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In yesterday’s Courier Mail’s Careerone (p3) the following was suggested by Phillip Hesketh as a way to end a job interview:
“When you’re being interviewed just say ‘Before I go, on a scale of one to 10, where one is you wish you hadn’t interviewed me, and 10 is you want to offer me the job, where are we?’ ‘Not where am I, but where are we?’
‘They might say ‘eight’. “And you say, ‘OK, what do we have to do to get it to a 10’.”
I haven’t yet seen a candidate try this – but I notice that this type of question (e.g. ‘Do you have any reservations about my skills that I could address for you?’) is being used more often by candidates at the end of job interviews . Trying to clarify any misgivings the interviewer may have is a good idea. However, you may find this question doesn’t work when:
- it sounds like you read it in a ‘how to attend job interviews book and you thought you’d give it a try
- it comes across as an overly arrogant sales pitch
- you have already used up your interview time and this question is just a further indicator to the interviewer of your lack of time management and courtesy
- the interview is conducted by a rigid ‘merit based’ panel process, where panel members may feel that you have had ample opportunity to present what you have to offer, and that responding to this type of question just allows you an unfair advantage
Job interviewers have differing styles, preferences and biases about how to conduct interviews and what to look for in candidates. Some will see it as bad form if candidates do not ask questions. Others run very tight processes that dont allow time for candidates to seek out any futher information. These are my tips:
- questions are a way to engage in a more personal and real way with an interviewer, and can show that you have researched their Company and thought about how you could fit.
- check out the interviewer’s body language when they ask ‘Do you have any questions?’ See if they are relaxed and truly looking for you to ask questions – or turning the page, shuffling and looking at their Blackberry/watch.
- if you ask a question, make sure that it is something that you are genuinely interested in about the job, and shows a high level of research and analysis about the Company. Maybe: ‘ I notice your Company/Department has just acquired ……………… In my last assignment in Economics I did a lot of reading about…………………Will there be opportunities in the first year to have a placement in this new area?’
- definitely do not ask for information about something that is readily available to you by internet research about the Company. Most employers put out a lot of information about their graduate programmes, so it is very lame to ask basic questions like, ‘How many rotations will I have in the first year?’
- avoid just saying ‘No’. Maybe the best way to end is to say in your own words: ‘Thank you, I don’t have any questions but I do want to thank you for the opportunity to attend this interview. I have attended Career Fairs and spoken to people from your company, followed discussions on your Graduate Facebook page and online chat sessions, and read about the experiences of your previous graduates. I am confident that your Company is where I would like to start a career. If it is all right with you may I quickly summarise what I have to offer?’ Then follow this up with three key attributes that you can bring to the Company (sometimes referred to as your ‘thirty second sell’).
Good Luck with your Graduate application and interview.
Graduate Recruitment application season is here again. It is pleasing to see the range of strategies that different employers are using to seek out the best talent, who fit with where their organisation is heading. The trend is certainly towards ensuring candidates have researched the employer’s current roles and future challenges.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has just opened its applications (closing 18 April 2011) for a wide range of graduate opportunities (Human Resources, Law , Marketing and Sales, Architecture and Design, Business and Commerce, Accounting, Information Technology, Government).
The ATO application form requires candidates to answer 15 multiple choice questions. The first 12 questions test ability to research and analyse a variety of documents available on the Tax Office website (e.g. Which of the following are listed in the document Compliance program 2010-11 as initiatives and innovations for Small-to-medium enterprises?). The next three questions are about values and code of conduct (You happen to see a colleague hit a parked car while leaving the work car park……? ).
Australia Post’s application process is also open (closing 4 April 2011) and reminds applicants ‘Your application is your “brand”, so make sure you’ve thoroughly checked it for spelling and grammar.’ The application form asks about a candidate’s leadership experience (sports teams, voluntary organisations, etc) and asks the following five questions (with a limit of 100 words per questions).
