One of the biggest anxieties’ students have, especially those heading toward graduation is “what am I going to do next?”. The graduate recruitment market is rough, and my own experience was less than enjoyable – you can commonly get bombarded with emails from so many recruitment agents that you lose track of what you’ve applied for, what you want, and why you’re even going to the assessment centre.
Recruiters get a bad rep, and if I’m honest I’ve been somewhat scornful of them in the past. Having thought more about it I have realised there is an awful lot we can learn from them. Yes, some are the wheeler dealer/pin stripe suit and super white toothed variety, but as with all professions, those are the ones who ruin it for the rest of them. The vast majority just want to help you get the right job for you. So suspend the baby-boomer “why not get a real job?” mentality, as their real job is to get you the real job you probably couldn’t get by your real self.
I enlisted the help of one, and not just any recruiter, this one specialises in staffing the Central Government of the United Kingdom. I’m not kidding – from the Department for International Trade, and Home Office to the Committee on Climate Change, Sarah puts the best people in the best positions. She is also my sister and to my knowledge she doesn’t own a pin stripe suit.
This is all to say instead of scoffing at the recruiter, maybe we should listen.
How did you get into recruitment?
The most frustrating response possible, I fell into it. Let’s be realistic, no one grows up wanting to be a recruiter, in fact I still don’t like the reputation the industry has. I wanted to advise people, to have a lifestyle that meant I could explore London, and a career I could progress quickly in. The recruitment industry gave me all of these, and happily one of my best friends had started as a graduate at a recruitment FTSE250 while I was completing my masters. Nepotism makes the world go ‘round: she recommended me, and just like that I was finally leaving the comfort of the uni-bubble.
What is the biggest misconception people have about recruiters?
That we’re ‘sharky’. Our job is to support peoples’ careers and therefore their lives. What we do is based on relationships, knowledge and trust. Bluntly put, pushing someone into the wrong role will annoy the employee and the employer. Hardly a successful business model!
What is the most common mistake people make when looking for a job?
Not knowing why they are looking. This seems obvious (you need money, duh) but understanding why will be the base of every important decision you will make in searching for a job. Being able to prioritise what is right for you will give you focus as well as make you more articulate and impactful when speaking with recruiters and potential employers. It sounds simple but really makes the daunting task of searching for a job manageable.
A good resource for this is Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: https://youtu.be/u4ZoJKF_VuA
What would you advise for students who haven’t found what they want to do?
In 2019 the notion that someone has just one thing to ‘do’ or ‘be’ is bonkers. Unfortunately the pressure, rather than freedom, this modern career fluidity creates can cause dread. There is no magical realisation moment so don’t wait for one. Map out why you want certain things from life and your career and follow where that leads you, taking risks is part of the fun.
Are there any general points you should put on your CV that recruiters specifically look for?
Motivations can be as impressive as experience, people want excitement and commitment from anyone they hire so getting this enthusiasm across in your application always helps!
CVs can be any length, however the longer it is the less attention it will be given (people are lazy!). For graduates 2 pages should be enough but don’t stress if yours is more/less, just don’t leave white space. If you’re going to use a page use the full page, gaps look like inexperience.
If you’re answering an application question, think about what they are looking for. Remember its not a bragging context and they don’t really care about the time you lead a society booze-up or climbed Kilimanjaro, they’re looking for similar ‘values’ to their own, so look at the company website and think of examples where you can demonstrate these (if you have them. If you don’t, maybe apply for another company!).