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Rising Stars Webinar: August 2022

Graduate RecruitmentStudent Recruitment

As the marketing executive at GRB, I spoke to four fantastic candidates, from our 50 Rising Stars, about what they are looking for in their first graduate employer, what would deter them, how they research companies, and much more!

These four candidates will give you a detailed insight into what type of employer they are after, in hopes to land a top graduate job. Being part of our Rising Stars scheme means that you are the top candidates in our pool, so hear what Joe, Danny, Nimrah, and James have to say about their expectations. 

Introduce Yourselves!

Joe: I'm a graduate of Lancaster University, I did economics undergraduate and now I’m doing an MSc in management. I found that in economics I wanted a bit more corporate awareness, so I decided to do management to find out all about all facets of business outside of that. I really like media so I have taken part in all three student media within Lancaster and I produced my own show called Lancaster does First Dates which was quite fun in my second year. 

Danny: I’m a mature student that decided to go to university in search of a challenge and to change careers. I used to own and manage a small electrical contracting company and I’ve done that for around eight years, I then went on to the university of Leeds where I studied a foundation year in place of A-Levels in science, followed by a civil and structural engineering degree. I discovered that I love programming along the way and decided to go into an MSc in computer science. I want to run a scholarship scheme for the university of bath called the global leadership award and that cemented my decision to study at Bath University. I've just finished my thesis from that course and preparing for my job search so I’m interested in software or web development roles or project management within the construction or tech sectors.  

Nimrah: I recently graduated with an integrated master’s in biochemistry at King's College London, I recently wrapped up my thesis which was looking at the effect of pharmaceuticals on the environment and outside of my studies I really enjoy travelling and also learning languages.

James: I just graduated from the University of Durham and I've got a BSc in Physics, I chose to study that to improve my technical knowledge and work on my problem-solving skills and moving forward I'd like to try and use those problem-solving skills in a new role to help out companies.

Q1. What would you be looking for in an employer? What are your expectations for your next role?

Joe: I think the first thing for me would be a continuous learning path, I'm big on the fact that learning should not just take place in university it should take place in the workplace as well. I'm looking for a company that can put a spotlight on looking at their graduates and knowing they're not the finished project, they really want to help me develop business and personal skills. Workplace culture is also important, I'm more so focused on actually going into the workplace, so I thought that a company needs to have not just a dual approach where most of the time it's remote. I think it's really a positive thing when people come together in the office. I want the business to put out a really good message I think that's really important for me, I don't want to just go to work and be working for a paycheck because what's the point in that?

Danny: I would second that on the education front, as a junior developer, I'm going to be going into a role that requires constant learning and personal development so I’m looking for an employer that really fosters this kind of environment and encourages continued professional development. This could be through a well-structured graduate scheme with good mentorship or maybe time and funding to take extra courses on top of your workload. I also want it to be a clear and speedy route to senior developer roles or project management and the required milestones to attain it laid out clearly for me. 

Nimrah: I agree with the things that have been said. I think it's really important that when you go into a role that is a clear career progression and they do allow room for growth just so you feel like you're not doing the same thing on a day-to-day basis. I do think it's important that there are kind of set milestones. I think one thing which is really good is when employers encourage you to gain extra qualifications and they support you in doing that. I think another important thing would also be a supportive environment, I think as fresh graduates, and for a lot of us it would be the start of our career, so I think if we do have that supportive environment where you are giving room for growth. 

James: I definitely agree with what's been said so far and I would definitely like an employer who makes it clear the roots through which I can progress in the company and will assist in my own personal development. Personally, I quite like an employer who is flexible with hybrid working, especially with trains always being on strike nowadays. Someone who's flexible with coming in or working at home.

Q2. What would stop you from going forward with the company and what would put you off? 

Joe: I think a really good window into what it would be like to work for a company is how it feels to go through their recruitment process. I think a lot of the red flags can come from that, so if you get to an interview stage, a lot of times the interviewer themselves can provide that look-in at how the company actually works and how the actual employees feel about it. I also want the company to have everyone at the same level and not split up; I want the senior management to be involved, and  I want a cohesive workplace. I want to see that everyone all of my colleagues are being valued that's a green flag, but if they don't do that, then it's a red flag. 

Danny: If a company are not growing but they're constantly hiring new grads, this is a red flag for me. I don't want to be working for a company that has a high turnover of grads. Rigid and inflexible working policies would also put me off, I mean many companies since the covert situation are now offering hybrid and remote working and I'd really benefit and value that benefit. Limited opportunity for learning or progression would also put me off as would low salary benefits package; and one other issue in the tech world is convoluted and long-winded hiring processes. So if a company wants me to spend half a day doing an assignment do three technical coding challenges and followed by six interviews then I'll probably look elsewhere. 

Nimrah: I would say one red flag would be a company where you feel like you're really being rushed through the whole recruitment process and you feel like you are being pressured to make a decision. I think that can give insight into the workplace that you would be in. I also think other red flags would be where the recruiters are vague, they're not really being transparent. They may not be giving you all the details on your role and the place where you would be at the company, I think it's really important that you are kept in the loop from the beginning and you're given as much information as possible. It can really set you up for a good start at the company.

James: I agree with what's been said so far, I think if recruiters are vague about what your role would actually be that's quite off-putting I'd also say if they're constantly hiring low-level employees and there's quite a high turnover, I'd say that's a red flag because that indicates it's probably not the nicest environment, and similarly if there are quite a few people in senior positions who have been there for a while and then not many other people who've been there for a while; to me that might indicate there's not much room to progress. I’d probably find that off-putting as well.

