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Applications CVs Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair Graduate success graduate training schemes internship Interviews

Ask the employer: What sets a winning job applicant apart?

Many graduate recruiters see piles of CVs and interview hundreds of applicants to fill jobs and placement roles. So, what sets a good candidate apart? We cornered some of NI’s top recruiters at the Graduate Recruiter and Placement Fair last week to find out. Here is what they had to say…

Include skills developed through extracurricular activities

“It is important to appreciate that on paper, all graduates from the same degree programme look the same. However candidates who succinctly articulate how their skills and experience meet the essential and desirable criteria outlined on the Job Description will stand out, as this shows they have considered the requirements of the role and thought about how they will bring value to the organisation. I would encourage students to really think about what they have achieved outside of their academic qualification.  Reflection upon the skills developed through involvement in extracurricular activities such as clubs, societies, sports, volunteering and work experience, and setting this in the context of the competencies employers seek, will set your application apart from others.”

Kim McAllister, Talent Acquisition Manager, Almac Group

EDITOR’S NOTE: Queen’s Degree Plus programme provides an opportunity to articulate the skills you have built up through extracurricular activities to employers. Find out more at GO.QUB.AC.UK/DEGREEPLUS

Show that you are keen

“If we get the feeling that you are super keen and can’t wait to get started sometime that is worth even more than a high score in the technical test. “

Elisa Herbig. Talent Acquisition Specialist at AquaQ Analytics

Make sure your CV hits the mark

“Your CV doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy. A lot of the time what really helps people is having something presentable that is easy to read. For the recruiter who is going to be reviewing it. Making sure the formatting is correct. Making sure there are no typos. Making sure the application is as easy to read as possible. Highlight any relevant experience for the role. Voluntary experience is good to include. Even if you have been working part-time show you have been doing something alongside your academic studies.” 

Adrian McCarthy is the manager of For Purpose

Relax in the interview

“Top interview tip – relax! We are just as nervous as you are. We want to sell you the job as much as you want to sell your skills to us. We want to make sure this is somewhere you want to work.” 

Joelene Ridgill , Purchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd

Include work experience in your CV

“It sounds obvious but, in terms of a winning CV, good grades go a long way. It shows that the applicant knows how to put the work in to achieve their goals. It’s also very important to have some work experience or extracurricular activities since a candidate will have gained invaluable skills and experiences that they can bring into their new role. It also shows their adaptability and an appreciation for hard work. 

For an interview, it’s easy to say but just try to relax and be yourself. Your CV already shows many of your skills and this is a chance to show your personality. Remember that interviewers are just people, and someday it will be you in the interviewer’s seat!”

Sarah Fleming, Senior Manager, Muldoon & Co

Read assessment centre instructions

“At Liberty IT, we don’t ask for your CV when you apply. We only ask for your basic details such as what you’re studying and what year you’re in. If you meet the criteria you will then be invited to complete an online coding test through Codility and if you’re successful in that you get to attend our recruitment centres. 

The recruitment centre is broken up into four sections to make sure we get the best idea of your skills, experience and potential. To do well, make sure you read the advice we’ll send you, be yourself and try to enjoy the experience.”

Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT

Tailor your CV for the role

Information within a CV needs to be clear and concise. No long paragraphs.  Ensure your skills and experience are easily identifiable throughout. Remember the recruiter looking at your CV doesn’t know you so highlight your relevant experience using the job description. To help you refine your CV to the role and make it stand out from the pile. Finally don’t forget to include personal achievements. Competing in team sports is a good indicator that you work well within a team and have competitive nature. 

Clodagh Mckeefry, Corporate Recruiter, MRP 

Show who you are as a person

I want to see what you do in your free time. An academic record is fantastic but I want to know about your volunteer experience, part time jobs, clubs you’re a part of, etc. It’s all about showing people that you are capable of doing more and pushing yourself.

