Posts Tagged ‘Herts Uni’

My Work Experience Isn’t Relevant – A Graduates Perspective.

4 months after starting my graduate job within the careers department I find myself sat at my desk considering how I actually got here. Looking back none of my work experience seemed relevant to my job. I was a cleaner for most of my time at university and before that I worked within the equestrian sector. But here I am working as a Graduate Careers and Placements Assistant, doing things I never thought I would be capable of.

So how did I get here with work experience which I felt was “irrelevant”? Often we find ourselves selling ourselves short as we feel like we cannot possibly have the experience to do a certain job. However jobs like the ones I did tend to give you a number of transferable skills and a unique perspective on working life. My first proper job was working within a branch of the HSBC bank as a cleaner, I had never had so much responsibility and at the time I didn’t realise how valuable working there would be.  I leant to take a pride in my work – the cleaner the bank was, the more I was appreciated which allowed me to be given more responsibility.  It taught me that I must stay organised, be professional and be able to maintain high levels of confidentiality, whilst ensuring health and safety standards were met.

You may think a job working at the local chippy won’t help you to gain a graduate level role but look beyond the obvious tasks of your job and think about all the different roles and responsibilities you have carry out that may be of importance to the company and enable you to meet the requirements of the person specification. Transferable skills can take many different forms such as:

  • problem solving
  • organisation
  • working to deadlines
  • management and leadership
  • negotiation
  • motivating people
  • making decisions
  • research skills

Next time you think a job sounds beyond the experience you have, look deeper and think about all of the small things that make you different from others and sell yourself; no work experience is “irrelevant” –  it’s how you sell yourself that matters.

Smart, Smart-Casual or Casual? Cracking the Interview Dress Code. 


Deciding what to wear to interview can be tricky. Traditionally a suit has been the default option and in many cases this still holds true. However as office cultures in many industries have become more relaxed sometimes a less formal interview outfit may be appropriate (or even advisable).  So, if you’re trying to decide what to wear to an interview, Suzanne Ball, from our Careers Adviser team, gives some tips on how to crack the interview dress code.

Focus on the company and the role

If you’re being interviewed for a traditional corporate role, particularly in sectors such as banking, finance or law, then a suit is still essential interview wear, particularly for men.  A suit is a safe option in other sectors too but you can also consider other smart options for many roles (see below). If the job you’re being interviewed for involves wearing a uniform or lab coat or spending time working outside you will still need to look smart but a formal suit may be not be necessary. There are some cases where a smart-casual or casual outfit might be more appropriate for example if you’re applying to a small start-up tech company, particularly if you know it has a relaxed office culture, or if you’re applying for a creative job.

Look at the company’s website

If the company has pictures of people doing the type of work you’re applying for, take note of what they’re wearing.  Ideally your interview outfit should be smarter than the everyday norm.

What will you be doing at interview?

If you know the interview will involve activities such as spending time outside (maybe for a site visit) or doing a lab-based task then make sure you wear (or at least take) appropriate footwear/clothes with you.

Has the employer given any tips?

Read the email and any information the employer sends you when you’re invited to interview. Some employers will tell you if there’s a casual dress code or indicate the types of activities you’ll be involved in during the interview process.  If in doubt you could ask about dress code when you email to confirm your attendance.

What does smart or smart/casual actually mean?

  • SmartA suit or tailored jacket with co-ordinating trousers/skirt or dress. Bear in mind that a suit will be the best option for some roles and men should always wear a tie. Keep shirts/tops/jewellery neutral and black is safest colour for shoes (particularly for men).
  • Smart/Casual. A suit could still be appropriate but perhaps worn with a coloured or patterned shirt or even a smart, plain T shirt. Ties are optional.  Co-ordinated jacket/trouser/skirt/dress combinations will also work well and you could consider less tailored options (but be wary of fabrics that crease easily). Brighter ties, colours and statement jewellery may also be appropriate but consider the industry/role you’re applying for.  You’ll have more options regarding shoe style and colour but avoid trainers unless you’re confident they would be acceptable.
  • Casual. This can be a bit of a minefield. Jeans may be appropriate but make sure they’re new, clean and unripped. If you’re thinking of wearing a T shirt or sweatshirt make sure they’re new and that any images or slogans are appropriate. Knitwear should be new and not bobbly or misshapen.  Trainers may be OK if new but avoid flip-flops!


