#MondayMotivation: Virtually Assessed


It started with video interviews and has progressed onward and upward from there. Technology is making huge inroads into the graduate recruitment process and it’s not going to go away. On the contrary, more and more major firms are using increasingly sophisticated digital process to decide who will be hired.

First, for those who are a little hazy about what’s involved, some definitions. The three key processes impacting on traditional selection methods are:

Virtual reality: computer simulation of 3D images or environments that allows human
interaction when wearing specialist equipment such as a headset
Augmented reality: using technology to superimpose a computer-generated image on a
user’s view of the real world, providing a more complex experience
Gamification: applying elements of game playing (e.g. rules, scores, competition) to another activity i.e. recruitment exercises.

Still none the wiser? Here are some examples:

  • Banking group Lloyds tests candidates ability to move virtual objects in immersive virtual situations, using calibrated headsets and gloves
  • KPMG takes the traditional in tray or e tray exercise one step further by using a Virtual Office Exercise – practice questions available on line should you want to try this out for yourself
  • Deloitte uses photographs instead of written questions to gauge reaction to specific
    situations; other organisations use videos in the same way
  • EY requires candidates to participate in a mobile game
  • Unilever’s digital job interview comes complete with commercial case study
  • HSBC is using job simulators in selection exercises to see how candidates perform in typical workplace scenarios.

Get the picture?

Currently these techniques are used alongside more established approaches, such as group discussions and psychometric tests, but who know whether this will prevail? Given that the use of video interviews has risen by over 40% in the last few years, hang on to your hats where these new developments are concerned.

As always there’s no substitute for doing your own research into individual recruitment practices, and these will give you a great starting point to exploring gamification and the broader graduate job hunt. Some of the key takeaways are:

  • VR scenarios are often workplace based, but some take candidates to weird and wonderful locations and environments – snowy peaks and ancient temples being just two examples
  • Companies are increasingly using these digital tools to assess behaviours and strengths rather than skills and competencies
  • You might encounter VR, AR and gaming any stage of the application process, not just at selection centres
  • Technology has enabled greater customisation of selection methods for specific firms and jobs.

And finally, here are our top 3 tips for success:

  1. Get confident with technology. Do a bit of basic gaming for instance if you are unfamiliar with this
  2. Do practice tests and exercises at home (or wherever) in privacy and peace before tacking the real thing
  3. Take advantage of any technical help available from the recruiting organisation.

The future is now. Make sure you’re part of it.

Gill Sharp, Careers Consultant


#FridayFeeling: Options For The Undecided


You’ve graduated: well done, heartfelt congratulations, wear your degree with pride. But if you haven’t got anything fixed up for the future, what now?

Graduate scheme: a few organisations have rolling recruitment throughout the year, but most have shut their doors until late summer when they begin recruiting 2019’s intake. Either way, given that the selection process is long and arduous, apply now.

Tip: although this is often #1 on a university leaver’s hit list, many apply, few are chosen. Less than 15% of graduates end up on these kinds of programmes. But there are plenty of other possibilities, of which the main contender is….

Graduate job: differs from a grad scheme in scale and depth. The role in question will be geared to the same capabilities and achievement, but the company is usually smaller, fewer candidates will be recruited (maybe only one or two a year) and the training might be less structured, but arguably more flexible.

Masters: the only reason for considering this is that you are unequivocally, unreservedly 100% interested in the subject. Not a cunning way to defer career decisions and unlikely to increase your employability unless paired with experience. Want to go ahead? There may still be places available if you get a wiggle on.

Vocational course: not necessarily a Masters by name, but probably by nature. Aimed firmly at those who know what they want to do career-wise e.g. Graduate Diploma in Law, a qualification in Marketing. Experience is often a prerequisite.

Internship: great way of testing the water, finding out what a sector is really, really like and adding credibility to your CV. Many opportunities are handsomely recompensed.

Volunteering: as for internships, with a feel-good factor thrown in, but without the money (though you should not be left out of pocket).

Year out: your last chance for an extended break with maybe some travel thrown in. Nothing wrong with that providing you can sell it to future employers. Even more valuable if it includes a spot of work. Should ideally be a chance to think hard about your future career and even move towards this. Don’t return to these shores older but no wiser about what your next step is.

Temp job: breathing space with the added bonus that it can build up your employment credentials and boost your commercial awareness. Any downside? Easy to find that, several months on, the short-term role has become a pleasant and undemanding way of life. Resist the temptation to settle for this if, for you, it’s a second best.

Self-employment: working for yourself has a few drawbacks – cash flow issues, no paid holidays – but many attractions. For those who are ready, willing and able it’s an attractive idea, but be sure that it will pay enough initially to keep you in reasonable style.

Entrepreneurship: not to be confused with the above but a very near relative. It hinges on an innovative idea allowing you to tap into grants and funding.

Need more information? Get inspired with your next steps on MySOAS Student here.

Gill Sharp, Careers Consultant

It’s Not Too Late: Making The Most Of Your Summer

So you’ve got nothing sorted for the summer and think time has run out? Think again.

