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Is it all about experience? A graduate's guide to standing out

by Sellick Partnership | 21 July 2016

So you have great academics, all of the right qualifications, experience and necessary skills for that dream job, that should be all you need, right? This may have been true ten years ago, but nowadays this does not tend to apply. Your potential employer has used your academic and previous experience to create a shortlist and now they have the difficult task of attempting to build a picture of the type of person you are, and whether you will be a good fit with the business or team you will be working in. 

It comes as no surprise that in such a buoyant jobs market, especially the graduate market that many employers are now looking beyond qualifications and experience to decide on an ideal candidate for a role. I have been asked on a number of interviews about my interests, what I enjoy doing in my spare time, and at Sellick Partnership we often ask this to any candidates who we interview for roles. It is often the dreaded question, but in reality this is an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your personality as well as platform to demonstrate you are passionate about what you do. In fact, your interests section not only shows your potential employer a little bit of your personality, they show skills such as time management, organisation and that all important work/life balance. 

Now you know the importance of putting your interests on a CV here is how to do so: 

  • Make a list of all your extracurricular activities, achievements outside of work, charity events and fundraising you have been or are involved in.
  • Although most hobbies will help to give the employer a good indication of your personality, make sure you link your hobby in a way that the skills you have gained to how you can use them in the workplace.  For example running a marathon shows commitment and dedication. If you have coached a local sports team then this shows that you have good leadership and supervisory skills. Or if you have recently organised a local charity event, this shows that you are able to plan ahead, manage a large workload, and stick to a schedule; all of these skills are vital parts of any role whether at a junior or senior level.
  • Always be honest - Saying that you are a keen runner, when the last time you ran was to make sure you weren’t late for work one day has the potential to backfire if the interviewer brings it up in conversation. This can seriously ruin your chances of a second interview and immediately gives the employer a bad impression of you as a person. It is better to include nothing than to lie.
  • Make sure it is relevant - One thing to make sure of is that the skillset gained are relevant to the role that you are applying for.  Avoid generic interests such as "I like socialising” or "going to the cinema” - try and think of something you enjoy or that you have done in the past that is unique and will set you apart from the competition.
  • Link your hobbies to any achievements that have come from it. Maybe you have achieved a grade in one of the musical instruments you play or maybe you have recently received an award for that charity work you’ve been doing. All of the above show skills that would be of interest to a future employer, so make sure you really think about how you can use your progress to highlight your drive and ambition.

The graduate market is a tough market, but don't worry! With a superstar CV and persistence you will be able to work your way to that dream job.  Have you read this blog and realised that you actually don't have any hobbies apart from having a marathon of your favourite TV show on a Sunday? Go out and try and find something that interests you or volunteer for something your passionate about, it really can be the difference between you and that all important interview!

If you are looking for a new role in the Finance sector, contact us on 0151 224 1480 or for further guidance on how to perfect your interview technique, visit our candidate resources sections.