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Set for success: What are employers looking for?

Rory Laughton-Scott is the founder of combined recruitment/career coaching agency - The Career Agent. With a background in university marketing as well as recruiting, he is passionate about helping graduates find the job that furthers their ambition.

Applications

More and more, employers are looking for work experience / society membership / volunteering / studying abroad etc. They want to see that you’ve been active and have made full use of your university career. The candidates that are more employable are those that have gone outside their comfort zone. So just go for it. Study abroad for example, every candidate I have spoken to who studied abroad at university said it was the best thing they ever did. If you have a skills gap, there are plenty of online courses available that can help you. I have heard good things about LinkedIn Learning which is only £25/month. While I’m on the topic, online courses are also a great way to stand out. You will have PROACTIVELY chosen to take an online course, which shows that you are driven and dedicated. Masters’ degrees can help a lot, particularly if they are in the area you are really interested in. A Masters in a specific area of Law, for example, will help a huge amount -  it shows your passion for that area.

Getting a large corporate on your CV early in your career has a fantastic impact as you would expect. Future employers will be impressed by large corporate experience, however small-medium sized businesses (SMBs) should also be considered. SMBs tend to get a smaller volume of applications, so you might increase your chances of success. Also, if you find a fast-growing business, you are really onto a winner, as you can progress faster. The enjoyable aspects are working with a brand that people have heard of. This does make a difference. However what makes recruiting  enjoyable is getting to know employees and company culture. It is exciting to help good companies to grow and to find great people who bring further success.

LinkedIn and Indeed have had a big technological impact on recruiting. It is worth ensuring that you have a strong profile on both of those platforms. There is pre-screen technology that larger corporate companies use, which scan CVs for keywords for example, so it is worth finding out about the company’s policy  before you send off applications. Hiring Managers and recruiters are essentially asking the same questions

  • Does this person really want my job role?
  • Have they got the skills / experience required for the role?
  • Would I like to work with them?

Initially, I look for two things in an application.

Number 1: What does this person want? This is so often missed by candidates -  they make a generic CV that suits as many jobs as possible. However, it’s so important to state your career plan and what are you looking for and for Graduates this is particularly important.

Number 2: Have they got the skills? Can they prove they have the skills? Asterisking examples with data to prove your impact is the ideal way to prove you have the ability.

E.g. I worked as the charity secretary for my hockey club at University. I raised £2,000 for charity which was a 300% increase on the previous year.

This example proves that you have worked hard, that you’ve made an impact and these sorts of things REALLY impress employers.

 

Online interviews

Over the next ten years, Technology will keep evolving which you will do well to be aware of - CV scanning technology etc. It’s about learning and adapting to what is out there. But again, younger people tend to keep up to date with technology, so a bit of research will help you here. Interviewing and presenting via Teams/Zoom has become a normal part of recruitment. There are a few things to be aware of when interviewing via a virtual platform…

The background

I have done interviews where the student/graduate looks smart in a suit, but has a towel hanging on their cupboard door drying. Lighting can also be an issue, with sun coming through the window and hitting the screen. Just have a think about your background – it’s important.

In-person interviews will always be best but zoom is also very important now. Online can play to your advantage too. Having an excellent LinkedIn profile makes you stand out from the crowd. Also, it’s easier to practice. You can record yourself answering questions and watch them back, to get used to speaking into your webcam.

When making PPT presentations online 

  • Use the company logo and company colours on the presentation, it looks very professional.
  • Put more detail into the presentation than you normally would, as people will read it before the session and afterwards
  • Use the notes section to add in detail if you like
  • The look is very important to corporate presentation, so send it to your most creative friend who can help you make it look pretty

 

Cover letters/statements

In terms of the cover letter or statement, include the following - Volunteering, Societies, Student Ambassador, Module support person (helping the younger years), running events (your own music events at university for example are very impressive to employers, sports leadership roles and sport in general. The trick is to reflect on what you’ve done and then think about how it applies to the role. If they want you to have ‘excellent organisational skills’ then think about how you can prove that from all of your experience.

The question of cultural fit is important but if you have these qualities you won’t have any problems:

  1. Passionate about the job, the company and the opportunity as a whole
  2. Willing to learn, you know you are at the start of your career, you just want to help and to ‘make your life easier’. Say that to the hiring manager and they will be very impressed
  3. You want to work hard – say you enjoy working hard, always goes down well.

 

If I was to recommend one thing to Law students, it would be…write out your STAR (situation, task, action, result) examples from your life so far, aligned to the skills that are required in the job. You can have an example for anything they might ask. It’s scientifically proven that people are more confident/relaxed when speaking from memory, rather than being creative. So if you have your examples ready, you’ll really impress and your confidence will grow quickly. Secondly, failing an interview is not failure. The failure is not trying at all. Every time you do not pass an interview, try to learn from it. You will be better next time. If you keep this mindset, you will succeed.

 

To find out about employability support and opportunities at ULaw, please visit our dedicated page here.