UCL Careers
  • Welcome

    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

    If you are a researcher, we a specific blog for you.

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Director, UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

    Accurate at the time of publication
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  • How to close an interview

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 26 July 2016

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    ‘So, have you got any questions for us?’

    If you’ve had an interview any time in the last century, you know this question is inevitable.  Ironically, having made it through all the questions fired at you, many people find this section the most challenging part of the interview to prepare for.

    How do I prepare for this?

    First piece of advice: be sure to ask a question.  This is extremely important.  Interviewers want the chance to talk. They’ve just listened to you for 45 minutes, give them a break!

    What can I ask?

    This is your chance to get some real insight into the organisation, so don’t blow it by asking something that can be found easily on the website.  Also, try to avoid questions best directed at HR, such as how much holiday you’re entitled to, what the normal working hours are, etc.  You can always ask this over email, in advance of the interview.

    Can I ask about the salary?

    You can, although it might be a safer bet to raise the question of salary either in advance of applying (for example emailing HR for an idea of the salary range on offer), or once they’ve been offered the role as part of the negotiation phase.

    Some winners:

    ‘Can you share insight into what you see as the key priorities of this role, particularly in the first 3-6 months of the job?’

    ‘I’m curious about the ways of working in this role – is it primarily independent, or does it interact with other teams within the organisation?’

    ‘What does a typical week in post look like?’

    Feeling bold?

    If you feel there has been a strong rapport created, you could try: ‘I’m curious about your own experience in this organisation.  Can you talk through what you find as the most rewarding aspects of working for xxx?’, or even, ‘can you tell me something of your own career and how you’ve come to be in your current role?’

    Final tip:

    While it is good to ask questions, be sure not to overstay your welcome.  If the panel are cutting their answers short, looking at the clock, it’s time to move on.  Usually 2 questions is a safe bet, and if they are warm and invitign you could stretch it to three.

    And finally, feel free to close the interview thanking them for their time, and re-iterating your interest in the role and the organisation.  A firm handshake and eye contact should leave them with a good impression of you.

    For more tips on preparing for interviews visit our website here…..

    By Katie Bisaro, Careers Consultant

    How your year-abroad can boost your employability

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 24 May 2016

    Guest blog post by Claire Kilroy from Inspiring Interns

    If you spent time abroad as part of your degree, hopefully the first thing that springs to mind when asked about it is what a great time you had. Since coming home, you’ve been bursting with stories about the amazing things you saw and did; in fact, you probably can’t remember the last time you told an anecdote that didn’t start with the words ‘When I was in…’

    But it’s one thing to talk about your time abroad to family and friends; it’s another to try and explain to an interviewer why your experiences overseas make you the perfect hire. However, your year abroad can help you stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate jobs. Recent graduates are limited in terms of their work history, so having a range of other experiences you can draw on to illustrate your skills and competencies is vital.

    Plus, in an increasingly internationalised work economy, many employers are on the hunt for global graduates. This means someone who will instinctively consider a wide range of perspectives and international influences when approaching an issue. If you’ve done a year abroad, you no doubt fall in this category. You just need to be able to prove it.

    So, how should you go about it? Here’s some advice about how to change the way you think and talk about your year abroad to boost your employability:

    Break it down

    It’s easy to fall into generalisations when talking about your year abroad. So much will have happened that sometimes all you think to say is “It was awesome” – but that doesn’t tell the interviewer anything substantial about your experiences. Somehow, you need to organise your thoughts so that you can speak about specific events or subjects effectively.

    Start off by asking yourself some simple questions. These might come up in an interview, but more importantly they provide a focus for your thoughts. Try to think of at least two or three points for each answer.

