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Interview: graduate employers – what they really look for?

Landing a dream job, or any job for that matter, after you graduate can be a difficult and perhaps daunting process. We recently spoke to a UEA alumnus who had managed to secure a job working in video production. With advice on how to make the most of your time at university whilst enhancing your CV in the meantime, our interview with Anna Eastick went down a treat with finalists. However, you may now be questioning how can you make your application stand out from rest of the crowd?


Photo: Nadine Muller

No doubt, you’ve attended countless career events and scribbled down numerous tips from the Careers Centre about how to improve your CV, but we wanted to get word straight from the horse’s mouth. Rebecca Lewis Smith and Marcus Hemsley started an SEO company based in Norwich called Fountain in 2009 following their graduation from UEA, and have employed numerous graduates since then.

Concrete spoke to Rebecca and Marcus about various aspects of job recruitment. It may seem a laborious task sending out countless CV’s to numerous email addresses, but Marcus mentioned that in the four years Fountain have been in business, only two potential employees made a telephone call rather than emailing. Marcus said that with so many CV’s emailed in ‘it’s hard to find time to get back to everyone.’ Rebecca reinforced this notion, but also mentioned that conducting research in to a potential employer will often result in making an application stand out from the crowd. Alternatively ‘if you did something eye catching (but professional) with the layout of your resume, you have more chance of standing out.’

Speaking of CV’s and resumes, students are constantly told during their time at university to give their time to clubs and societies and to also look for work experience in order to give them the best chance of employment, but how does this fare with employers? Rebecca encourages students to get involved with societies due to the potential employability skills they can offer a student. Marcus values the importance of work experience too, so the overriding message for the student is to really make the most of your time at university. A four-month summer break may seem like an attractive prospect but being proactive is key to enhancing job prospects once you graduate. Employers want to know that you have a good work ethic – unpaid work experience and involvement within a club or society is precisely how to convey this message in your CV.

If you’ve ticked these boxes, your chances of landing an interview are pretty good. But what to do now? Rebecca stresses the importance of doing your research about a company before you go for an interview – ‘It comes across really badly [when an applicant doesn’t know what we do], and I would be extremely unlikely to hire that person. Read up about us before you apply.’ However, becoming an expert overnight isn’t easy and Marcus highlights the importance of the ‘enthusiasm to learn.’ Your degree has proved you have the capability to learn, coming across as an enthusiastic individual in an interview is therefore important as well.

At the end of the interview, Concrete quizzed Rebecca and Marcus on whether or not they search for applicants on Facebook, and if they did, whether or not it affected the hiring process. Both confessed to using Facebook to search for candidates but Marcus said it wasn’t in order to dig up dirt or search through photos. He said, ‘I’ve got plenty of embarrassing photos myself, who doesn’t? It’s more about getting a better understanding of the person you’re interviewing.’ Rebecca suggested setting up a LinkedIn profile so that she would ‘have no need to turn to Facebook… if I’ve just called to arrange an interview and you connect to me on LinkedIn, it’s an opportunity to stand out a little bit.’ So, there we have it – the official report on employers and Facebook searches.

The most important advice Concrete can give is to not give up with the job hunting process. You’ve spent three (or more) years of your life working toward a degree and it would be a shame to waste it. The law of averages suggests that something will come along at some point.


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December 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Concrete.Editor@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.