- Australia Post’s retail network is one of the biggest in the country, serving over a million people each day. Customers are the lifeblood of our organisation. Tell us about a time when you have met and exceeded the customer’s expectations through the service you have provided?
- In an organisation as large and diverse as Australia Post, one great opportunity is to build relationships across several teams. Tell us a time when you were able to encourage others within your workplace to work collaboratively or to support an idea?
- As a graduate, we’re not only interested in your scores, but in who you are – what you stand for, where you’re going, what you have done in the world and what you would love to do from here. Tell us your career aspirations and areas of interest?
- It is an exciting time to be at Australia Post as we are currently moving in a new direction with our ‘Future Ready’ strategy. This transformation strategy means that we will have a greater focus on our customers, will be embracing the digital world and more. What skills and attributes do you have which will allow you to successfully contribute to driving Australia Post into this new era?
- Tell us why you have ultimately chosen to apply for the Australia Post Graduate Program?
For more ideas on who is advertising for Graduates in Australia try GradConnection, UniGrad, Career One’s Virtual Career Fair, or check out a Career Fair (schedule – most in mid March to early April 2011) in your state.
The main season for graduate recruitment in Australia is here. I know this because I am starting to get requests for assistance with filling in graduate application forms. Between March and April, many of the large graduate employers are open for graduate applications. Click here to find the closing dates for a number of significant 2011 graduate programs. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade closes on 22nd March, Centrelink on 27th April, and Commonwealth Bank on 7th April. If you want more details about the major graduate employers in Australia, visit Career Fairs or Grad Connection.
To give you some idea of what you will need to address in an application, the following questions are asked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade graduate application form.
Question 1: Qualifications and knowledge Why are you applying for the Graduate Trainee program in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? What skills and attributes would you be able to contribute to DFAT’s goals and work? You should give examples based on your academic achievements, work experience and/or extracurricular activities.
Question 2: Written and oral communication skills Provide examples of where your written and oral communication and negotiation skills have been most effective in the workplace or elsewhere. What outcomes were achieved?
Question 3: Conceptual and analytical skills Describe a situation in which you have had to identify and analyse a problem or issue and then recommend a solution. How did you go about the task? What was the outcome? What constraints did you face in developing the solution?
Question 4: Effective working relations What makes you an effective team member? How do you respond to problems or conflict within a team? Give an example of how you have contributed to a team’s achievements.
Question 5: Flexibility, adaptability and initiative Give an example of where you have taken on an unfamiliar task or faced a challenge, whether in the workplace, your studies or extra-curricular activities. Describe how you prepared for and took on that task or challenge. What did you find most difficult about the experience?
If you are applying for a graduate role in the Commonwealth Bank, be prepared to answer the following:
• Select up to two business unit program preferences. Please tell us why we should consider you for your first preference.
• Please tell us why we should consider you for your second preference.
• Please tell us about the extracurricular activities you have been involved in.
• Why have you chosen the Commonwealth Bank group as a potential future employer?
• Why do you think the Commonwealth Bank graduate program aligns with your career goals?
• What does good customer service mean to you?
• Did you attend a Career Fair? Please specify at which Careers Fair you spoke with a Commonwealth Bank representative
• Did you attend a Commonwealth Bank campus presentation? Which campus presentation did you attend?
• Are you a member of a university or industrial society? • What was the main factor that influenced you to apply for the, Commonwealth Bank graduate program?
Some Tips for completing a Graduate Application Form:
• remember that in these programs employers are not just offering a job. They hope you will grow into one of their future leaders.
• while employers understand that graduates will apply for a number of organisations, they will be expecting that you are genuinely motivated to work for them. Therefore, you need to research the company or government agency and to make sure you match your achievements, interests and skills to how you can add most value to that employer.
• it will take time to write good responses for the application form. So set aside quality time, draft your responses in Word, and get someone to proof read your answers before you transfer them across to the online application form.
• start by brainstorming all of your experience, knowledge and achievements – in your studies (individual and group assignments), work, voluntary and community activities. Try to use a different example to highlight your claims for each question.