Jared Kearney, Senior Campus Recruiter, Citi UK and Citi Irelan

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Degree Plus Five-Minute Explainer

Whether you are graduating this year or just want to bank the award early, Eimear Gallagher, who heads up Queen’ s employability programme, is here to answer all your burning questions.

What is Degree Plus?

“Degree Plus is about encouraging you to get involved in extracurricular activities in and around Queen’s, but also to give you the opportunity to get a reward for that; to get an accreditation from the University and have it recorded on your Queen’s QSIS record,” says Eimear.

She adds: “At graduation, in addition to your Queen’s parchment confirming your degree, you also get a Degree Plus certificate. That is confirmation from the University that you completed an activity or activities and it will name the specific activities you have undertaken as well.”

What counts towards Degree Plus?

“There are a large number of activities to choose from, the last count was over 180. There are two different routes – Provider Verified and Combined Experience,” says Eimear. 

View the Provider Verified menu

View the Combined Experience menu

Provider Verified is the most common and straightforward route – around 2,000 students each year gain the award this way.

Combined Experience offer an opportunity to put yourself forward for the award -around 300 students gain the award this way each year. 

Learn more about the two types of Degree Plus here

Who can apply for Degree Plus?

It’s open to all students, both postgraduate and undergraduate, and you’ll get a Degree Plus, Graduate Plus or Researcher Plus certificate at graduation, depending on your study level. 

For enquiries about Graduate and Researcher Plus, please contact The Graduate School.

“There is no compulsion to do it,” says Eimear. “It’s for people who want to differentiate themselves and to stand out from the crowd; stand out from others with whom you’d be competing in graduate labour markets.”

Eimear Gallagher is the Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills. To contact the Degree Plus team, email degreeplus@qub.ac.uk

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Employer Panels Employers Interviews Skills

Ask The Employer: What do you look for in a graduate?

We asked recruiters what are the stand-out traits they look for in graduates. Alongside the biggies like teamwork and leadership, they told us that a can-do attitude goes a long way. How many of these soft skills can you tick?

Communication

“Often times, it’s equally important that someone is able to communicate and has good presentation skills as it is the type of degree you have.” 

Adrian McCarthy, For Purpose Ireland

Integrity

“Most industries are highly regulated. Can you think of a time when you have had to demonstrate discretion and integrity? Would you be able to challenge the authority of they were displaying questionable ethics?”

Jo Ferguson, CME Group Belfast

A good attitude

“We’re looking for well-rounded individuals who have both the aptitude and attitude to thrive within their business.”

Kim McAllister, Almac

Passion

“We look for people who are enthusiastic, passionate and willing to learn. Attitude towards work is important, you should be willing to give tasks your all.”

Joelene Ridgill, Seagate

Commitment

The ideal candidate must be a team player and show commitment to the job and the firm.”

Sarah Fleming, Muldoon & Co

Adaptable

“We look for passion and enthusiasm for driving change. We need people who are quick to adapt and who are always learning.” 

Birgitta Swanberg, Liberty IT

Ambitious

We look for candidates who are driven to succeed and motivated to achieve targets set for them.” 

Clodagh Mckeefry, MRP

Creative

“We are looking for individuals who are curious, creative, and have an interest in constantly developing. People who can take initiative, ask hard questions, and develop your skillset to be successful.”

Jared Kearney, Citi

Want more top tips from employers? Join our Employer Panel series starting Sept 30, designed to help you develop your professional network and get the inside track on getting hired after graduation. 

Find Out More: https://rb.gy/8de1z8

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Five Cool features of MyFuture

Student blogger Dara O’Donnell from our MEDIA programme offers a crash course on MyFuture and her top tips for getting the most from Queen’s careers portal.

MyFuture is your very own online careers portal, which enables employers to advertise specific job opportunities, placements and internships relevant to you throughout your time at Queen’s. This platform promotes vacancies both on and off-campus, as well as advertising positions that are located further afield. This means you have access to life-changing opportunities abroad too. 

