Since I’ve come to Manchester I have managed, through skill and panache, to get no less than ten part-time jobs. I have been in my current job for nearly a year, so it was in a space of under two years that I somehow managed to get these ten jobs. Of course this means that I haven’t actually spent much time in several of these jobs, but that I have managed to get so many means that there are a lot out there. A lot of people ask me how I have managed to get so many jobs, and how it has been having a part-time job throughout my university life, so I thought that here would be as good a place as any to detail my experiences. Mostly this is advice that I wish I had given myself in the past.
So, you’re in the interview. You’ve got your smartest outfit on, the interviewers are friendly and, if you’ve done your preparation, you’ll have dealt with the “are you a team-player” and “ give me an example of a time you…….” type questions without breaking a sweat. Even being asked about your weaknesses and a time something went wrong holds no fear for you. Then, completely out of left-field, “If you were a biscuit, what type would you be?” Erm…. what?
That’s a real question a student told us they had been asked at interview. Other examples include asking for your favourite film or comedian or what one item would you take to a desert island with you? Or how many tennis balls would it take to fill this room? The general reaction to being asked this type of question is, what on earth has this got to do with the job you’ve applied for and how do you answer? Do Hob-Nobs get hired and Custard-Creams get shown the door? Will the boss only like you if you can bond over your favourite Michael McIntyre quip? How big is a tennis ball anyway?!!
Start by remembering that’s there probably not one “right” answer. Also, your actual answer is not really what’s being assessed, you are. The recruiter doesn’t care whether your desert island item is a beach-ball or a canoe. They’re looking broadly at two things, how do you react and how do you arrive at your answer.
How to react – you’ve just been hit with something you couldn’t anticipate. The interviewer knows that whatever you say now is not something that you’ve prepared and practised over and over. Firstly, don’t panic when, as it inevitably will for a moment, your mind goes blank. Take a breath, maybe a sip of water. Say something along the lines of “That’s a really interesting question, let me think for a moment”. This doesn’t mean minutes of silence while you mull over all the options. It’s just time to settle the nerves and start to think clearly so you don’t just blurt out the first thing in your head. You are showing the recruiter that, when faced with something out of the blue, probably in a situation you find stressful, you can think on your feet and respond calmly and professionally.
Your answer – Bourbons!! Great, question dealt with. However, you’re only half-way there. If you blurt something out and don’t give them a reason for your answer, they’re certainly going to ask for it. The recruiter is looking at your decision-making process and how you deliver your response. Demonstrate to them that you considered options and alternatives in a logical and thoughtful way, no matter how strange the topic, and reached a decision or found a solution that you can back up with reasons. Show them that you can communicate your choice, and how you arrived at it, in a clear and structured way. “My favourite biscuit would have to be a Hob-Nob. They’re not too sweet and they don’t fall apart when you dunk them in your tea. They’re not too expensive either, which is important on a student budget”
What’s the point? –Yes, they could ask directly about your problem-solving skills, how you cope under pressure or make decisions. You could just as easily respond with a ‘best-practice’ answer that you’ve polished and perfected to be exactly what you think they want to hear. By forcing you to respond to an off-the-wall question, they see the real you in action. You have to demonstrate the skills, not just talk about them. If you can demonstrate the skills in interview, that’s a good indicator that you’d use those skills as an employee. By answering one seemingly random question, you can show a potential employer a lot about yourself.
Finally, don’t have nightmares. These questions are not routinely trotted out at every interview. Most of you will probably never be asked a question like this. You don’t need to spend hours making lists of your favourite things in every possible topic. Prepare for an interview as much as possible (the Careers Service can help with mock interviews if you want some practice) and don’t worry about being asked something crazy. Should such a question come up, you’ll now recognised it for what it is, understand its purpose and how to approach answering it.
For the record – I’d be a Ginger Nut.
The Quick Query service for application, CV and other advice is on daily 2.30 – 4.30. Bookings are taken at the usual times – you can ring up to book a time from 9.30 or you can pop in from 9.10.
It’s normally fairly quiet during Easter vacation and onwards into the exam period, but don’t leave booking appointments until the last minute as it can still get booked up especially if you wish to see a specific adviser.
It’s often busy towards the end of May and in June as final year students prepare for the Graduate fair and make plans for the next step in their career. We run a series of events in early June aimed at all year groups so watch out for these if you want to get a head start on preparing for the year ahead or need to catch up! They will be advertised in Careerslink nearer the time.
Which ever year group you are in good luck with your exams, and please don’t wait to visit us until you are on the way to the station cases in hand never to return!
£3000 bursaries available for science, engineering and technology students interested in a career in UK naval defence
UKNEST (UK Naval Engineering, Science and Technology Forum) is offering 3 undergraduate sponsorships, which include:
- £3000 bursary per year
- An industry mentor
- Access to one of their member organisations in support of your studies (eg projects)
Bursaries will be offered as follows:
- One to a 2nd year student
- One to a third year student
- One to a final year student
To qualify you have to be a member of either IMarEST (Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology) or RINA (Royal Institute of Naval Architects) but don’t worry, student memberships are available from as little as £12 and these organisations offer a range of benefits if you are interested in a career in this field, with access to job vacancies and other scholarships.
More information is available on their poster at: UKNEST ScholarshipPosterA4
Send an essay of 500 words that sets out your understanding and desire to work with the UK naval engineering, science and technology sector. Include:
- Your contact information
- A CV
- Your IMarEST or RINA membership number
- Your university, your degree and what year of study you will commence in autumn 2012
- A reference letter from an academic that confirms that you are on track to successfully complete your studies
Email your application to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31st August 2012 at the latest.