East London Social Hack – apply now!

Are you passionate about making a difference in your community?
Do you want to learn how to set up a social enterprise to tackle problems in your area?

The East London Social Hack is a 3 day bootcamp (17th – 19th February 2017) that will equip participants with the skills they need to start their own social enterprises from scratch.

3day1We are looking for students from any subject area and level (undergrad or postgrad) to take part. You don’t need to have any experience of enterprise, just the passion to make a difference and the drive to work with others to start a new project from scratch.

Over the weekend you will learn the basics of setting up a social enterprise, including idea generation using the social lean canvas, market testing and validation, and how to create impact for users. You will have the chance to network with and learn from a variety of mentors with experience of setting up their own social enterprises.

The weekend will culminate with a final pitch event to a judging panel, where teams will have the opportunity to pitch for a package of funding, free desk space, and follow on support from the enterprise team.

The application deadline is 31st January, and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed over the phone.

Apply here to secure your place.

Answering the ‘Why Should We Hire You?’ interview question


Joe Cronin, Application Adviser

This is probably one of the less pleasant job interview questions – although it comes up with frightening regularity! – because it seemingly invites you to brag, or compare yourself to the other candidates (who you haven’t even met), or, worst of all, beg and plead. But a good answer to this question avoids all of these pitfalls, and becomes an opportunity for you to provide an overview of yourself as a candidate, your top skills and qualities, without having to make unsubstantiated claims about yourself (à la The Apprentice) or assume that you’re better than everyone else who’s applied. It’s another way of saying ‘this is what I have to offer. If you like it, hire me’.

So how do you answer this question?

The first thing you should bear in mind is that, whatever the position, the interviewers are going to have a fairly clear idea of the candidate they’re looking for. So this question is as much ‘explain how you’re the ideal candidate for this position’ as it is ‘why should we hire you?’

Before the interview, make sure you read and re-read the person profile provided with the job application so you know, off by heart, the key traits they’re looking for. Next, think about how your own experience matches those qualities. Note down some examples. Memorize them. Then, in the interview, you have a ready supply of hard evidence to back up your claims that you’re the right candidate for the position because you have, say, excellent analytical skills (and provide an example). You’re also a fantastic team player (again, provide an example). Oh, and finally, you’re constantly finding innovative solutions to complex problems (another example).

As a finishing touch, you might want to mention how much you admire the company’s core values or work ethic (and say what these are!) and how this really applies to you. This shows that you know – and even better, care – about the company and what it stands for. You may be asked this question more specifically at another point in the interview, but there’s no harm in conveying extra knowledge about your potential employer.

Of course, there’s more than one way of approaching this question correctly, but the most important points to bear in mind are that you a) relate your answer to the skills and traits they’re looking for and b) always provide evidence/examples for the claims you make. Follow those two basic rules and you’re well on your way to an impressive answer.

Good luck!

Upcoming events Jan 2017

We have lots of great events coming up this term – see below for some highlights. For the full list, see careers.qmul.ac.uk/events 

Hays LinkedIn Lab Session – 24th January, 3-5pm

In this seminar, we explore how undergraduates and recent graduates can utilise linkedin for their job search. Areas that we cover include creating and enhancing your profile, how to expand your network, how to engage and connect with potential recruiters and how to use sharing of content effectively as part of your search for career opportunities. The seminar will be led by David Cairncross, a Director at Hays, the UK’s leading specialist recruitment consultancy.

Cobham’s Assessment Centre Practice Session – 25th January, 3-5pm

Got an assessment centre coming up soon? Join us for an interactive Assessment Centre Practice session. This event will cover the group and in-tray exercises commonly used in many Assessment Centres as well as presentation and interview techniques. The session will be run entirely by our Cobham Graduates who have all recently successfully been through a two-day Cobham Assessment Centre and understand what these events consist of, what employers are looking for and how to ensure success.

There will also be time for a Q&A session for any more specific questions which you can ask our Graduates about. Cobham is a leading global technology and services innovator, respected for providing solutions to the most challenging problems, from deep space to the depths of the ocean. 