The virtual presence and function of MyFuture provides you with invaluable access to work experience, careers advice and systems that can all help pave the way to you landing that dream career in the future. You simply use you Queen’s student ID to log in and get started!

Here are five ways to best utilise the platform:

  1. You can upload and tailor your CV

The first step to landing your dream role through MyFuture is by creating your own profile, adding a charming personal statement, past employment history and any experience and skills that you possess that will make you a promising candidate. Noting the degree you are studying when signing up to the platform will enable the system to specify job opportunities that directly relate to your desired career. This is helpful in saving time scrolling through boundless unsuitable posts you would on regular job-seeking sites! Additionally, you can attach your own personal and professional CV to your profile, providing employers with further insight to your individual history and aspirations. Make sure you proofread your profile and CV or, alternatively utilise a MyFuture shortcut to the VMock CV Checker, located on the website’s main menu page, ensuring there are no silly mistakes that could stand between you and your desired future career. 

2. You can find events relevant to you

MyFuture will help you gain further understanding of different pathways you can take to achieve your individual career goals. This is through providing a constantly updated calendar of different careers fairs and employer events that are taking place on and off- campus, as well as this, providing various links to upcoming careers workshops that you can attend. Being pro-active and attending these events will allow you to explore your options during your studies and may open your eyes to possible opportunities abroad that could enhance your employability skills and ultimately may transform your mindset on your future career journey. 

3. You can practicse your interview skills.

By joining MyFuture you will have already shown a desire to begin your career journey and start finessing your future employability. Why not take this a step further and make use of the information resources and mock video interviews available on MyFuture? There are multiple practise interviews to take, ranging from general interview questions to graphic design and business management interview scenarios. Unlock your potential and learn how to best flex your skills in an interview, giving you a one up on your competition!

4. You can book a Careers Consultation. 

Within MyFuture there is an option to book a one-to-one careers appointment with one of Queen’s own consultants, to help guide you in successfully managing your own future career path. During the pandemic, these meetings are being offered virtually through video call. If you are feeling lost, like many students often do, do not be afraid to ask for advice and guidance when it is free to you! This is an invaluable service offered to us by the University’s Careers Department and should be taken advantage of. 

5. You’ll automatically be kept informed

Regular emails and job alerts will allow you to stay up to date on the opportunities that are available on MyFuture. Make sure to download the MyFuture mobile app so you have it readily accessible at all times to browse potential future careers, whether that be while passing the time on your daily commute or filling the minutes in between classes. 

Lastly, it’s important to stay positive and remain optimistic in working towards your future career goals, especially throughout this unimaginable tough period for everyone. MyFuture is a reassuring platform for students and graduates alike and is here to help us progress and succeed. As a nearing graduate myself, now more than ever, the future seems daunting, however, being equipped with a system such as MyFuture, I feel confident and motivated in taking the steps towards my future career, while being supported by Careers at Queens through access to a system such as MyFuture.

Download the MyFuture app for Apple and search for Queen’s University Belfast

Download the MyFuture app for Andriod and search for Queen’s University Belfast

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Employers GradFest2020 Interviews Job Hunting

Gradfest2020: Skills that will make you shine in the post Covid-19 workplace

During our live online session, employers from Almac, TLT, Deloitte and Citi as well as our very own Claudine Sutherland, discussed the skills that recruiters are looking for now more than ever. Here is what they’ll be assessing you on:

A Customer-Focus

“A customer focus, a strive to exceed expectations, a high standard of work, the ability to follow standard procedures of good manufacturing practice (GMP) and to lead by example – what I mean by that is to be a positive role model amongst your peers.” –  Frances Weldon, Almac

Communication

“Communication is a key skill employers look for and the foundation on which you build other skills. Think about the most appropriate way to communicate, smile, feel the fear and embrace it, be honest.” –  Frances Weldon, Almac

Teamwork

“It’s important that you foster teamwork with colleagues; get to know them. Pick up the phone, use Skype or Teams, instead of an email. These are skills I know Queen’s graduates already have from using Canvas, the university’s online learning platform, and from communicating upwards to lecturers” – Frances Weldon, Almac