The next couple of months could be valuable, nay crucial, in terms of your career plans. Yes, reading, revision, assignments might rear their ugly heads at some point and maybe you have temp work lined up? Perhaps you’re heading off to Ibiza, Malia and all points south? But there’s more, much more, that you could – and should – be doing…

Bog-standard short-term employment beckons? Use it to boost your business awareness and professional credibility. A CV containing something along the lines of “At Waitbury’s supermarket, I learned how the business marketed itself and its products and undercut the competition by doing x, y and z” trumps one that says merely “Customer service assistant, Waitbury’s”. And if you have a day or two off, you may be able to take advantage of the suggestions below…

Nothing on the horizon? A gap in your schedule? Paid internships and actual jobs in your field of interest could be up for grabs even at this late stage. Try the formal route via websites recommended on My SOAS Student and take a look at JobOnline. Or make an informal approach to a local firm: often they need some timely help with specific projects.

If that draws a blank, volunteering won’t boost your bank balance but will enhance your CV and increase your feel-good factor, without necessarily making massive inroads into other activities – a couple of hours a week are all often that’s required. Take a look here for inspiration and check with individual organisations.

No luck or no time? How about a spot of work shadowing? You can arrange this via personal contacts. If that proves impossible, try a smidgeon of informational interviewing: the noble – and worthwhile – art of finding someone in a career that attracts you and asking them a series of targeted, shrewd and perceptive questions to increase your knowledge and employability.

As for Spain, Greece and their continental cousins, enjoy. You deserve your downtime. But don’t neglect the wider careers picture. You know it makes sense!

Gill Sharp, Careers Consultant


Insight From Your Fellow Student: Being Realistic & Demanding the Impossible In Your First Job

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Harmanjit Sidhu, BA History (grad 2017) and Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2017/18, takes an inspiring look at how her first job actually cemented the world-changing qualities SOAS had instilled in her.  

Image result for SOAS

My first lecture at SOAS was H101: Approaches to History, taught by a fantastic lecturer who left me believing that I could change the world. Three years later, I was trying to make my degree in History ‘marketable’, drawing on all of my ‘transferable skills’ (which were often the bits about my degree I enjoyed the least) for long and arduous application forms. I was lucky, and managed to grab a spot on a great graduate scheme called ‘The Ambitious Futures Graduate Scheme for University Leadership’ based at SOAS. I’ve had a great three placements, and I’m currently on my way to new things in October, but starting out in the world of work after a SOAS University experience is not easy.

My first day at work in SOAS consisted of working through several spreadsheets, and at times summoning the will to live. That’s not to say that the work wasn’t interesting, or important but rather that my own expectations were tripping me up. Most of the students here at SOAS have things that they are passionate about, and as the JCR so aptly summarises, ‘be realistic- demand the impossible’ we are taught to believe in our ability to make the world a better place. As was the case during my very first H101 lecture, I truly did believe it, but going in to the world of work with a narrow view of this belief planted so firmly in to your head can do wondrous damage to your mental health and your self esteem. During my first few months of work, I struggled to map up everything I had been taught and everything I believed in with the work I was doing. I had spent years researching revolutions and social justice movements, but how did this correspond with my 9-5 desk job? And if I couldn’t figure out how it was all connected, surely that meant I had failed somehow?

These were the thoughts I had to contend with in my post-graduation phase, and speaking to others has confirmed my suspicions that there is a commonly held belief that you have to eventually ‘settle’ and leave behind your aspirations and dreams in favour of living and thriving in the ‘real’ world. This belief didn’t sit right with me, yet I continued to struggle to make sense of it all to conjure up a real alternative. That’s when I stumbled across a brilliant article by Toni Morrison, which gave this advice-  ‘You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.’  We can not allow the work that we do to  become a measure by which we judge ourselves. In the same vein, Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.’

That’s when it clicked- my education at SOAS had informed the person that I was, and that person wasn’t going to change depending on where it was that I worked. I let this advice change up my world view, and actually accept that no, my job was not going to let me change the world in ways I thought it would. What it could do, if I opened up my mind to it, was to give me the skills I needed to change the world around me in small and significant ways. What it could do, was provide me with financial means to help to develop myself further and contribute to causes that were close to my heart. What it could do was allow me to make connections with people who allowed me to see things in new and better ways. This to me was not ‘making peace’ with my situation, rather it was a revolutionising and liberating way of bringing 100% to my work, and recognising all the many ways my efforts have had important and meaningful impacts on the processes, and most importantly, the people around me.

As a SOAS graduate you have so much to give, so be realistic and demand the impossible but open yourself up to interpreting and implementing this in new ways. The world will be so much the better for it.

