Arriving late or hot and bothered after a rushed journey will cloud your mind and affect your confidence. Allow plenty of time for delays and if you really are stuck, phone ahead to let the company know that you’re running late or can’t make it.

Make sure you get enough sleep the night before and eat plenty before the interview so that you’re feeling refreshed. You should be at your best so that you can focus and represent yourself as best as possible!

Step Three: Presentation

How to dress for an interview may seem like a complicated decision, especially if you’re unfamiliar with professional wardrobe standards. The answer is simple: formal. It’s safest to dawn a suit (skirt or trousers) with smart shoes. For graduates in particular, what you wear will help you to come across as mature, professional and serious about gaining the position.

Tips: A good way to gauge how you should dress is to aim to dress a level of smartness above what you would for the job.

Your body language is also a key part of the impression you give. Smile, make eye contact with the interviewer, and leave your arms uncrossed by placing your hands on your lap so as not to create a barrier between you and the interviewer.

How you speak is also important and your voice will give it away if you’re nervous so take control. Give yourself time to answer questions; you can take a few moments to consider how you’re going to answer a question and speak naturally and not too fast.

Tip: First impressions matter. A firm handshake at the start and end of an interview together with your verbal and non-verbal communication is critical to creating a professional image.

Step Four: Mindset

Regardless of how you’re feeling about the prospective job, get excited about it and go with the objective of getting it. This will help you to automatically create a positive representation and give you a much better chance of actually getting the job.

Remember also that an interview is equally about you working out if the company suits you as well as it’s about the company working out if you’re right for them. Having this in mind may help to boost your confidence and settle nerves.

Be confident in yourself—the fact that you’ve been asked to interview shows that the company believes you can do the job. Now they just want to see whether you’re genuine and work out whether you’re a good fit for the team.

And with that, we wish you the very best of luck!

Guest blog by Florence Edwards, Wayfair

What I wish I’d known… Neville Crow

Career Insights from a SOAS Alum Investment Banker

From his path of over 30 years in global investment banking, in Japanese, Spanish, US and British banks, Neville gave us some top tips and insights for treading our own career journey.

Crucial factors include:

· building and maintaining networks as we progress

· knowing ourselves, our strengths and what we are offering

· presenting ourselves and our story confidently in a way that invites others to engage

Neville got into investment banking as an area where he could use his intellect to engage with challenges and problems, and solve them.

Networking

He highlighted the key importance of networking – through his career, he has picked up, maintained, used and benefitted from thousands of contacts gained throughout that time. Anticipate that these contacts will also move employers, and so could be helpful in their new role – most people will be helpful if they are asked.

Use many methods to make these connections: the internet, LinkedIn, face to face. You need to have self-motivation and drive, you can be cheeky as long as you are constructive but not rude. You also need to know what makes you unique, and be able to communicate that. If you are not having success, take a step back, refocus, reanalyse and come up with a new strategy. You likely need to think of another angle, another way in.

Use these connections wisely – be persistent but don’t annoy. The world today is a small place.

Knowing and presenting ourselves

Selling yourself is a key skill. It sounds easy, but it takes practice and hard work.  It is important to know your own story and strengths: what are you offering? What are you selling? What makes you unique? A bank might offer 80 places, get 20,000 applications. Make your application stand out, make your CV unique to catch the recruiters eye. Learn how to present yourself: this is important in interviews, as well as important in networking. You might be nervous, but can you hold those nerves and make a good impression of yourself. Think about your poise in communication, and also your appearance. One way to do this is practice! Have practice interviews in front of someone else. The more you become familiar with telling your own story, the more confident you become, and the more relaxed too.

At SOAS

Make the most of the time you have here as a student! Learn an extra language – this is always very useful commercially. Learn a broad set of skills here, learn to present. Get work experience and internships – these are so useful for understanding the environment and the sector, and perfect for making contacts. Also, engage fully with the unique cultural perspective here at SOAS.

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Resources

For further information on careers in finance and banking, have a look at the sector information on the careers moodle here. There are also plenty of tips for CVs and interview preparation.

We also offer plenty of face to face support in the Careers Service – with quick query appointments available every afternoon, and mock interview sessions to help you prepare for that all important opportunity!

Also, keep an eye on our events page for opportunities to network with employers on campus.

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Many thanks to Neville, a valuable member of our alumni network, for his personal insights into the sector, which SOAS students can use in their own careers. We are looking forward to Neville returning to SOAS in the near future to share his views, and work with students.