Critical-Thinking

“Use the job-specific knowledge you already have, either from work experience of from hobbies or sports and apply it to the work force. Show you can be a critical thinker with good problem-solving skills.” – Frances Weldon, Almac

Organisation

“Brush up on industry jargon, understand what the job entails. Organisation is pivotal, take notes, devise training matrixes with mentors, learn from mistakes, build a network and contacts and work on your Microsoft Office skills.  – Keith Barkley, Citi

Hard Work

“When it comes to progressing in big organisations, hard work is key” – Keith Barkley, Citi

Attitude

“Attitude and motivation is 70% of it, being willing to learn and adapt is vital; Covid-19 is a prime example. If you have the right attitude, we can work with you to fill the experience gap. Self-awareness and knowing your strengths and weaknesses is important. Play to your strengths, you can’t do everything. In a team, acceptance and tolerance is key.” – Stephen McMaster, Deloitte

Flexibility

“Flexibility is important. Graduates often think they need to stick to one clear career path. We like to see people who have done something different and got a broad range of experience. Be flexible. Look for opportunities wherever they come up.”” Andrew Ryan, TLT LLP

Commercial Awareness

“We employ people with a knowledge of the commercial world; that’s not just about reading the Financial Times, it’s about having an opinion on those matters. One of the top things we look for is a commercial awareness and client focus, so understand the business you are in and what you can bring to clients.”  Andrew Ryan, TLT LLP

Self-awareness

“Take ownership, be self- aware, know your limitations – employers will provide mentorship and will support your transition to the workplace. Think of your wellbeing, when it comes from self-awareness, it’s about recognising when you need support and take that support when its offered.” – Frances Weldon 

Integrity

“If you are in a role that genuinely interests you, you will perform better, learn faster and progress more quicker, so play to your strengths. Integrity is a massive factor, being honest in your work. If there are challenges, knowing about it is important so we can fix it. Lastly, supporting your colleagues in the firm. We are all working to the same objectives, play to your strengths and help others where they need help. – Stephen McMaster, Deloitte

Shared Values

We assess recruiters by our six leadership standards, the three main ones being 1. Drives value for clients – that comes back to how everyone pulls together as a team; 2. Champions progress – embracing change, and lastly, 3. Lives our values – treat people with dignity and respect – Keith Barkley, Citi

Missed this session? Join our live employer Q&A June 18th at 11.30 am Gradfest2020  

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Employers GradFest2020 Interviews Job Hunting

5 things we learned about virtual recruitment from the first day of GradFest2020

Employers from EY and Pinsent Masons and our own Mary McLaughlin offered top tips to nail that online interview or assessment centre.

  1. Tech can be glitchy

Check your wi-fi in advance and have a back-up plan in place in case of technical difficulties (e.g. your phone as well as a laptop). Also pause before and after you speak to avoid that awkward moment when you talk over your interviewer. Another top tip was to access Teams via Chrome rather than Safari.

2. Your appearance is not the only aesthetic on show 

Virtual Background

Just like in a regular interview, you need to make sure you look professional (sit up straight and make eye contact), but our panel said you also need to consider your background too. Avoid a wardrobe bulging with clothes behind you. Find a well-lit, neutral space in your house – somewhere quiet that you won’t be disturbed by noisy family members!

3. Ask the right questions

Excellent Question GIF | Robert Downey Jr

You know that moment at the end of an interview when they ask you if you have any questions? Always have some questions up your sleeve, ideally about the company goals and values. Remember in a virtual interview, you won’t get shown round the office, so ask something that will help you decide if a company is right for you. NB: Now is not the time to talk about perks like holidays and salary.

4. Virtual assessment centres follow a similar format to IRL

 

Just like in a real-life scenario, virtual assessment centres comprise of ice breakers via Teams, group exercises and individual numerical and written exercises. Top tip for group exercises: make sure you contribute and make your ideas heard. Jump in with solutions but don’t take over.