Harmanjit Sidhu

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


#WorldCup2018: Building resilience

Sometimes in the tournament of job hunting, even when it seems like getting through to the next round is a certainty, you can get knocked out.
Germany out Hannibal Hanschke Reuters
Whether it is the first time that you have had a no, or the seventh in a row, it hurts, and its hard not to let it get you down.
Let yourself feel the pain, but you can use the experience to develop – many successful people have had their share of ‘failure’ in the past. It doesn’t define you, but it can lead you to growth.
southgate no
southgate yes
Think about what worked, and what didn’t; get all the feedback you can, and use it to reflect on what you can do differently next time. Building resilience is not easy, but there are different things that you can do to help yourself keep going through the difficulties of job hunting, and come out on top.
Keep an eye on the prize, even when things are hard.
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Try and set yourself clear and achievable goals.
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Keep up to date with knowledge about your sector.
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Stay flexible and consider different options. 
File:Argentina substitute bench – Portugal vs. Argentina, 9th February 2011 (1).jpg
Don’t fixate on things you can’t change, but look to the future.
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Developing resilience, tenacity and determination to keep on keeping on during the job hunt will serve you well in life, both in and outside of work. Don’t judge your performance by that of the people around you, but remember that this is a personal journey; and one day you’ll get to lift the Cup!
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Felicity Bush, Careers Consultant

Careers as Depicted by Drag Queens



You actually know how to use Excel. Your pay check reflects this.




You are always marking. Always. You get hyper defensive when people bring up summer holidays.




You have a calm and collected demeanour until alone, then you scream into pillows.


Events Manager


Everybody thinks life is one big party but you spend most of your time shouting at your Blackberry. Who even has a Blackberry anymore?




You are successful. You work 19 hours a day. You are dead inside.




You go to the best parties. You do the work of 8 people for the pay of half a person.




You rarely actually know what people are saying – you are /that/ good at making things up.




You are nosy.




You are morally ambivalent and proud. 


Human Resources Officer

You are always making the best of a bad situation.




Your Instagram is full of gorgeous looking food. You primarily eat microwave meals when not working.




You hear your name said 458 times a day. If you take a long weekend the office burns down.




People might think you’re evil but your pay check makes you cry tears of joy.


Fitness Instructor


Your Instagram feed is full of pictures of Greek yoghurt. Any passion or joy you experienced from exercise has gone.




You had to do a postgraduate degree but people only ever want to know the Wifi password.


Folk Musician


People don’t believe this is your actual job.


Flight Attendant


You’ve seen the inside of hotels in all 7 continents.




You have your own office. You sleep in it. You are 30.You have so much debt.



You used to love people. Now you are emotionally deadened.

James Hallett, Volunteering Advisor

#MondayMotivation: How will you spend your summer?


If internships are proving elusive this summer, there is still plenty you can do to show employers that you have used your summer break wisely – whilst also meeting new people and giving back to the community.

Volunteering is an excellent way to build up skills and experiences which will boost your job applications when you finally leave university. SOAS encourages all students to volunteer during their time at university by exploring the different opportunities open to them in the not for profit sector.

In order to maximise the skills gained from volunteering, it is crucial to reflect on the activities carried out – for example keeping a diary of your volunteering activity. This will enable you to highlight the transferable skills that you have developed.

portrait of a happy and diverse volunteer group hands raised

There is no definitive list of ‘transferable skills’ to be gained from volunteering. They are simply skills learned in one context that are useful in another and often include:

  • Team work
  • Sales
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership.

Employers always define the skills they are looking for from candidates and you need to have clear evidence that you have developed most of the above skills during the recruitment process.

Volunteering activities can be used to show you have demonstrated these skills and to show prospective employers that you are constantly expanding your employability skills both in paid and unpaid work. Many employers view students who give back to the community through volunteering experiences as highly attractive candidates as they are always looking for individuals who have found new and interesting ways to acquire new skills during their studies.

For example, helping in a local youth club may have enabled you to develop strong problem solving skills – ‘As voluntary team leader at a local youth club, I was entrusted with the safety of the children when the parents left. I learnt how to resolve conflicts through mediation. I also needed to adopt a professional approach to troubleshooting by liaising frequently with and actively listening to other team members‘.

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Start your volunteering journey by checking out the various  links below and then book an appointment for a CV Check at SOAS Careers to make your application.

SOAS Careers  offers drop-in appointments on Fridays between 2 and 4pm. Within these appointments we can help source volunteering opportunities, help you utilise your experience as a volunteer to enhance employability through helping you to reflect on what they have learnt and explain how this can be presented best within a CV, cover letter or application. Follow SOAS Volunteering on Facebook and visit the MySOAS Volunteering Page for more resources. All graduate, part-time and volunteering opportunities sourced by SOAS Careers are posted here.

Further volunteering opportunities

Find out more about volunteering

LGBTQ+ Volunteering

  • Stonewall is a charity working to support lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Britain and abroad. Volunteers are a key part of their work.
  • A Camden-based charity run by LGBT people for LGBT people, who use their creative input, life experiences and skills to enhance the life of people within the community.
  • Switchboard provide an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men and bisexual and trans people.

Volunteering for disabled students

  • Can Do is volunteering scheme run by a leading UK disability charity. They welcome applications from disabled volunteers and are happy to discuss individual support requirements.

International volunteering

  • SOAS Careers does not endorse international volunteering due to a lack of resources to properly vet opportunities. The pay-to-partake nature of many of these opportunities can also be problematic in ensuring equal opportunities for students.

Deborah Scott Anderson, Careers Consultant, University of London