Alice Moon, Careers Consultant

Reason #2: Personal Wellbeing

why volunteer-

A 2010 study found that volunteering has a positive impact on mental health, “such as increasing psychological detachment from paid work, and fulfilling important psychological needs such the need to connect with others, autonomy and competence.” It revealed that a third of the volunteers surveyed reported increased self-confidence, and a fifth reported an increase in their general health.

It’s that time of year again – deadlines are piling up, exams are imminent, and if you’ve got a dissertation you’ve realised that you should probably be writing it. It’s tempting to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of library-lecture-panic-sleep but sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is step back and take a breath.

Getting involved with volunteering – whether that’s committing an hour per week of your time or just taking advantage of a one-off opportunity – can be the perfect excuse to take some time out from your revision timetable while still doing something productive. No need to feel guilty about missing 2 perfectly good library hours when you’ve spent the time collecting shopping for an elderly person, or befriending a refugee. Taking time away from your desk can be a great way to refresh mind and body, and will help you be more productive in the long run.

Volunteering isn’t only a good idea when you’re stressed – nothing improves your mood like connecting with other people. Harvard researchers have found that the key to happiness in life is building successful and fulfilling relationships, and volunteering is a great way to do this, whether with your fellow volunteers or the beneficiaries you’re working with. Learning about the experiences of people from different backgrounds, areas or even just age-groups is rarely boring, and can be a great way to reassess your priorities and your worldview. In Bhutan, consistently ranked the happiest nation in the world, volunteering is seen as a vital aspect of creating the lively and connected communities which are key to happiness.

Finally, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose when you’re feeling lost. It’s easy, especially at university, to question your decisions and worry about what’s coming next. Having a cause to fight for, a community to get involved in, or a goal to work towards can give you a sense of purpose and grounding. It can remind you that you’re not as lost as you think you are, rekindle your love of your subject, or give you the opportunity to test out a potential new path to travel down. There’s something out there for everyone, and volunteering is a great way to try and find your thing.

You can get involved with volunteering at SOAS by reading the Careers Service newsletter, checking out what’s on offer with Student Hubs at SOAS or emailing volunteering@soas.ac.uk to find the perfect opportunity for you. Go on, give it a go.

Guest blog: Be prepared for job interviews

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert careers@soas.ac.uk

So you’ve got past the first hurdle of making your CV stand out amongst hundreds of applicants, and managed to bag yourself an interview. Congratulations! But in order to secure your dream job, you must first make it through the next stage: the dreaded graduate job interview. These can be a lot trickier than an interview for some part-time bar work at your local pub, so it’s best to be prepared. At Spotlight Recruitment, we help graduates prepare for job interviews every day, so to help you in your search, we have put together the top 5 questions you are bound to be asked, and the best way of answering them.images

 

1.    “Tell me about yourself…”

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a question, but it’s something that will come up a lot during interviews and can definitely throw some people! But don’t panic; you can keep your answer fairly brief and just give the interviewer a brief run-through of your CV. Talk about your degree, the different modules, then any bits of relevant work experience, volunteering, or extra-curricular activities you have done.

2.    “Why do you want the job?”

This questions is almost guaranteed to be asked during a job interview, so make sure to have an answer prepared before you go. And be specific. Don’t just say why you want to work in the industry, tell the interviewer what it is about the role and the company that you are interested in. Read the job description carefully before you go and read up on the company.

3.    “What is your main strength?”

This is your chance to show what you can bring to the role. Think about what you are good at, then pick something which is related to the job you are interviewing for. If you are going for an accounting role for example, it’s best to mention your ability with numbers rather than the fact you’re a talented pianist. It’s also better to be specific so you stand out. If you’re interviewing for a marketing position, instead of saying “I’m creative”, say something like “I’m always the one coming up with new ideas when doing a group project.”

4.    “What is your biggest weakness?”

This is one of the hardest interview questions to answer and can often throw graduates! Avoid the “I’m a workaholic” cliché; admit a genuine weakness. The best way to go about it is to pick something that’s not directly related to the role, then go on to show your strengths and explain how you work around it. For example, you could say you’re not good at public speaking, but get around it by being organised and preparing what you are going to say when you have to give a presentation (although don’t use this one if it’s a sales role!).

5.    “Describe a time where…”

Competency questions are often used in graduate job interviews. It’s a good idea to have some good examples lined up before you attend the interview that can be adjusted to fit different situations. Think back to university group projects, part-time jobs, volunteer work, travel, or any extra-curricular activities you have done. Then answer the question using the STAR technique: describe the situation, the task you had, the actions you took, and the result. Make sure to be specific on the actions you took to resolve the situation.

Guest blog by Alice Riley from Spotlight Recruitment