Whatever the dress code…

  • Use minimal perfume/aftershave or don’t wear it at all.
  • Handbags or document cases should be clean and not battered looking. Make sure your bag is big enough to hold everything you want to take without bulging (but don’t take too much with you).
  • Footwear should always be clean and not scuffed or “down-at-heel”.
  • Make sure you look well-groomed. Clean hair and trimmed fingernails will give a good impression and make sure that there are no missing buttons or frayed edges on anything you’re wearing.  Iron any garment that looks even a little crumpled. Try to fit in a hair-cut before the interview and make sure your hairstyle will survive if it’s windy or raining outside.
  • Don’t show too much flesh – low cut tops and miniskirts (women) or overly unbuttoned shirts (men) are never appropriate. Try to avoid bare legs even if the weather is hot.
  • Plan your outfit a week or so before the interview and do a quick check for stains, missing buttons etc. This way you’ll have time for a quick trip to the dry-cleaners if necessary.

When in doubt…

Dress smartly – it’s usually better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

For more detailed information and suggestions on planning your interview outfit check out our Interview Fashion Pinterest board

Suzanne Ball is a Careers Adviser working with students in the Business School at the University of Hertfordshire. She regularly tweets in regards to Business School related information on @HBSCareers.


How to answer scenario interview questions


There are a many different types of questions that can be asked at an interview, from traditional questions such as: ‘Why did you apply for this job?’ to behavioural questions such as: ‘Can you give me an example of a time you have worked effectively in a team?’

Sometimes you may be asked scenario questions, which are similar to behavioural questions. However instead of asking you to discuss a past experience you’re presented with a hypothetical situation. An example of this type of question is: ‘What would you do if you were dealing with a difficult telephone conversation with a client/customer?’

Watch the video below as Careers Adviser, Suzanne Ball, explains the best way to deal with scenario interview questions.

How A Recruitment Agency can help students


A big concern for many university students is how you are going to put all your hard work to good use and get your foot on the career ladder. What many of you won’t realise is just how much a recruitment agency could help in that process, both during your time at university and after graduation.

How can registering with a recruitment agency help me while I’m at university?

The long university holidays are a perfect time to get some work experience and temporary work is a great way for you to gain transferable skills, boost your CV and earn some extra money. Using an agency to get temporary work while you’re studying removes a lot of the stress, because you’ll be allocated a Recruitment Consultant who will know your availability and what it is you’re looking for. They’ll let you know of opportunities that fit your skills, which will save you a lot of time.

Temping can give you a good idea of what kind of role you want to do long term, as you can see which aspects of each role you did and didn’t enjoy and get a realistic idea of what will work for you career-wise. Evidence of work experience on your CV will prove to employers that you’re willing to work hard, make you stand out from other candidates, and give you the essential skills that graduate jobs require. A lot of graduate roles will be office-based and so registering with an agency like ( Lawrence Dean Recruitment, which specialises in these sectors, will give you relevant experience.

How can an agency help me after graduation?

 Graduate schemes are extremely competitive, and if you aren’t accepted into your chosen scheme straight away, talking about your options will help you to figure out what to do next. If you have your heart set on a specific scheme, temporary work could be a great way to gain experience in the sector you want to work in. At Lawrence Dean Recruitment we also have a wide range of permanent roles available and in these you may find the perfect role that you hadn’t even considered before!

Why is a recruitment agency better than applying for jobs on my own?