 5. Prepare as much as you can

the OC Summer I have a plan ANIMATED GIF

Have a pen and paper to hand during the call – you can practice maths skills online via jobmi.com. Better yet, log on to MyFuture to take a mock video interview that you can record and watch back. Sounds cringe, but when you notice your weird tics (avoiding the camera, overuse of ‘umms’ and ‘errrrs’) you can correct them before the real deal.  

Missed today’s session? You can re-watch in your own time at Gradfest2020  

Join our next live session on June 18th at 9.30 am and find out how LinkedIn could be the ace up your sleeve. 

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Events GradFest2020 Humour Interviews

5 Tweets that will make you so thankful for GradFest2020

Nightmare interviews are pretty common – just ask these hilarious Twitter users who shared their experiences online after Twitter user Harriet Williamson asked her followers to recount their worst recruitment stories. Thankfully, recordings of our live Gradfest2020 sessions on acing online interviews and assessment centres are available to watch when you need them so you can avoid similar mistakes.

  1. The panic run

2. The hungover handshake

3. The storage cupboard

4. The coffee table

5. The accidental porkie

Avoid ending up an embarrassing Twitter lesson and access essential graduate job-hunting and interview tips and resources via qub.ac.uk/GradFest2020

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CVs Interviews Job Hunting

8 Common interview questions decoded

Queen’s Careers experts explain what an employer really wants to know when the ask these common interview questions.

Q: Tell me about yourself 

What they mean:

Talk me through your CV and tell me how your experiences relate to this particular job. 

What they don’t mean:

Tell me your life history, hobbies and interests and take 20 minutes to do so.

Q: What do you know about the company?

What they mean:

Are you up to date with what our company is currently doing, our main successes and where we plan to go in the future. Prove you want to work here.

What they don’t mean:
Please recite the first page of our website like everyone else and show you have done no original research.


Q: What skills do you have for this job? 

Funny Man GIF - Funny Man Interview GIFs

What they mean:

Give me a summary of your top three skills and make sure you’ve taken them from the Essential Criteria. Prove you know the job. 

What they don’t mean:
List me over 20 skills and make sure 90% will not relate directly to the job. 

Q: What is your main strength?

What they mean:

Pick something from the Essential Criteria that you believe to be most relevant to the position and give me an example of how you have used it. Prove you can match your skill to the job.

What they don’t mean: 

Tell me something totally unrelated to the job and don’t explain it. Or tell me the heaviest weight you can lift in the gym.

Q: What is your main weakness? 

tumblr_neu8mzif8w1qeby93o1_250

What they mean:

Tell me about something work related you struggle with and how you have been taking steps to overcome this. Show me you are proactive and looking  to progress. Prove you have self-awareness 

What they don’t mean:

Tell me something critical to the job that you can’t do or that you have no weaknesses. Or tell me about a health condition you have. 

Q: Can you give me an example of a time when….

What they mean:

Talk me through a practical, relevant example that will show me you have experience in this area. Tell me the Situation and set the scene, explain the Task, detail Action and what YOU

did then tell me the Result (STAR). Prove you can transfer your previous experience to this job.

What they don’t mean:

Please spend 20 minuthteesmrawmobrlikngto find it. about a story and with as much

excess and unnecessary information as possible so that I forget the question.

Q: Why should we hire you? 

MRW I am updating my resume

What they mean:

Give me a summary of your key skills and how they fit this position. Prove your suitability and your passion.

What they don’t mean:

Give me an arrogant answer that will negate anything good you have previously said. 

Q: Do you have any questions?

What they mean:

Ask me something original and Do you have any questions? relevant that shows you are serious

about wanting to work here. Prove you can use your initiative.

What they don’t mean:

Tell me I answered them all in the interview without saying what you had planned to ask.

For more top tips on interviews and graduate job hunting, download GradGuide2020 via the GradFest2020 site.