Preparing for a Career in Real Estate with CBRE – 26th Jan, 3-5pm

CBRE is seeking to increase awareness about the real estate industry and a career in commercial property. This includes:

  • What is ‘commercial property’?
  • A day in the life of a real estate graduate
  • Who are CBRE?
  • The path to a career in real estate
  • Internship and Graduate Scheme Application and Interview Skills

Google/UpSkill Digital Skills Workshop – 30th Jan, 5-6pm

Learn about the importance of digital for business and your own career, and get top tips from Google on how to build a business online. This masterclass from the Digital Garage team will include advice on how to build websites that work for all audiences, help you understand search and the customer purchase journey, and show you how to tell your story online, through social media and meaningful content.

How to stay positive with your job hunt in the New Year

beautiful-day-1374434_640-1December has been and gone and the cold, hard reality of January is now upon us all. It is rarely an easy time of year, but throw in the added pressures of a graduate job hunt and it can be particularly hard to get motivated, to stay motivated and to remain positive.

Of course, everyone’s situation is going to be a little different – some of you be dealing with the results of pre-Christmas applications that you made, others may be starting to think seriously about applying for jobs for the first time – but your optimism may well be challenged. What, therefore, can you be doing to ensure that you remain upbeat through the months ahead?

Formulate a plan (and stick to it!)
Before anything else, take the time to work out the steps you need to take and plan them. Goals are much easier to achieve if you have a methodical way of working towards them and ticking items off the plan will help you feel that you are making progress. A Careers Consultant can help you identify your next steps and put together a plan if you are unsure how to get started.

If you have experienced disappointment with your first few applications, don’t just throw yourself into making more without taking a step back and trying to identify what may need to change. If you have been lucky enough to receive employer feedback from your applications then use it. If you are struggling to work out where you are going wrong, book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to help you find out. If you are beginning your job hunt, start by gathering the information you need. Have you found out about the types of roles and companies you’d like to apply for? Do you know how and where they recruit (e.g. LinkedIn / job websites / the company’s own website)? Have you had your CV checked? Again, get a plan written and start ticking things off.

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What is your biggest weakness?

Joe, Application Adviser

There are few interview questions which provoke the same mixture of fear and bewilderment as ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ The entire premise seems counter-intuitive. Aren’t you there to impress them? To show them your best qualities? Candidates who haven’t prepared for this question either panic, or assume that it’s some kind of trick. But, just like any other interview question, answering it is relatively straightforward if you know how.

There’s no single method to answering this question, and recruiters disagree as to the best approach. Some favour the classic ‘strength dressed up as a weakness’ method, while others see this as too transparent and not honest enough. As such, I’ll leave it up to you to decide what your weaknesses are (don’t choose more than two!), but remember that they should reflect on your professional aptitudes in some respect. The best strategy – in my opinion – is to be fairly honest, but ensure that these weaknesses are not too serious, and most importantly, that you’ve made an effort to rectify them.


The structure to this answer is quite formulaic, and the answer itself needn’t be as long as for competency-based questions. Start by saying what your weakness is, then outline a situation in which it manifested itself, then say what you’re doing to improve it. Let’s take the example of perfectionism (which many would argue is a strength dressed up as a weakness!) Your answer could run as follows:

While I pride myself on my excellent attention to detail, sometimes I can be a bit of a perfectionist. On a couple of occasions in my current/previous job I struggled to finish a task on time because I wanted to get things absolutely right. I spoke to my manager about this and she told me that, while it’s great to have such a conscientious team member, more often than not it’s better to get the task finished on time, even if it’s not perfect. Following this, I enrolled myself on a time-management course / started to use time-management software / bought myself a book on time management and put the techniques I learned into practice. Since then I’ve found I’m less stressed when working to a tight deadline and am better at getting tasks finished promptly without obsessing over the detail.

If your first example is quite short, you can supplement it with another. But that’s really all there is to it!

Don’t forget to visit the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus for our top interview resources.

5 New Year Career Resolutions

A new year is a new start: it’s the perfect time to think about what you want to accomplish and to set new goals. Why not use January to reflect on your career ambitions and formulate plans for achieving them?

