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Advent Calendar advice Applications competencies Interviews STAR

Careers Advent Calendar: Demonstrate your problem-solving skills

Employers want to know how you would tackle problems. Can you use logic and imagination to find solutions? Better still, can you anticipate problems and find ways to prevent them?

Good problem-solvers possess the following skills:

  • analytical skills
  • innovative and creative thinking
  • a lateral mindset
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • level-headedness
  • initiative
  • resilience (in order to reassess when your first idea doesn’t work)
  • teamworking (if problem solving is a team effort)
  • influencing skills (to get colleagues, clients and bosses to adopt your solutions).

How can you prove your problem-solving skills?

You might be asked in an interview to talk about a time you solved a problem, or you could be given a hypothetical situation and asked how you would respond to it e.g.

Give me an example of a time when you ran into a problem on a project. What did you do?

OR

How would you react if given negative feedback by a manager on an aspect of your performance?

In both these cases, you should refer to the above list of skills and how you demonstrated each when giving your answer. 

Developing your problem-solving techniques 

The following situations are all good examples of using problem-solving skills:

  • Sorting out a technical problem with your phone, device or computer.
  • Resolving a dispute with a tricky landlord in order to get your deposit back.
  • Carrying out DIY.
  • Serving a demanding customer or resolving a complaint.
  • Finding a way round a funding shortfall in order to pay for travel or a gap year.
  • Turning around the finances or increasing the membership of a struggling student society.
  • Organising a student society’s trip overseas, overcoming unforeseen difficulties on the way.
  • Acting as a course rep or as a mentor for other students.
  • Course assignments that involve problem solving

Articulating your skills

You will need to explain how you identified the problem, came up with a solution and implemented it. Follow the STAR technique outlined on our website. If you tackled a problem as part of a team, explain how your role was important in ensuring the positive solution, but also explain how your group worked together. This could be an opportunity to promote your teamworking skills as well – bonus!

For more advice on developing your problem-solving technique, visit the Target website

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Cover letter

Careers Advent Calendar: The Perfect Cover Letter

DO

1. Be succinct and to the point, your letter should be one side of an A4 page.

2. Use the same high quality paper used to print your CV.

3. Address your letter to a named person wherever possible for maximum impact.

4. Tailor your letter to the job advert and include the skills they are looking for.

5. Get someone else to proof read your letter, don’t rely on the computer spellcheck. 6. Use a professional formal letter layout and make full use of the space available. 7. Ensure you have the company name, address and details correct.

8. Read your letter out loud and delete any unnecessary or irrelevant

9. If posting on hard copy leave space at the bottom and sign your name in pen

10. Show your enthusiasm for the company and the vacancy

DON’T

1. Don’t repeat what is written in your CV.

2. Don’t spill over on to a second page – you’re writing too much.

3. Don’t share unnecessary personal details.

4. Don’t focus solely on your qualifications and forget about your experiences and transferable skills.

5. Don’t include any spelling or grammar mistakes.

6. Don’t address it ‘To whom it may concern’ – use a named person

or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’

7. Don’t send the same cover letter to every employer.

8. Don’t forget to include your correct and complete address, including postcode. 9. Don’t send a letter (or CV) with any marks or stains on it.

10. Don’t fold your documents, use an A4 envelope where possible.

For more cover letter tips, see our help sheet

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Applications Graduate success

Careers Advent Calendar: Job Application Tips

  1. Give yourself time. Some employers expect that you will spend around 6-8 hours completing their application form – including the time taken to research the company/industry. It’s better to do a few good quality applications than lots of poor quality applications, so choose wisely which companies you want to apply to.

2. If completing a personal statement, make sure you address each of the criteria in the personnel specification/job advert. If you haven’t received selection criteria, research the company to identify what they are likely to be looking for.

3. Online forms may time-out so read the questions first, then draft your answers, then copy and paste into the form. This also means you can spell and grammar check your answers.

4. Keep a note of the answers you submitted.

5. Try to include many points, described concisely, rather than one or two points expanded at length.

6. You don’t need to use the full word count, but writing too little means that you’ve probably missed some key points.

7. Use the STAR format when answering questions about competencies: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Employers usually provide details on their website of the competencies they are recruiting against.

For more job application tips, visit Target Jobs

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Applications consultants CVs

Careers Advent Calendar: CV Buzz Word Bingo

Useful Phrases/Verbs 

More than……………years extensive and diverse experience in

Expertise and demonstrated skills in 

Extensive academic/practical background in

Experienced in all facets/phases/aspects of Knowledge of/experienced as/in 

Extensive training/involvement in 

Experience in….

Responsible for….

I like to….

I’ve been told….

I feel…. 

ALWAYS use numbers and measure to quantify and prove your work. 

Proficient/competent at
Initially employed to/joined organisation to specialise in
Provided technical assistance to
Worked closely with
Constant interaction with
Promoted to
Succeeded in
Proven track record in
Experience involved/included Successful/Proficient in/at
Reported to
In charge of
Now involved in
Familiar with
Employed to
Assigned to
Edited
Established/ Initiated
Formulated
Implemented
Managed
Instrumental in
Coordinated/Organised
Designed and developed Updated/upgraded
Attained/awarded 

Useful Words 

Ability – Capable-  Prominent-  Substantial – Abundant – Thorough-  Achieve-  Courtesy-  Lasting – Definite-  Loyalty – Resilient- Useful-  Advance –  Guarantee –  Agreement –  Helpful  – Notable  – Reputable –  Ambition –  Determined – Opportunity –  Appreciate – Effective –  Perseverance –  Approval  – Efficient  – Improvement –  Practical  – Aspire Enhance –  Service  – Attain –  Enthusiasm  – Integrity –  Excellence  – Progress 

Word to avoid

Best of breed
Go-getter
Think outside of the box Synergy
Go-to person
Thought leadership 
Value add 
Results-driven
Team player 
Bottom-line
Hard worker
Strategic thinker 
Dynamic
Self-motivate 
Detail-oriented
Track record 

(Sources: www.forbes.com and www.prospects.ac.uk)

For more CV help, check out our CV checklist

Categories
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