 You will have your own Recruitment Consultant, who will give you a realistic idea of what kind of work you can apply for, based on your skills and experience.  They will also advise you if they think that you have unrealistic expectations. This will not only save you a lot of time applying for jobs that you have no chance of getting but will also mean that you’re more likely to be successful in your applications. At Lawrence Dean Recruitment we like to give candidates feedback even when they’re unsuccessful, so that they know for next time what they can work on and improve to give a higher chance of success in the future!

 Your Lawrence Dean Recruitment Consultant will be able to offer you tailored CV advice based on your career expectations and they will know exactly what employers are looking for and what the role entails. You will get support throughout the whole process, as well as having access to a wide range of jobs and advice on which positions will suit you. This removes a lot of pressure from your job search and means that a lot of the hard work is done for you.

For more information on how we can help you please visit our website at


Avoiding rookie mistakes on your CV


Writing a CV is a frequently daunting task. It’s hard to think of what to include, what format to use, what layout, in what order and so much more to consider.

As someone who’s shortlisted for countless roles – reading them is just as daunting. Over my years of experience in recruitment and in shortlisting candidates, I found the same mistakes on CVs time and time again.

I wanted to share them with you, so you can be smart when you apply for roles, and avoid these errors.

  1. Grammar

I cannot tell you how any CVs I’ve put in the ‘No’ pile due to some very ba
sic grammar mistakes. Some wonderful examples of mistakes that myself and my colleagues collected over the years:

  • I’m an accurate and rabid typist
  • Responsible for ruining my own project during my placement year
  • My hobbits include …
  • I hope to hear from you shorty
  • Work: Chinese restaurant, Skills: severing customers

These, and many more, are reasons for you to be rejected for a position. So please spend the time making sure your grammar is up top scratch. Sometimes, getting someone else to read through your CV is a great idea, as when you’re too close to it – you may not spot the errors.

  1. Colours

It’s perfectly okay and even encouraged to personalise your CV and make it stand out from the crowd. However, you should not be tempted to do so using colours. There are 2 reasons for it. Reason 1: if an employer prints off your CV, it’s likely to be in black and white (because it’s cheaper), so your colouring will therefore be lost. Reason 2: your choice of colours (say electric pink) is your taste, but may not be the employer’s – so they could reject you based on that.

This principle does not apply as much if you’re creating say an artistic CV or a graphic design one- this is more general guidelines for standard CVs.

  1. Irrelevant information

It’s tempting to include the whole of your life story on your CV but you have to remember that the document should be concise, to the point and professional. 100% attendance at Nursery school when you’re a final year at University may not be as relevant as you hope.

Make sure you think about your audience and therefore only mention facts about your relevant to that audience. If you’re a football captain now, and have been since 11, applying for a coaching role – yes, include it, it’s relevant. If you have an amazing postcard collection of cute cats and you’re applying for a position of an accounts executive – perhaps it’s less relevant.

Also, remember not to include personal information, such as National Insurance number, date of birth, race, marital status, nationality, and more. A CV should contain your contact details to enable the employer to come back to you and should state your skills and what you’ve got to offer. Your race or age have nothing to do with your ability to do a job – your experience and skills do, focus on them.

  1. Space

A CV should be no more than 2 A4 pages. I’ve seen CVs which range from 1 line and to 16 pages in Calibri 60.

  • Be smart with your space. Make sure your first page is super eye catching and makes the employer want to carry on reading.
  • Use bullet points and smart layouts to showcase your experience. Huge blocks of essay text are less likely to be read than concise bullet points.
  • Allocate your space according to importance. Expand more on experience relevant to the job and allow less space for activities less relevant. Make sure those 2 pages tell the employer all they need to know to want to select you.
  • Use smart headings that tell the reader exactly what is in that section, such as ‘Work Experience’ or ‘Key Skills’.

Final thought: think of your audience when you create/change your CV. They are busy, they want to know if you are that solution to their ‘missing staff member’ problem – show them you are, in a clear and concise way. Do not give the employer any reasons to say no to you – give them every reason to say yes!


Kristina Tamane is the Careers Adviser for the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Joint Honours Programme. You’re welcome to follow her on Twitter or Pinterest for varied job posts and general advice and updates.

