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Graduate interview tips


Graduate interview tips

Understanding the common reasons for rejection in the assessment and selection process can prime you for interview success. Fiona Beddoes-Jones explains.

Surprisingly, 85 per cent of organisations report experiencing recruitment difficulties with the most common complaint being that although recruits have the potential to grow, they do not currently have all the skills and experience that the employer requires.

What do employers want?
Employers want someone who is academically able, is proactive without being hasty, can understand and solve complex problems effectively by thinking outside the box without going completely off at a tangent, someone who can switch quickly between taking an operational or a strategic approach, a person who is self-confident without being arrogant, resilient without being insensitive, and someone who is able to be both practical and theoretical as the situation demands it. They also want emotionally mature and responsible individuals who have the right attitude to be able to adapt to the organisational ethos, particularly multi-nationally, and who, whilst working collaboratively across cultural, social and organisational boundaries can slip easily into a leadership role wherever necessary without alienating anyone. Not a bad job description for a CEO actually. And how many senior executives do you know who can consistently live up to this ideal?

Probably not many. Unfortunately for employers, the brain does not finish maturing until about the age of 25, therefore it is both unrealistic and unreasonable to expect a 21 year old graduate to be as responsible and mature as a 35 year old who has had the benefit of ten years work experience. Regrettably though, it seems that this is just what employers do expect, on top of which it is no longer enough to have a first class honours degree, employers now want a first class honours degree and relevant work experience in their specific industry before some are even willing to shortlist a candidate. No wonder they report recruitment difficulties.

There is lots of advice available via employers, recruiters and the internet about how to succeed at Assessment Centres. There is even advice about what not to do. What your research probably will not tell you however are the real reasons that potential employers actually reject candidates. This article will! So assuming that you are a smart, responsible and mature graduate, once you have made it on to the shortlist and subsequently to the Assessment Centre, what are the most common de-railers? Those behaviours, attitudes or thinking styles that are guaranteed to get you overlooked by employers. I will tell you the five most common reasons for rejection, but first, let us focus on some key points to remember that you may not have considered before. It is important to remember that although the Assessment Centre environment is an artificial one and the other participants are not your colleagues, you will be expected to act and behave with them as if they are. Remember also that the recruiters are busy, therefore they will make all sorts of assumptions about you based only on the behaviours that they see. They will take everything at face value and are not interested in understanding your underlying motivations or the reasons for your behaviour.

Employers want emotionally mature graduates. The first step to emotional maturity is self-awareness. According to research by Gallup, when asked, as many as 7 out of 10 people cannot identify their strengths. Know yours. Ask friends and family what they think your strengths and weaknesses are - do you come across as self-confident, over-confident or unconfident, for example? Are you collaborative when learning and working or do you prefer to solve problems independently? Highly intelligent people are often field independent learners who are very task focused. This means that they prefer to learn and work independently of others in their own way and in their own time. Translate this to an Assessment Centre and you will be perceived as being a loner who is not a team player. The winners will be the field dependent learners who like to learn collaboratively with others, discussing things and problem solving together. They might not be as bright as you are, but their interpersonal skills will be perceived as being better than yours and remember that everyone loves a team player.

If you are confident and tend to believe that you are usually right about things be careful not to come across as being over-dominant. Sometimes, particularly for men, an over-focus on the achievement of tasks reduces their people focus and soft skills to such an extent that they can be perceived as bullies. Make sure that you maintain that balance and flexibility so you do not come across as being aggressive. If your cognitive style preference is to challenge information in order to be able to understand it, then you need to be aware that you will be perceived as being challenging by others, possibly confrontational and possibly even difficult to work with.

Organisations say that they want people who will think outside of the box but they naively fail to understand the personality traits which accompany that, namely an aversion to boundaries and rules and a propensity to ask both why? and why not? Here are the top 5 reasons employers reject potential graduate recruits; how many of them are you guilty of?
1. Not being a team player; working independently and not listening to, supporting or acknowledging the contribution of others.
2. Impulsive behaviour; not reading the brief carefully enough and jumping in as soon as you think you have got the gist of the task.
3. Being too strategic; overlooking those details that are critical to the successful completion of the task.
4. Focusing too much on the detail; getting bogged down and losing sight of the overview.
5. Over-dominant behaviour; bullying.

About the Author
Fiona Beddoes-Jones is a business psychologist who works with teams and executives, particularly high performing but dysfunctional ones. She is the author of the psychometric instrument, Thinking Styles. Web: