Careers terms explained


Whether you’re writing your first CV, applying for internships or about to start your first job, you might find there are a lot of terms out there that you’ve never heard of before. So here’s our handy guide to some of the main terms you may come across when it comes to the world of work.

Job Hunting

CV – A CV is a tailored document matching your skills and experience to a particular job role. You should keep your CV up-to-date in case you need to send it to a recruiter at short notice.

Cover letter – This accompanies your CV as part of an application. As well as introducing your CV, it explains your experience and how it relates to the role, whilst outlining your motivation for applying.

Job description – Advertised vacancies will have a job description, which outlines the tasks and responsibilities involved with the position. It will include the skills that the employer is looking for, which you’ll need to match in your application, any may include information such as salary range and who the position reports to (line manager).

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Situational Judgement Tests: The Basics

quiz-1373314_960_720A situational judgement test (SJT) forms part of the recruitment process for many graduate schemes. From an employer’s perspective, they are an efficient way to sift through high volumes of candidates. Candidates are presented with a series of  work-related scenarios and need to choose which solution or action is the most effective from a series of options provided.

The task could include:

~ ranking a list of 4 or 5 responses in order of merit

~ choosing the best answer from several possibilities

~ deciding on the most effective and least effective answers

These tests are tailored to individual employers to reflect situations relevant to the job and look for the characteristics important to them. They measure your ability to make the right decision in a difficult situation and scenarios could range from ethical dilemmas to difficulties with workload, colleagues or clients.

See WikiJob for some example questions, with explanations for each answer. For some detailed information about each question type and what they look like, see this excellent resource from Assessment Day. You can also find a free situational judgement test to practise.

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The Basics: Job Hunting

Whether you’re trying to find part-time work, looking for an internship or getting a position after graduation, job hunting can be a bit daunting. But never fear! We’re here to help.

What is job hunting?

Ultimately we meaning finding work in whatever form – full-time, part-time, permanent, temporary, internships, work experience etc. Learn to job hunt effectively for one kind of work (say a part-time job) and you will be able to use the same skills for other types (when you are then looking for a job after graduation, for example).

You may also think that we mean looking at vacancy websites – but there’s so much more to job hunting than that. It’s about finding work opportunities wherever they might be.

Where do I start?

Know what you want to do?

Then you are effectively doing a targeted, specific job hunt. You need to develop your industry understanding (known as commercial awareness)- find out as much as you can about how the industry works, the key companies (big and small) and how hiring is generally done. For example, jobs in finance are usually advertised on company websites and jobs boards, whereas finding work in the film industry is more common through networking and word-of-mouth.

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The Basics: Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests – one of those things that your parents probably never had to worry about when they were applying for work. But now it looks like you can’t get a job without acing one of these tests. But what exactly are they and how do you do well on them?

What are they?

Psychometric tests (also referred to as aptitude tests) are used by many larger recruiters.These are typically timed multiple choice tests that are to be completed independently by applicants. Different employers might use these tests for different reasons – whether to objectively filter down the number of candidates that they invite to interview, or to benchmark a candidate’s attributes against those who have been successful in that role.

There are a number of different test providers, such as Watson Glaser, and within those providers, there are many different test types, including:

  • Numerical Reasoning – deducing an outcome from data in the form of ratios, percentages, graphs and tables.
  • Verbal Reasoning – A test of logic, from a given written statement. Typically candidates might be asked whether a statement is true, false, or if there’s not enough information to draw such a conclusion.
  • Critical thinking – tests a candidate’s ability to solve new and complex tasks – closely related to verbal reasoning.
  • Situational Judgement Test – tests how you might approach a variety of scenarios in the workplace – giving you options of how you might best respond.
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – tests that assess visual problem solving and processing skills.

The type of tests you are asked to do will likely depend on the nature of the role. For example, if you are applying for an engineering role, you will more likely be faced with a diagrammatic reasoning test, than if you were applying for a law graduate scheme – where you might more likely face a situational judgement test, along with verbal and critical reasoning.

They sound scary!

Many students feel anxious about psychometric tests. Some might feel they are impersonal and don’t reflect their abilities, while others feel they oughtn’t prepare for them since employers should already be able to deduce that they have good problem solving skills from their CVs and experience.