Q3. Are there any new skills that you would like to develop on or any existing skills that you want to improve? 

Joe: A big thing for me is that I want to improve upon my creative skills, I want an environment that fosters that, with my courses, I've done a lot of generalist stuff so economics is very much looking at the bigger picture. I want to actually develop some practical skills that may not have been developed at university. A lot of university studies are theoretical and I want to get some actual practical experience. Obviously, communication skills can always be developed, in my opinion, throughout university I always seek to develop that, but I think a big thing is constantly liaising and doing presentations, I think you can always improve. 

Danny: I think going into a developer role, you're never really going to stop improving on your current skill set the space is too big to know anything so you're always going to be learning. I'm predominantly a python developer, I'd like to become an expert in this language and I'd also like to continue to develop my existing skills in full stack web development. I’ve done a project thesis based on a full stack web app to extend my skills in this area and I'd like to learn a bit more JavaScript and a front-end framework called react, to re-develop my front-end skills. Outside of development, I'd really like to work on my management and leadership skills, particularly in larger teams.

Nimrah: I agree, I think it's important when you're in a job role to be given the skills where you can lead more, so maybe more management skills and also more taking the lead in things so you can grow your independence. I think it's important that you're given the skills there and you're given room to take the lead in things where um things are maybe not as structured and you're given the independence to work things through on your own, rather than the answers being given to you.

James: I'd say that over the course of a degree, I've built up my problem-solving skills quite a lot. I'd like to continue to build on that and really learn how to solve problems in more creative ways. I'd also agree with Nimrah about the management skills; I would definitely like to improve that side of it because that's not something I've had the opportunity to do with my degree and I think it would definitely help my career moving forward.

Q4. How would you research the companies to find out as much as possible about them? 

Joe: My first port of call is always the company website, I think it's really good checking off all the tabs within the website, where you can find out more of the surface-level stuff about their business. What a really useful tool is LinkedIn; with the field that I want to go into, I'm constantly looking at what companies are putting out on their LinkedIn, I think that's a really good way of finding out what their general vibe is. You also want the company that you work for to be interesting and fun and I think LinkedIn gives a really good sense of ‘would you actually enjoy working at this company?’ and  ‘do the employees want to write about their experience?’. I also talk to my friends in the sector a lot about roles, so I’ve found out about companies that way. Career advisors at university are very helpful as well. 

Danny:  I also start with the website and straight to the about page, I find a little bit about the company, their values, and mission; I look into the leadership, where they've come from and where they're headed. I also check out their blog, give them a google, and see if there's any news, or any red flags that come up. Maybe have a look at the stock price, see if the company's healthy, I then turn to LinkedIn; I think it's good you can look at all the different employees that are employed in a company through LinkedIn, and you can look at their recent grads, see what universities they come from, what they've been studying, and what their backgrounds are, to get a bit of an insight into what the hiring managers are looking for. I find that quite helpful.

Nimrah:  I would say aside from the company website really just kind of using LinkedIn so looking at what the company posts and also looking at the people who work there, and the environment that the company has. I would also say sometimes you can use other websites such as Glassdoor, which people share their experiences at the company, obviously everyone's experience would be different, but I think sometimes if you see common themes, it can really give insight into what it's like to work for the company.

James: My first port of call would be the company website as well, to find out a bit more about the structure of the company, about what the company does, what different areas do they operate in, and then I would probably turn to Glassdoor to find out like what it's like to work for the company and to see if there's any major red flags that pop up. I should probably check Indeed reviews, to really see a different perspective, but similar to Glassdoor really.

Q5. What is then the final deciding factor that makes you want to apply for that job?

Joe: So you've done the research, a lot of times for me, at this level, when you're finally deciding I think there's a lot of stuff as you go through the recruitment process that you put in the back your mind. There might be little thoughts that go off in your head – ‘is is this enough?’, etc. and I think that the final stage is really addressing those little thoughts about the company and really facing them head-on. At the beginning you might have glanced over them, you might want to put the company in the best light possible, so you continue with the recruitment process, but I think at that final stage you really need to address those little things. 

Danny: I think for me a good mix of the tech that I'll be getting to work on; the speed of the progress that I'll be able to make once I'm within the company; how well the graduate schemes’ are laid out; the culture fit; I know what team I'm going to be working with; and of course, let's not forget the salary. It's an important issue too, so the salaries are deciding factors are the benefits package that's offered 

Nimrah: I would say for me it would be looking at the bigger picture, so after going through various stages and researching the company, it would be about ‘can I see myself working there?’ and ‘does the work they do interest me?’ and ‘do I feel I would have enough room for growth in that company?’, and just looking at the overall picture to see whether I can actually see myself working at that company on a day-to-day basis.

James: For me, it'd be a couple of things -  ‘do I actually like the work the company does?’ and ‘would I like the work and the role I'd be in ?’, and then I'd consider if the salary meets my expectations. Then I start to consider logistics, like would I be able to actually get there? Would I have to relocate? 

This has been a great insight into what these four fantastic candidates expect in their first employer, and I want to encourage you to take a look at their Rising Stars profiles via 

You can access their profiles by clicking ‘Request Account’, or contact me directly at [email protected]. To access the interview in video form, please visit our YouTube Channel.
I’d like to thank Joe, Danny, Nimrah, and James for joining me in this interview, and I hope that you have learnt a lot about them and their ambitions! 

I am the Marketing Assistant for GRB, I mainly focus on the marketing activity, growth, management, and candidate attraction for our mentoring programme, Graduate Mentor. I have a wide range of experience in other industries such as HR and customer service and have worked in other GRB departments such as HR and the sales department. I also fully manage our Rising Stars programme.

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