    • Why did you choose to do a year abroad in the first place? What were you hoping to get out of it?
    • Did you have to apply to go abroad? What steps did you take?
    • What did you have to do before you went abroad? Did you have to set up a foreign bank account? Find accommodation? Did you encounter any difficulties?
    • Did you do anything differently? Like join different societies, take up a new hobby, get a new interest?
    • What was most daunting about going overseas? How did you cope?
    • What were the most significant similarities / differences between the country you went to and here? What did you miss most about home and what do you now miss most from overseas?
    • What was the highlight of your year abroad? Why?
    • Do you think the experience changed you in any significant ways? Why / why not?
    • Did you find it difficult adjusting to being home again?

    Lead by example

    In an interview, it’s not enough to claim you have a skill or throw around buzzwords like ‘international mindset’; it’s all about using examples drawn from your previous experiences to prove you’ve got the goods.

    So take time to consider the competencies you want to show off at interview, and what experiences you can draw on from your year abroad. These might include:

    Adaptability: this should pose no challenges in terms of coming up with examples – after all, you adapted to living in a different country. That means successfully navigating anything and everything from a confusing public transport system to a radically different academic system to simply a different pace of life. If you can manage that, you can manage change in a work environment. To give your answer depth, consider what you found most challenging about adapting, and how you overcame it.

    Problem-solving: no doubt you encountered obstacles during your year abroad. These might be problems that required a long-term strategy – like needing to secure funding before you left – or ones that required you to think on the spot – like getting totally lost in a foreign city. Accommodation-related problems are also common, although hopefully you won’t have experienced anything quite as dramatic as one young man who came home to find all his furniture was gone because of a misunderstanding with the landlord.

    Resilience: this is easily linked to your examples about problem solving. Resilience refers to how you cope under difficult circumstances or after suffering a setback – you want to show that you where able to keep moving forwards and maintained a positive attitude. Aside from practical challenges you could also talk more generally about coping with homesickness.

    Communication: this is undoubtedly the foundation of a successful year abroad. Whether you were operating a foreign language or your native one, you’ll have come across numerous situations where you had to rely on your ability to communicate. Your landlord, your professors, your fellow exchange students, your friends… the list is endless.

    Networking: though closely linked with communication skills, this is a chance to show off your ability to build and maintain strong relationships with those you met. Even just knowing you have people to stay with if you go back is a point in your favour, and you never know who might prove unexpectedly helpful in the future.

    Goal-orientation: think about what you set out to do during your time away, and what you did to achieve this. You might have wanted to become fluent in the language, and taken extra classes or have chosen to stay with a host family that spoke no English. Or maybe you wanted to travel and see as much of the country as possible, and needed to be very organised with your time and budget.

    Working collaboratively with people from diverse backgrounds and countries: employers consider this the most important ‘global competency’; they want to hire graduates who understand the complexity of cultural relationships and act accordingly. To have lived in and integrated into a foreign culture will set you apart from other graduates.

    Apply your thoughts

    Having structured your thinking about your year abroad, you should now find it easier to approach the type of questions you’ll face in an interview. Some questions might ask directly about your year abroad, while other more general questions might provide the perfect opportunity to bring in your experiences. Remember, you want to offer your interviewer answers with real substance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your enthusiasm for the topic!

     

    Claire Kilroy is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their website for listings of graduate jobs and internships, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

     

    Approaching interviews in a professional way

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 10 February 2016

    You’ve had your CV checked, your application is in, and an employer has just told you that you are through to the next round of the application process! What do you do next?!

    Here are our Top 5 Tips for approaching interviews in a professional way:

