How To Stand Out In The Graduate Job Market

How To Stand Out In The Graduate Job Market

Justin Rush is a director at Abacus Professional Recruitment which helps hundreds of graduates every year find their first jobs across a range of sectors including IT, Banking, Accountancy, Legal, Insurance, HR, Financial Services, Marketing and Sales.

He gives his top five interview tips to graduates to help them stand out in a crowded job market and get their foot on the career ladder. 

There are now over 10,000 new summer graduates from Queen’s University, the Ulster University and other third-level colleges emerging onto the Northern Ireland job market each year.

That’s not including the hundreds of Northern Ireland graduates returning home from universities in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

While this is great news for our high-achieving business clients who like to recruit and develop the best young talent, it’s extra pressure on the new graduates. Many of you may still be recovering from that final push or the dreaded dissertation but your hard work has paid off and you have key skills that employers are looking for; now it is time to showcase them.

Based on our knowledge gained from working with new graduates and their potential employers, here’s our top five tips to help you graduates determine your unique selling points and stand out in interviews.

  1. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

It’s one of the best used maxims but it really is all about preparation for interviews. Devote your efforts to understanding what the company really want from the employee in the role. From there, you can develop what you specifically bring to the job. Having in-depth knowledge of what the company does and its culture is key to successful interviews.

Spending time understanding the core points in the job specification and person specification is invaluable. You can then link these back to positive examples in your work and life experiences, directing highlight how you fit the bill. Know off by heart your three main selling points/work experience so they flow easily for you. When researching background on your employer, don’t just stop at its website – search for online news, comments and reviews as well.

  1. First impressions count

Presenting a well-groomed appearance at your interview shows the interview panel that you respect yourself and the recruitment process. Dressing for success in job interviews goes beyond the standard suit for men and dress and jacket or skirt suit for women. While suitable for most city-based companies, your dress needs to be appropriate to their workplace and should say to the interview panel that you are able to fit right into their culture.

If possible, visit the potential place of work in the morning or evenings and see what your potential colleagues are wearing to get the right feel for it.

  1. Impress, not depress

While there’s no ‘I’ in teamwork, that’s not necessarily the case with regards to interviews. The interview is your time to shine. It really is all about you and what you have to bring to the role but you can subtly bring this back to how you worked successfully within a larger team.

When practicing your skills stories and work examples, make a concerted effort to remember what you did, how you contributed and the results you achieved.

This can sound forced with some graduates who are naturally reserved or modest, particularly in Northern Ireland, but a job interview is the one occasion where you should blow your own trumpet.

Try to imbue your answers with a real sense of positivity and enthusiasm about the job and the employer. If you really want the job, make the interview panel sense it.

  1. Shine up your STAR

Unfortunately, there’s no standard interview set of questions. Some employers enjoy asking open questions about your experience, with the odd curveball question but most will favour the competency-based question approach.

Develop your personal examples using the STAR “Situation, Task, Action and Results” technique. This will really help you fine-tune and structure your answers fully in interviews. Answering in this structure makes your story clear, concise and shows off the outcome of your contribution.

  1. Cleanse your social media footprint

The comments, pictures and profile names that you have used for social media channels for years may no longer be appropriate for the job market and employers.

Remember nothing online is every truly private, so it’s advisable to go through your social media accounts with a fine tooth comb. Make your accounts private to protect your reputation as some comments today read as inappropriate and may not even reflect your character today.  Employers can’t help but Google a potential candidates name online before interview.

Follow these top five tips to give yourself the best chance of impressing employers and stand out from the crowd upon graduation.  For more advice, give Abacus a call to organise an introductory chat or coffee.  Alternatively to preview what roles employer’s are seeking to hire; please view our latest graduate jobs in Belfast.

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