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Graduate Employment – How to Get Ahead of The Pack

In recent years employers have complained volubly and at length about the dearth of relevant skills among potential recruits. The cry has gone up “They are unemployable!”. Certainly I have noticed a lack of basic education skills in many of the young people who have applied to my business to work.

Qualifications are not enough. Employers want a range of skills when it comes to filling vacancies.

Refine your CV to respond to the specific requirements of each job applied for. I know it’s harder and takes longer than taking a scattershot approach and sending the same CV to everyone, but it’s far more likely to get you an interview.

Be less aspirational, more evidential. If you match your skills to the various aspects of an individual role, it makes it easier for the employing organisation to see your potential. With many vacancies attracting 100 or more applications (often very sloppily done) employers don’t have the time to look for your hidden depths. If you’re a great candidate, sell your skills out, one by one, matching them to each aspect of the job description. Make it easy for the prospective employer to spot your worth. Don’t expect the employer to solve your problems or make your dreams come true; consider what concrete skills you can offer the employer. Don’t lie about what you can do. Be prepared to prove your claims.

Having a grammatically correct and accurately spelled CV will really make you stand out from the crowd. Yup, I’m afraid it is appallingly common to submit sloppy and poorly spelled CVs. A short CV is appealing to busy employers. Anything over two pages gets lobbed in the bin. Don’t pad out your CV. Write sparingly and elegantly. Use good quality white paper (100g) and an easy to read font. Ariel size 11 is good and clear. Space consistently.

Use your initiative to get some relevant work experience. Work the work experience to get the most from it. Give employers what they want. Bright, hard-working, committed people who turn up on time, are polite and appropriately attired, will have a go at anything during the period of their experience, who volunteer to help and ask questions, will naturally find that doors open and opportunities come their way. It’s helpful to organise work experience or internships while you’re still studying. Make sure that your work experience, for example, working for a charity is included in your CV. It shows evidence of initiative and an ability and willingness to tackle new challenges.

As a basic courtesy, do find out about the prospective employer before you attend the first interview. Know what it does, its history and its ethos. Think about the relevant experience and skills you may be able to bring to the job. Think about the questions that you want to ask them. Prepare a few questions. It looks interested and it can also help you get a better understanding of the role.

First impressions really do count. You can only afford to be scruffy a la Jeremy Clarkson when you’re already a household name. Your clothes and hair should be clean, neat and tidy. Above all they should be appropriate to the nature of the business. If in doubt wear a suit or tailored separates. I once interviewed a young woman who looked as though she was on her way to the pub. When I gave her feedback about her personal presentation, she shook her (very long, sparkly) earrings at me and said that she thought my remark what arks did not apply to her. Well, in the words of the great, if astringent, Dorothy Parker, you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.

These tips are simple and obvious, yet an astonishing number of job applicants don’t abide by them. Give the prospective employer what the employer wants and you stand a much better chance of success.

Bonne chance!

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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