    1. Do your research! Read the company’s website, annual reports, look at LinkedIn, news articles; speak to current employees. UCL Careers fairs are all in the first semester, but stay tuned next term for more employer events and themed weeks such as Health and Life Sciences and Charities and NGOs for more opportunities to network with potential employers.
    2. Use this information to enhance your interview answers. Questions like “Why do you want to work for us?” are very common in interviews, and generic answers like “Because you are a global company” give the employer little information about how much you know about them. Enhancing this with the research you have done gives a much stronger, informed answer.
    3. Be accurate, avoid lying. Exaggerating the truth on an application means you may get caught out further down the line. Remember that your integrity is very important to a future employer, so tell the truth. An anecdote from an employer was shared at a recent UCL Careers event, where an applicant had said they spoke fluent French. The interviewer started the interview in French accordingly: it very soon transpired that the applicant did not speak French, and the application did not go any further. So remember, be truthful!
    4. Telephone and video interviews should be prepared for and treated as seriously as a face to face interview. Ensure you are in a quiet place with no interruptions, and in the case of video interviews, make sure you have a nice background behind you like a blank wall- an unmade bed doesn’t send the best impression! If it is a video interview, dress up smart, like you would in a face to face interview. Practice beforehand: book a Practice Interview through UCL Careers, and use our interview simulator to see how you come across on screen.
    5. If you agree to have a telephone interview at a certain time, be ready for the call! We hear feedback from employers of people stopping interview calls to speak to friends, being out on the street where you cannot be heard, and so on. This may be the first time you speak to an employer- think about how you are coming across to them.

    – Hannah Posner, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

    Interview advice for really really ridiculously good-looking men

    By Sophia Donaldson, on 10 December 2015

    Bieber

    Are you hot? Like Justin Bieber hot? Then good luck getting a job. Recent UCL research has shown that for certain types of role being terribly good-looking makes you less likely to be hired. At first I was delighted to have a totally plausible reason for all of my past and future employment rejections, and if we can extrapolate from these results, and I believe we surely can, all of my other rejections too.  But then I realised this only applies to men.

    So guys, if you think your Bradley-Cooper-esque looks are holding you back, here’s something light as we go into the Christmas break – a tongue-in-cheek Guardian article about how to combat hunk discrimination.

    If you’re after more serious interview advice, (male or female, good-looking or not so much) check out UCL Careers’ online interview resources and our careers library resources in Student Central. We also run workshops on interview skills, some with employers, so keep an eye on our events pages. And if you have an interview coming up you can book a practice interview with one of our careers consultants to get tailored advice on how to maximise your chances of success.

     

    S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

    5 books to further your career

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 8 July 2015

    This post orginially appeared on the Develop your Career blog

    Article written by Jake Pittman from Ph.Creative

    We all strive to be better in life, whether that means appearance to some or your personal life. However for most of us, our career is where we aim to improve most. And why not, a better career could mean doing more of what you love, it could mean working with amazing people or let’s be honest it could also mean more money to spend in your personal life.

    So, with that goal set, all you need now is some inspiration and a dollop of motivation. You’ve come to the right place. Below we’ve listed a handful of the books that have motivated and inspired us.

    Chimp paradox by Dr Steve Peters

    The paradox is that our brains and our actions can be split into two parts: the chimp and the human. These two parts think about life very differently and react in different ways to different situations. Understanding how you and other people think can help in all areas of life, whether in relationships, the workplace or just taking care of your own mental health. This is definitely a must read from a very clever man. Get ready to rediscover your brain.

    Find the book on Amazon here.

    Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

    Pitch your idea, pitch your proposal, or just pitch yourself. Being able to present yourself clearly and incite emotions in people is a skill that can be used in any walk of life but is especially useful when trying to further your career. Using the STRONG method, online, in a meeting, or even in an interview, this book suggests you’re sure to succeed.

    The STRONG method:

    • Set the frame
    • Tell the story
    • Reveal the intrigue
    • Offer the prize
    • Nail the hook point
    • Get a decision

    Find the book on Amazon here.

    Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai

    What if you knew exactly what your interviewer was thinking and knew exactly what to say and do in order to get the job? Well this book doesn’t promise anything but it does give you an insight into how to connect with people, to nurture relationships and keep you in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s all about the psychology behind business.

    Find the book on Amazon here.

    Become a Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the job came to you? What if people in your field of work already knew what you knew, and wanted to do business with you. Well what you need is to become a person of influence. Get social and get this book.

