Guest blog: Why should I consider working for a startup?

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


It might come as a surprise to many to learn that the percentage of UK graduates who end up working for one of the well-known graduate employers is under 20%. Our recent research shows that there has been a significant shift in the type of role that graduates seek when they leave university, with over 50% of recent graduates now wanting to work for startups.

So, why are graduates moving away from traditional roles and what opportunities can startups offer to them?

You’ll receive a huge education – Working in a smaller company means that you’ll gain a real insight into how a business truly operates. You’ll also be given the chance to try on a lot of different hats as, being part of a small team, you’ll most likely be required to be involved in all aspects of the company – this is great if you are still making your mind up about what you’d like to do after university.

You’ll have responsibility from the word go Working in a small team means that there’ll probably be nobody else in the company with the same skill set as you or doing the same thing as you. You’ll be given freedom to explore and bring to life your own ideas. It also means that you’ll be an integral part of the team, which is pretty amazing for a recent graduate.

Youll really have an impact  – The high level of responsibility you’ll have means that you’ll really be able to see the value of your own footprint. This is not only very exciting but also incredibly rewarding! And your hard work and successes will definitely not go unnoticed.

Youll learn from true innovators – Working so closely with the founders of a startup gives you a unique opportunity to soak up all their knowledge and experience. Exposure like this is especially useful if you think you might like to start your own business one day.

Youll work in a great environment – Аt a startup up you get to know your co-workers very well very quickly! The atmosphere is relaxed (you can wear what you want and there is little or no hierarchy), but you can rest assured that there will never be a dull moment. At a startup up you are really encouraged to be yourself in order to realise your full potential.

Working at a startup presents you with an amazing opportunity to grow both personally and professionally – a great starting point for those of you straight out of uni. Of course, this does not mean that working for a startup is for everyone… But, to put it simply, if you like the sound of a fast-paced, energetic and creative work environment where you’ll get to try and learn about lots of new things then it’s probably for you!

For more information and exciting career opportunities in startups & SMEs, check out our website 

 Guest blog by: Sophie (Head of Marketing at TalentPool)


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

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

Is this one interview question people don’t prepare for?

We all know interviews are a bit of a game – they have rules (of a sort) and there are many well-rehearsed formulae for answering questions (and if the above comes as news to you, then either take a look at the Careers pages for some ideas, or book a Quick Query in the Careers Service).

The Good Day At Work site has just published a really interesting article about the latest ‘killer question’ designed to get to the real you rather than the well-rehearsed actor.

It is this:

‘Tell me something I wouldn’t know from looking at your CV’

This might sound odd, given how much time everybody spends perfecting their CV, but what it is designed to do is find out a bit more about the real you – your enthusiasms, your ideas, what makes you tick – to see how close a fit you are to the organisation you are applying for.

Read the full article here:

If you’d like to practice your interview skills and don’t have a real interview booked, why not come to one of the alumni interview sessions? These are held monthly and are designed to give you the experience of both being interviewed and being on the interviewing panel, so you can see what works in a safe environment. The next one is on 5th March from 2:00 – 4:30 and will be hosted by Olamide Bada who is now a corporate lawyer – here’s a link to book a place.

Philippa Hewett

Emotional Intelligence and the interview process

Do happy employees create more profit?

Whatever your views about emotional intelligence (EQ), it is fair to say that a lot of organisations are keen to test how candidates can demonstrate it as part of the interview process.

Broadly, EQ is the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way, which is generally considered to be one of the ways of managing stress effectively and fitting in to a variety of teams.

Here’s a link to an interesting page on Good Day At Work which identifies some potential interview questions to test EQ such as:

“What aspects of your work are you passionate about?”

“What makes you angry?”

“How do you like to have fun?”

If you get asked a question like this at an interview, then take a moment to make sure you give a really authentic answer which shows the interviewer what makes you tick, and how it will fit in with the organisation you are applying to join.

Philippa Hewett

The 360 degree interview experience

Today marked a first for the Careers department when we ran the pilot of the Alumni mock interview workshops.

The workshops are designed for current students to give them an idea of what it is like to be on both sides of the interview table, as recruiter and as candidate, and to get a chance to talk to a SOAS Alumnus currently working in an interesting role.

Steve Lipscombe (BA Modern & Classical Chinese, 2010) who heads a team for the BBC’s NGO (Media Action) came in to chair the interview panel, supported by a member of the SOAS Careers team.

Each student attending the workshop took it in turns to be  a member of the interview panel, the candidate, or to complete a typical interview in-tray exercise.

Candidates were given feedback on their interview at the end of it, and some practical tips from Steve and the Careers Service at the end of the workshop.

All attendees found the experience really useful, particularly the opportunity to be part of the interview panel and also the practical, real-life advice from Steve, who was in their position not so long ago.

“Extremely helpful! A nice small-sized workshop.”

“Got really practical advice”

“I think it was very useful to be the interviewer for one session, to understand the perspective of the employer. Thanks a lot!”

“Very useful experience, especially for those with not much similar experience”

Steve is also part of the ‘Take an Alum for Coffee’ scheme, where you can buy him a coffee and find out more about his career path, so if you’d like to know more then take a look here.

And if this has whetted your appetite, why not book yourself onto the next session?

Philippa Hewett