  1. Follow relevant people and organisations on Twitter: use your social media profiles to develop an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of the field or fields you are interested in. This can be a source of inspiration and interest, increasing your passion for pursuing your chosen career path. Getting to grips with current issues or debates in the industry is also very useful for answering commercial awareness questions in future interviews (e.g. ‘what do you think is the most important issue currently facing our company’).
  2. Reflect on 2016: why not use January to reflect on the progress you’ve made in 2016? What skills have you developed through your course and your extra-curricular activities? What responsibilities did you take on in your work experience? Did you receive any praise from fellow team-members or from an employer? It’s useful to keep an ongoing record of your accomplishments which you can use as the basis for targeted CVs and job applications in future. Think also about your interests. What motivates you, energises you and interests you? Reflecting on the kind of tasks which you find meaningful and engaging (rather than the sort of tasks which you feel you should be interesting to you) can be useful in making decisions about your career path.
  3. Decide what you want to achieve in 2017: think carefully about what you want to accomplish for your career this year. You could start by looking at the person specifications and job descriptions for graduate and entry-level jobs in the area you’re interested in. Where are the gaps in your CV which you need to fill before you’d be able to apply for these jobs? Then look for ways in which you can fill these gaps, such as work experience placements, QProjects, internships and volunteering. Identifying your goals at the beginning of the year can give you direction and focus.
  4. Make a plan: think realistically about how you will achieve your aims. If your goal is ‘find work experience’, break it down into small, manageable steps.
    E.g.: step one – research organisations offering summer work experience placements. Step two – start an application for one placement, tailoring your CV and cover letter to the employer’s requirements. Step three: visit the Careers and Enterprise Centre to have the application reviewed. Step four: Revise the CV.Decide when you will work on these career development tasks. Why not set aside a regular time each week? Set yourself deadlines to make sure that you complete everything you plan to.
  5. Brush up on your interview skills: practice is the key to successful interview performance. The more familiar you are with articulating your key selling points in succinct and compelling ways, the more likely you are to be a persuasive interviewee. You might not have an interview coming up, but why not record yourself answering common interview questions (such as ‘tell us about a time when you have demonstrated effective communication skills’)? Then watch the interview back – even if it’s embarrassing! Look at your body language, listen to your tone of voice and think about how specific and concise your answers are. Then work on ways to improve your weaker areas. You could also practice with a friend, and take turns being the interviewer and interviewee. This will give you a new perspective on interview questions

Why have you applied for this job?

This can be a perplexing interview question, particularly if you are applying for jobs which are closely connected to your internship/work experience and degree area. If you’ve spent the last three years studying marketing, for example, as well seeking out marketing work experience, it might seem obvious that you’re interested in marketing. In addition, we all need to pay for food and somewhere to live, so the answer ‘well, I need money’ might be on the tip of your tongue.

To answer this question, it helps to know why the employer is asking it and what they’re looking for:

  • Genuine motivation: People who care about and are interested in what they do tend to go the extra mile – they often suggest new ideas and bring energy and enthusiasm to teams. Employers would rather hire people who have a real interest in their jobs. Remember that enthusiasm is conveyed not just by what you say but how you say it – show your interest through your body language and tone of voice.

For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because I learnt from my work experience placement that I relish the challenge of inventing innovative ways to reach new customers, and I find that I’m motivated by the buzz of meeting regular targets.’

  • Understanding of what the role involves: Make sure you’ve done your homework and have a realistic understanding of the position, its role within the team and its day to day duties. This shows you’re keen and that you are aware of the purpose of the job and its function in the organisation.

For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because it involves an interesting mix of data analysis and client-facing work’.

  • The self-awareness to reflect on your skills and strengths: Show the employer that you understand what you’re good at, and that your abilities match up with those the role requires.

For example: ‘In the exams at the end of my second year, I got 80% in an exam which required me to notice tiny differences between very similar cases under time pressure. This made me realise that attention to detail is one of my key strengths. As this role involves a significant amount of copy editing and checking of small details, I think it would be a good match for my skillset.’

  • Understanding of the company: are you interested in this particular company or organisation? Show that you have researched them and that you know what makes them different from their competitors (even if the differences are quite small!)

For example: ‘I am keen to work for [your company] because of the emphasis on multi-disciplinary teams. During my work experience, I had the opportunity to work alongside people from the marketing and business strategy departments, and I enjoyed the diversity of perspectives and innovative solutions this produced. The fact that this role would involve working with colleagues from across the organisation really appealed to me. I was impressed that the company encourages this style of working; I also think that collaboration tends to create the most interesting and cutting-edge ideas, and so I think my approach to work is aligned with your values.’

Don’t forget to visit the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus for our top interview resources.