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Standing out: What recruiters say


When employing people, recruiters are looking for you to stand out from everyone else. In this video employers and entrepreneurs detail what they are looking for when recruiting and what impresses them at an interview.

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  • SB - Selena Bolingbroke, Pro Vice-Chancellor & Alumnus, University of East London
  • JC - John Corcoran, Director, Wire Design
  • LP - Lisa Parker, Programme Office, BT
  • JS - Jim Shaikh, Managing Director, yoomi
  • SW - Sue Warren, HR Business Partner, BT

SB - The first thing an employer actually picks up on is not your skills, isn’t your knowledge, it’s your attitude. As soon as you walk through that door, the way in which you smile, the way in which you shake hands, the way in which you’re dressed and present yourself, whether you’re confident or whether you’re trying to hide back in your shell because you’re nervous. All of that non-verbal communication gives the employer a very rich picture about your attitude.

JC - I guess the key skills we’re looking for when we recruit somebody, I mean, first and foremost, they have to be really passionate about creativity. But they have to be passionate and they have to prove that they’re good at it. I mean, we need to see good evidence of work. They’ve got to be able to work well in our team, it’s a small team. They’ve got to be able to work well in a team and be a good communicator. A lot of what I do and alot of what they’re going to have to do is meet people and communicate well. So that’s incredibly important.

LP - Being involved in graduate recruitment in the past, what actually stands out for me, for attributes for graduates has been flexibility but also an open attitude. So they don’t come into the room saying, “I’m a graduate, look at me, give me a job”. It’s actually almost what they can bring to the company. Another thing that really does impress me is when they’ve done their research. They understand a bit about the business, the different divisions of the business. Obviously they’re not going to know as much as they would internally but just an hour’s research on the internet really does go a long way in my opinion.

PE - The main thing I look for when employing someone is timekeeping. And also, answering the phone. I found that when I was studying, a lot of students, they just look at the phone. They don’t answer it. So that’s something that’s a bit of a pet dislike for me so, yeah, definitely answer your phone. And if you can’t answer it straight away, get back to that person as soon as possible.

JS - We have recruited graduates to our business and the process starts with an interview. At the interview, what I’m really looking for are thoughtful answers to questions. It’s unfair to expect graduates to be able to answer every question. They haven’t got a whole wealth of experience. That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for people who sometimes can say, “Well I don’t know”. And if you get to that level, I’ll say, “Well what do you think?”. And so I’m looking for people who can start to think beyond what they know already. And that’s the thought process I’m looking for.

LP – I would look at a graduate CV and whilst speaking with them, maybe try and sort of find out if they’ve done any kind of volunteering or stuff that involves teamwork outside of the academic world. I think that’s really important. It shows that they’re willing to do stuff for other people, it’s not all about them.

JS – I’m also looking for people who’ve demonstrated some level of responsibility in some facet of their lives because with the work that we do, especially with a start up company, we do push for responsibility to everyone. Everyone’s got a task and a role to do and they’re left to do it. So we must have confidence that these people will be able to take those tasks and objectives and deliver on them, or let us know very quickly if it can’t be done. We’re also looking for numeracy and literacy. We’re looking for people who can write down the conclusions of their work because that’s how we disseminate that around the team. And we’re looking for people who can, from an engineering point of view because we are sort of mostly in the engineering business, communicate what they’ve done in graphs and charts and be able to show trends. From that, draw conclusions that help us move forward with the business.

SB - I am always impressed when I interview people, if they’ve demonstrated that they’ve done a bit of homework. I don’t just mean skimming the surface and reading the homepage of my website but that they’ve demonstrated that they’ve taken the time to find out what the organisation is like today and a little bit about what they think the issues are for organisation in the future. That is immediately impressive.

SW - It’s really essential for graduates now to understand the commercials of a company that they work for. It’s no good somebody saying, “I don’t like maths”, which I hear time and time again and, I hold my hand up, it’s not my favourite subject either but you have to get to grips with the bottom line of the budgets in the company - where to save costs, where to drive the revenue etc. It’s absolutely essential that you actually learn that and, if you don’t have that already on your course, that you still perhaps go and find somebody to talk to who can initiate you into, you know, the basics that you need to know.

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