    Find the book on Amazon here.

    Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo  

    Have you heard about TED? If not, check it out, this is a hub of inspiration just waiting to help you further your career. Once you’ve experienced TED, you’ll understand why you may want to ‘talk like TED’. It’s all about exciting and inspiring the people around you, so they in turn can inspire you.

    Find the book on Amazon here.

    Ph.creative

    Preparing for an Interview

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 15 October 2014

    This post originally appeared on the International Futures blog

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    Preparing for an interview: The Basics.

    For those of you with little or no experience of job interviews in the UK, please read on and make use of this checklist:

    Research: Whether you are applying for a temp job at a retail store or your Graduate role, it is vital that you show the person interviewing you that you have an awareness of the business. Having worked in a number of sectors, I can say that not having a general understanding of the sector or their operations can act as a nice way of sifting you out. Be aware of what the business does, where it operates, its main competitors and any recent issues or highlights that may have been publicised. Most of all, be able to demonstrate a personal connection or admiration for the company.

    -Dress to impress: When applying for a professional role there is no such thing as too smart – best practise is a suit and shirt. If applying for a non professional role, the rule of thumb which you will never be penalised for, is to wear smart black trousers and a smart top.

    -Be prepared for the handshake: This is a standard greeting at an interview; nothing less and definitely nothing more! A firm handshake shows confidence and self assurance, it’s very easy to fake that confidence so practise makes perfect.

    -Eye contact: Culturally eye contact can mean different things but in the UK it shows confidence, respect and attentiveness. Take note. This will tie in with nodding your head as a means of engaging or acknowledging what is being said. Think of it as a form of agreement.

    -Pre-emptied questions: There are a number of things that although basic, will be the foundation of everything you may need to talk about when attending an interview. Typically this will be based around; why you wish to work for this company, your strengths/weaknesses, biggest accomplishments and perhaps discussing a challenging situation. Do think outside of the box and do not think that all of your answers should be based on your time in education. You should have a real enthusiasm for what they do and not generic in your answers. Nobody will believe that the reason you are applying for a role with BT is because you have an enthusiasm for network and telecommunications services. Be specific with your answer and make it sound like you want to be in that company over any other. With regards to strengths and weaknesses, it is always a good move to be able to turn your negative into positive, such as: ‘I don’t like being idle, If I’ve done my work, I like to get involved in something else’; a positive spin on this is ‘I have learnt more about my wider teams work’ or ‘I have gained a better understanding of the business areas’. When discussing a challenging situation, the interviewer will be keen to know what happened, what your role was in the process from problem to solution. Demonstrating that you can show initiative and are a team player will also bode very well.

    -Ask questions: At the end of almost any interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for those sitting opposite you. Do try and have some prepared, again this shows you are proactive and keen to know more, it also shows further interest in understanding the company as your potential employer. Do not discuss salary unless it is brought up by the employer. Good questions to think about are around career progression or in relation to what you may be required to do as part of the role.

    Best of luck!

    Picture thanks to xianrendujia on Flickr via Google Images, under free Creative Commons Licensing.

    How to prepare for a Skype interview

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 2 October 2014

    This post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog.

    The introduction of integrated webcams into desktop, tablet and smartphone devices together with improvement in broadband speed has meant that a new form of job interview is becoming mainstream. Video chat job interviews, which are commonly conducted using the free cross-platform software Skype, are becoming widely accepted as an alternative to phone interviews. In this article we look closer at several best practices to improve your chances of success.

    Plan Your Settings – Unlike phone based interviews, which can be taken discreetlyImage for Skype Interview Prep in many forms, the settings in term of background visual, noise and even lighting conditions should be taken into account. The recommendation is to choose an environment that you control so to help ensure professional looking surroundings, limited or no background noise and sufficient lighting.