• talk to people that you respect and get their ideas on what they see as your achievements and strengths. I find that most people overlook significant achievements.
• it is okay to seek professional help with the writing of responses for your application form, you will not be the only person who does this. However you need to feel that the end result truly represents and matches how you will present to an assessment committee.
• be honest, as the application form is just the start of the selection process. If you overstate your claims you will need to live up to this in the interviews and other assessment processes.
• if you are stuck for the right words to use to fully present your case, you can access free online information, borrow books on selection criteria from the University or Council libraries, or purchase books written about addressing selection criteria. Just make sure that you access contemporary information.
The good news is that new research by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) shows 21 per cent of employers will increase the scale of their graduate programs in 2010.
Good luck with your application.
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For expert assistance with preparing your application you can contact me at email@example.com or ph 0403766812
I was recently asked by a student – How do I find out about all of the graduate programs that are available in Australia and how to apply for them?
A good place to start research, if you are looking for information on graduate programs, is a new site GradConnection. GradConnection is a company set up by three recent graduates to help students find graduate jobs, graduate programs, graduate positions, graduate internships and cadetships. In this site, you can browse graduate employers by location and find out about the graduate programs in the parts of Australia you want to work in. You can also browse graduate employers by industry and get direct links to the graduate programs in your area of study.
I was recently asked for hints about attending graduate assessment centres. These are some tips that I gave:
- read as much as you can about the organisation and the associated industry – sometimes you will be given an exercise to assess your connectedness with current events.
- it is important to contribute, but not dominate or talk too much at these assessment centres.
- meet the assessor politely, but do not monopolise their time.
- remember they will be looking for graduates who can become leaders of the future, so the focus will usually be on looking at your team and leadership skills. Leaders have a future focus, show drive to achieve results, communicate in a way that influences others, have high ethical standards, and manage relationships well.
- while it is a competitive process, most organisations want to create a community feel for graduates (with social activities, Wiki etc). Expect that they will be observing your skills in engaging and getting along with others.
- you will usually have to do something as a group and produce a result like a presentation, or solve a multifaceted problem. The group task may be general or may focus specifically on the things that are important to the organisation e.g. corporate responsibility, green projects. It might be worth doing a bit of reading in case some content knowledge of these areas helps.
- if you have a planning task – think of the tools that you have learnt (SWOT, brainstorming, stakeholder analysis, project planning…….) and introduce these as a way of getting the group bonded and started. Show that you respect different styles, while also including everyone’s ideas. If it is a large task, you might need to agree on roles and responsibilities.
- remember ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’. Show that you are comfortable in the storming stage, and that you try to find solutions to move through this to create norms that will assist the group to deliver. Think about ways that you can manage situations when someone else dominates the group or has ideas that you disagree with (have words up your sleeve like ‘that’s an interesting point, can we consider the alternate… or .. we seem to have some different ideas on how to progress this, let’s go back to our objectives and look at our time remaining and see if we can move forward……..etc)
- it really helps – especially if an interview is part of the assessment centre, to visualise yourself actually being a graduate in company. Have a look at the photos on the graduate page of the Company’s website (orFacebook Page) and picture yourself there next year.
- think of the 5 most complex things that you have achieved (study, work, volunteer, sport..) and prepare a CARLA to tell a story about each of these. What was CHALLENGING (or Complex) about this? What ACTIONS did you take and why? What RESULTS did you achieve relative to what was the expected outcome? What did you LEARN from this experience? How could you APPLY this learning to add value as a graduate (and future leader).
- if you cannot find out exactly what is going to happen at the assessment centre, expect a range of tasks. You may be asked to do a written task, technical assessment, psychological testing, role plays or prioritising tasks.
- have a good night’s sleep, stay enthusiastic and positive – and expect to be tired towards the end.
Most of all - be yourself (i.e. the most professional version of you). The more comfortable and congruent you are, the better you will present.
Some more tips can be found at:
If you have other ideas – please add in the comments section.