How to Stand Out from the Crowd: Your First Graduate Level Interview

October 2012

Careers recently attended an event called Preparation for Work organised by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), and were lucky enough to hear some great tips on the skills that many graduates lack, and how you can get ahead.

The main competencies that employers require, according to a recent AGR survey are:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Drive

They introduced an organisation called Talent Q who provide online psychometric assessments, and discussed how in the current market, group exercises may be diminishing and are being replaced with role play opportunities. There are plenty of resources available online where students and graduates share experiences of assessment centres. Their advice to students attending assessment centres is to  practice reading under pressure – and don’t forget, if you’ve already participated in an internship with that company, you’re more likely to be hired long term. If you’re looking for more information on psychometric testing and assessment centres, visit and click on Resources Plus.

We then went on to discuss key skills that some graduates lack, including:

  • Written communication – many applications are just copied and pasted, not targeted.  Some don’t even get the name of the organisation right!  Many organisations are receiving around 1,800 applications for around 20 places

Lack of ability to articulate self-awareness, particularly relating to the following:

  • Why you chose your degree and what you are planning to do with it later
  • Why you chose to apply to the particular organisation and what attracted you. 
  • Lack of awareness of the wider world – employers value employees who know what’s happening around them.
  • Engaging presentation skills – at interview, you want to demonstrate that you’re passionate about the cause.
  • Realism. Unfortunately, Rome was not built in a day – and neither are CEOs. It takes some experience, training and patience!
  • Research.  Coming to the interview with the contents of the ‘about’ pages is unlikely to impress. Think outside the box.

However, employers do look favourably on those who have been involved in student societies, and have undertaken work experience or a voluntary position. They also value those who have already begun to start planning their careers, like joining professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Finance (or whatever is relevant to your industry). The employer wants to remember your interview clearly – and it’s more likely you’ll make the shortlist if there’s a reason for the employer to remember you!


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