Psychometric tests are nothing to be scared of. There are definite ways to improve your likelihood of a positive outcome (discussed further below), and employers aren’t trying to trip you up.

students 2

How are they scored?

Typically, tests are not scored in terms of getting more than x% means you have passed. Instead, psychometric testing bodies test people who have been successful in their chosen career areas, and used these scores to benchmark applicants against. Therefore, there’s nothing to say that achieving 40% won’t mean you progress – it all depends on the benchmark – and this is something we cannot know. It’s always a good idea to do your best!

Ok, so how can I best prepare?

You can do a lot to increase your likelihood of scoring well. Familiarity & confidence have been shown to positively impact psychometric test scoring by up to 30%.

Do the test on the last day you can to give yourself time to best prepare. Typically you will be given a 3-7 day window in which to complete the test. Use those intervening days to try as many of the following tips as possible.

Practice intelligently – if the test requires you to do 30 questions in 30 minutes, it’s potentially a really good idea to do many of the practice tests under no time conditions at all. Many candidates have reported doing really well after taking 10 minutes to answer 1 question in practice – in order to understand the different ways in which they might approach the question, and also try to understand how the test writers are operating. In this way, candidates can better appreciate their favoured method of answering certain question types, and so can save time in the real test as they already know how, for example, they’ll approach a question relating to ratios.

In this way, let the speed build naturally.

Find out what kind of psychometric test the employer might be using: websites such as Glassdoor, Wikijob and Studentroom might help, or failing that, phone up and ask the graduate recruitment team! Use this information to ensure you’re practising on the right kind of tests.

Check out the QMUL Careers & Enterprise website – we have some terrific resources there which tell you all about psychometric test and you can have a practice using the Assessment Day website which we have a subscription for.

Always read the instructions of the tests – specifically around possible negative marking for incorrect answers.

Lastly – be fully rested, and find a room where you won’t be disturbed for the test.

The team at QM Careers are completely behind you, and wish you the best of luck!

The Basics: Assessment Centres

Sitting nervously in a room surrounded by strangers, participating in group discussions and activities, all the while being watched by someone with a clip board – sounds like the stuff of nightmares right? Well Assessment Centres are not as scary as you might think. If you have some idea about what to expect and how to do well, it can be a great opportunity for you to shine!

students group

What are they?

In a nutshell, assessment centres are part of the selection and recruitment process designed to evaluate how well you handle various work related tasks. For the employer, it’s a great way a) of testing lots of applicants at the same time and b) seeing how applicants cope under pressure, interact with other people etc.

They can be a half day, a whole day or sometimes even a weekend, and can include a variety of things from interviews, to group exercises and maybe psychometric tests. Different assessment centres will have different components, so if you are invited to attend one, always make sure you know exactly what you will be doing, so you can prepare properly.

What to expect

Each assessment centre will also be different depending upon the role/industry you have applied to. For instance, if you have applied for a position in retail you might have a group task that revolves around customer service. For a more technical role, you might be given more psychometric tests. To help you prepare, it’s a good idea to have a look back over the job description and to research the company.

Broadly speaking, expect there to be a lot of applicants and a number of recruiters whose job it is to watch you and make notes. You will probably be split into different groups and giving an itinerary of the day (what will happen when). For some bits you may stay in your group (group exercises or presentations), for others you might be split off (interviews).

How to do well

  • Make sure you’re presentable and professional at all times.
  • You’re being watched, even on your lunch break, so always be polite and friendly.
  • Talk. Even if you feel overwhelmed or shy. This is particularly important in the group task – if you don’t talk you’ll get a zero by your name.
  • Practice – if you have to give a presentation, practice this out loud beforehand and get feedback from other people.
  • We sometimes have mock assessment centres here at QMUL. Take a look at our events calendar to see if one is coming up that you can book onto:
  • Join the committee of a university society. This is a great way of experiencing what it’s like working in a small team, having a meeting and coming up with a decision on how to address an issue (like where to hold your end of year party).

And feel free to book an appointment with the Careers & Enterprise Centre to talk to a Careers Consultant about group work or practice a presentation, for example.

