Whether you’re heading out of university and into the job market or simply taking the next step in your career, it can be tricky to know what employers really want when they’re recruiting.
Thankfully a group of business leaders is on hand to help you to secure your dream role, with insight on the right things to say in an interview, how to carry yourself and the ways you can show an employer you’re the right fit for the job.
The professionals, who have already been supporting future talent through Liverpool Hope University’s recent 2021 Insight to Business Awards, are shedding light on how to stand out from the crowd when applying for work placements to full-time positions.
Meanwhile professor Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor and rector of Hope, says graduates hold the key to economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.
He adds: “The next five to 10 years are going to be centred on the recovery of our economy. Not only have we been hit by side-winds like Brexit, Covid then came and all of us had to rethink our positions.
“So employability, and preparing our graduates to take their places in industry with confidence, is absolutely crucial, as is developing the professional know-how that will make them successful.”
1. Inexperience can be a good thing
Earlier this month Marketing Liverpool – the Liverpool City Region’s Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) which promotes the area as a great place to live, work, visit, invest and study – was among businesses presenting opportunities and placements to successful Liverpool Hope University’s Business School students as part of the Insight to Business Awards.
Peter Smith, head of marketing at Marketing Liverpool, has some further support for anyone looking to apply for a new role, particularly if you’re a graduate without a CV that’s brimming with prior experience.
He said: “It’s difficult for graduates to have relevant experience, so we look more for attitude and personality – people who can show they’re happy to get out of their comfort zone, be a good team player and show they’re passionate about something, even if it’s not directly related to the role.
“People think inexperience is a bad thing, but it can be an asset. Graduates haven’t been conditioned into a particular way of thinking. You might have a completely different idea or approach, and you might therefore question if there’s a better way of doing things.”
2. Be curious
Marketing specialist Peter, who is based in Liverpool’s historic Cunard Building on Pier Head, gravitates to candidates who are not afraid to ask questions.
He revealed: “It’s important to understand what the placement, or job role, involves and how your skills, interests and experience might fit that role.
“I like people who are curious and who ask questions, no matter how basic. Email the company and see if you can find out more about what’s involved in the role and the projects they might be working on. It shows initiative.”
3. Teamwork is key
Hayley Reynolds is a senior HR advisor at RSM UK – a global firm specialising in audit, tax and consulting services. She believes that being able to reference when you’ve shown you can be a team player is really beneficial during job interviews.
Hayley, who works at RSM UK’s Chapel Street base in Liverpool city centre, said: “During the interview stage we like to hear experience of teamwork in examples and it is always interesting to hear about the candidate’s life outside of work or university, as we look for strong personalities.
“This could be volunteer work, involvement in societies or sports teams. As well as teamwork, giving examples which show you can manage and juggle conflicting deadlines or priorities is brilliant, as this is what our students need to do given they work full time and are studying towards a professional qualification.”
4. Answer the actual question
According to Hayley, candidates can often make the mistake of issuing a rehearsed, pre-prepared answer, rather than actually listening to the question being asked.
She advised: “Candidates should focus on the question to fully understand what is being asked, ensuring they support their answer with a specific example from either their personal, work or university experience. A common pitfall may be answering a question you want to be asked, as you have an answer and example prepared.
“It’s also obviously important that the candidate produces good credible answers with examples, but another key factor – which is arguably just as important – is their engagement. We want them to show us their enthusiasm and passion for the role, and for RSM.”
5. Never underestimate networking
Going through a job application process and attending a job interview isn’t the only way to make a good impression with a business you’re interested in working for.
Hayley explained that in some cases, networking can enable you to be proactive and can help pave the away for future opportunities to come your way.
She added: “We have an excellent recent case study of a student who attended an event with us. She asked questions and got involved at the event and she even connected with us on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, the role she applied for was filled before she got the chance to come to us for an assessment.
“But around 10 weeks later we had an additional role made available, and she was at the forefront of our minds as she had made an impression with her enthusiasm and follow-up contact. We got back in touch with her to see if she would still like to be considered for this role and she’s now joining us in August.
“It is always worth attending events and networking. If she hadn’t have put the effort in, we would not have known her to get back in contact.
“Attending careers events is also very rewarding for students. Even if you don’t know anything about the organisation, ask questions, show an interest, be enthusiastic – as the above case study demonstrates, it could lead to a job offer and the first steps in your career.”
6. A simple CV is best
Nanette Mellor is CEO of The Brain Charity, a respected organisation that offers emotional support, practical help and social activities to anyone with a neurological condition and to their family, friends and carers.
The charity joined Marketing Liverpool and RSM UK, as well as Everton Football Club, LLS, Ghosh Medical, BWM Chartered Accountants, Liverpool Chamber, Lloyds Bank, Haines Watts Liverpool and MSB Solicitors in supporting Hope’s Insight to Business Awards this year.
Nanette wants candidates to really think about what their CV says about them when they’re applying for a job, and said: “While a CV is undoubtedly a formal document, it’s still very important to let concrete examples of your skills, attributes and experience shine through.
“Too often, CVs look identikit based on online templates and are filled with unnecessarily complex language, meaning it can be difficult to gain a tangible sense of what the candidate’s strengths are or any feel for their personality.
“Write succinctly and in plain English, giving a clear overview of your responsibilities in previous roles. The basics are still important though – always check, and double check, for spelling and grammatical errors!”
7. A smile goes a long way
For organisations like The Brain Charity, being friendly and approachable is hugely important.
As Nanette pointed out, if you want your personality to shine through then a polite smile can go a long way to winning hearts and minds.
She said: “For us, the interview is the time where candidates really have the opportunity to open up and reveal more of their personality.
“One tip many people forget in interviews is to smile – it instantly makes you seem more approachable. This approachability is vitally important not just to build a rapport with your interviewer but in any role at The Brain Charity.
“As our building also houses a community centre visited by people with all forms of neurological conditions, it’s important for all our staff to help foster a warm, welcoming, supportive atmosphere from the second a client walks through the door.”