    Prepare in Advance – Any documents that might be needed (even a copy of your CV) should be handy well ahead of the interview. Make sure that you are ready for the interview at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time. This will give you plenty of time to set up the device, sort out any last minute hurdles, get into the right state of mind and, most importantly, avoid lateness.

    Dress Top to Bottom – Webcams feature wide and long zoom meaning that the picture transmitted to the interviewer includes more than your face. It is an all too common mistake to focus only on dressing professionally above the waist while neglecting the bottom part. It is also widely believed that if you want your brain to believe that you are functioning at your best, dressing professionally head to toe helps. With regards to the dress code you can visit the employer’s site or social profiles for clues as to company culture and dress code. Otherwise, recruiters agree that a suit, long-sleeved shirt, tie (for men), little or no jewellery, and a groomed appearance will make a positive first impression on potential employers.

    Practice Skype Interview – One of the keys to acing any job interview is demonstrating confidence. If you haven’t any video chat interview experienced, it can be unnerving at first. Therefore you should consider practicing this form of interview before the actual one. A careers consultant might be willing to conduct a mock interview with you. Otherwise, family member or friend can also play the part of the interviewer. Lastly, make sure to switch on the Picture-in-Picture feature in Skype so you can see how you appear.

    At The Interview – Look straight-ahead at the camera lens when listening or talking and avoid letting your sight wonder away. Refrain from raising your voice, in fact, try to mimic the tone of voice of the interviewer. The microphone on many devices is incredibly sensitive to background noise, so don’t tap anything, play with your pen or even shuffle papers around. If you are taking the interview at home, make sure no household member interrupts you, whether two or four legged.

    Finish in Style – Thank the interviewer for his or her time.

    Bio: Written by The Carling Partnership Ltd (CPL). An international search and selection company working exclusively within the brewing and drinks job sectors.

     

    Why Employers Helping You with Your Employability Matters

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 10 April 2014

    The activities you will participate in at UCL’s Global Citizenship Summer School are divided between those led by our very own top-notch careers consultants, and guest employers from a variety of sectors. If you’ve attended any Skills4Work events before, you’ll be pretty familiar with why this employer involvement is such  a useful tool. If you haven’t, or you’re still a bit confused about what you’ll get out of this element of Summer School, read on.

    Say you’re a highly motivated student who knows exactly what firm they want to work for. For the sake of a good example, let’s presume you study finance and it’s your dream to work for Barclays. Would you pass up an opportunity to get a personal session with somebody who recruits graduates to work for Barclays, in a totally informal way, and receive feedback from them on your CV and your interview abilities? Of course not – it’s an excellent opportunity and you never know how far impressing the right person at the right time can take you.

    UCL Careers Speed Interviews

    The scenario described above is not, of course, applicable to everyone. Let’s look at another example – say you are serious about your studies and have a good idea of what you want to do, but only vaguely where you want to work. Why not take the totally free opportunity to meet a recruiter from the sector or sectors you’re interested in, who will give you extremely relevant feedback to prepare you for your applying within their industry.

    Who knows— you might even be surprised when you’re a student who just wants some professional feedback— anybody’s professional feedback—and you realise that your skills are quite well suited to an employer that you’d never considered before.

    At Summer School, you will have the opportunity to meet a variety of employers. At the alumni panel, UCL graduates who are now at places like BskyB and Deloitte (and many more!) will answer your questions and tell you about the skills they developed when they were in your position.  At the speed interviewing, you’ll answer competency questions under time pressure to a variety of employers who include Morgan Stanley, GlaxoSmithKline, and LBA Books. You can get your CV checked by employers such as Macfarlanes or Cisco. This is just a glimpse of the sectors and types of employers who will be present – think of the different helpful viewpoints you will be exposed to and the invaluable advice you will receive tailored to your employability.

    To register and find out more about the UCL Careers Employability Summer School as part of the Global Citizenship programme run by UCL, head on over to: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/global-citizenship/programme

    – Weronika Benning, Skills Administrator, UCL Careers