The Basics: Interviews

Famous 1960s actress Katherine Hepburn once said, “Death will be a great relief. No more interviews”. A lot of people feel a bit like this about interviews, but unfortunately there’s no avoiding them. Read our tips on how to get through an interview with confidence and you never know, you might even end up enjoying it!

What is it?

It may seem like an obvious question but interviews vary so much that one is rarely the same as the other. It could be a panel interview where there are three or more people asking you questions, or a one-to-one situation. The questions could be competency based, motivational based, or a mix. It could be quite formal, or quite relaxed. It could follow a strict structure or be more like a casual chat.

So, while you might have had an interview for a part-time job, or perhaps to get into university, an interview for an internship or graduate job might be very different. The key thing to remember is that whatever form the interview takes the basic aim is always the same: the employer is trying to see if you are the best person for the job (the best qualified, the best experienced and the best personality to fit into the team).


Where do I start?

So, one quick and easy way to help with interview confidence is to remember the 3 Ps.

Preparation. Much of whether you are successful in a job interview is determined before you enter the room.  It’s putting time put into preparing for a job interview which makes the biggest difference.  How can you prepare well?

(a) Research the company.  Every employer wants to feel like you are interested enough in they do to have put effort into finding out about who they are and what differentiates them from others.  Use social media, their website, online magazines and professional body websites to really get to grips with the organisation.  As you read, ask yourself questions such as, who are their competitors?  Who are their clients?  What is their mission?  What do they want to be known for?  What have they done recently that interests me – products/services/deals?

(b) Think about examples for the different skills that the employer is looking for.  Scour the job description for clues on what these are and then take some time to think about when you have used these skills inside and outside of your course. Try and draw your examples from different areas of your life.

Practise. People sometimes struggle to articulate the things that they’ve thought of in their preparation. It’s one thing having a thought and it’s another communicating it clearly to another person. Get a friend to ask you questions or practice saying your answers out loud to yourself.

Power poses. Believe it or not, research shows that the way you sit/stand before you go into an interview influences the chemicals in your body so that you feel either more confidence or more anxious. Finding a private spot somewhere and adopting a power pose for a few minutes before interview can improve your performance. Intrigued?  Hear more on this Ted talk by Amy Cuddy.

I need more help!

Take a look at our website which has loads of information about preparing for interview. You can also find our interview simulator there, where you can practice some of your answers.

There’s also lots of information about interviews in the Careers & Enterprise Centre and once you have an offer of an actual interview you can book an appointment to have a full practice with a Careers Consultant who will give you feedback on your answers. Call 020 7882 8533 or come into WG3, Queens to book an appointment.

The Basics: Cover Letters

A cover letter is the opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and impress an employer. It is the place to explain your motivation to do the job, your enthusiasm for the particular role and, most importantly, demonstrate a clear understanding of the organisation that you are applying to.

‘Little things are infinitely the most important.’ according to Sherlock Holmes. This is the key to an effective cover letter. Always include specific and relevant information about yourself to make you stand out.

QM Careers can guide you through this but you will need to create a draft version before booking a cover letter check with a Careers Consultant. Always remember to bring the original job description to each appointment.

What is it?

A cover letter is not just a repeat of your CV.

It is a single page letter, never longer than an A4 page, which is a tailor-made personal statement for a particular job and organisation.

A well written cover letter must always convey a competent and professional attitude.

cover letter-page-001

How do I write a Cover letter?

Clue A: Why them?

Always research the company before you start writing. Identify what it is that makes you a good fit for the organisation and use hard factual evidence to illustrate this. Avoid any blatant flattery or vague statements.

Clue B: Why you?

Impress the employer that you have the skills, experience and personal attributes for this role. Illustrate your unique selling points with three or four concrete examples rather than try to cover everything. Make yourself memorable – employers often read up to 1000 cover letters at a time which means that you need to include evidence that will make you stand out.

Clue C: Be professional

Your cover letter is a professional business document. It must be well presented and contain zero spelling errors. Always make sure you get someone with a good eye for detail to proofread your letter.

Clue D: Gaps in your CV?

Deal positively with any gaps or weaknesses in your CV. Explain the reasons you may have taken longer to finish your degree by using positive language ie this demonstrates resilience when faced with challenging situations.

More help?

Take a look at these websites to ensure that you understand the importance of a well written cover letter before you start to write your own version.