What counts as ‘conflicting priorities’ and how do I answer that question?

Often, in applications and at interview you get asked this question – ‘How have you dealt with conflicting priorities?’ or a variation of this question. But what does the employer want to hear?


The question is designed to test your organisational and prioritising abilities – how do you problem solve or deal with demanding deadlines? The employer seeks for you to demonstrate strategic thinking and your ability to understand business objectives, in relation to your own, which should inform how you organise yourself.

Before you can answer this question – think of an example. An easy one is you’re working part time whilst studying. Your manager asks you to come in and do extra work but you also have an important upcoming assessment deadline. You want to facilitate a positive relationships with your manager but simultaneously your degree is extremely  important too.How do you deal with such conflicting priorities?

The answer will of course be your own. You could walk the employer through your thinking and logic when making decisions. It could be that you explain that education is important but your work ethic means a lot to you so you come in to do the extra hours but you then time manage effectively and spend time in the library to complete your assessment to a high standard. I sadly can’t answer the question for you – you’d have to think of an example for yourself.

The key in answering this question is explaining effectively your thinking process behind your actions. For example, some people refer to The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, as below


Overall, there is no right or wrong answer. All the employer wants to hear from you is a clear explanation of how you deal with pressure/a deadline. As a student, there will be countless examples of conflicting deadlines you’ve faced. Always make sure you walk them through your rationale and thinking of dealing with such situations. The end result for them is to be satisfied that you will be able to withstand pressure and it’s something you’ve dealt with before. The employer wants to be confident that you can work independently and self-manage – so simply assure them of it, using excellent communication skills (whether in an interview or an application) and an appropriate example.

Finally, always talk about the result. So if we come back to my work vs university example – a good way to finish that answer is ‘I achieved a good grade for that assignment, whilst submitting it on time. I also did 6 hours extra work that weekend and my manager was very pleased with the service I delivered’. You therefore demonstrate that your excellent strategic logical thinking lead to a positive outcome. How can an employer resist such a high calibre candidate?


Kristina Tamane is the Careers Adviser for the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Joint Honours Programme. You’re welcome to follow her on Twitter or Pinterest for varied job posts and general advice and updates.

How placement prepares you for final year



When making the decision to take a placement year, there are a variety of benefits you will be made aware of, for example, it is real life on the job experience, you will likely receive a salary and it is more experience to add to your CV before you graduate. However, one major factor that may be forgotten is how it may benefit/prepare you for final year. As a student currently on placement, I can already see how certain skills I have learnt and developed over the past 8 months on placement will help me.

Time management; an area that many of us believe we’re good at, but when it comes to submitting assignments, we are all too used to those late nights wishing we had started weeks ago. Does that sound familiar? When it comes to final year, the workload is immense; thank you to all my final year friends for making me fully aware of what I’m letting myself in for. If like me, you’re considering doing a dissertation, this skill becomes even more valuable. My major recommendation, would be to treat any essay you are given, like a report your manager has asked you to complete. I know you might be thinking ‘easier said than done’, but for those who haven’t had the opportunity to go out on placement, they will likely be in the same mind-set they were in in 1st and 2nd year. View your placement as a trial year, for getting the hang of planning and meeting deadlines, because your managers certainly aren’t going to be as lenient as your tutors.

Public speaking; did a wave of panic just hit you, like it did me? In 1st year these were two of my most dreaded words, from presenting in class, to answering questions. In your final year, group presentations are likely to be a common assessment, so ensuring you are confident and prepared is essential. My advice would be to get as much experience presenting while on placement as you can, whether it is just to a couple of colleagues or an all team meeting. This is an opportunity to practice how you present yourself, in terms of body language, projecting your voice and overall confidence. Being able to perfectly execute a presentation will allow you to clock up those essential marks that will certainly help your overall grade. Another area this will help you with, are interviews for graduate employment, being able to sell yourself is essential.

So there are you are, a couple of skills that I have learnt while on placement that I believe will be invaluable for final year.


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