Gradguide’s Mark Hughes offers his advice to graduates searching for their dream job and going for their first interviews.
As the summer draws to a close, many graduates will have already started thinking about their options for where they should go next. Companies from a wide variety of industries offer graduate programmes and other opportunities to get early talent started on their careers.
Before the mad rush of applying for those programmes kicks in, we spoke to Mark Hughes, the founder and CEO of Gradguide, a Dublin company that pairs students and graduates with mentors and tech companies.
“For those who do want to be proactive in their job search, it is certainly not a bad idea. We are seeing layoffs, particularly in the tech sector, making it tougher again to land entry-level positions,” he said.
“If you want the upper hand ahead of the next hiring intakes in September/October, I would recommend getting on top of what we call ‘the artefacts’. This involves updating your CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile.”
One of the biggest mistakes graduates can make, according to Hughes, is taking the first role they’re offered or only interviewing in one company at a time.
“When you are coming from full-time education, the pressure is on to secure a role fast and start earning. This can lead to graduates rushing into the first job they get offered, which might not be a fit for them,” he said.
“They are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing them. They should take their time and be involved in multiple processes to give themselves peace of mind and leverage to negotiate their salary.”
While we have all started to settle into various hybrid and remote working arrangements in recent years, new graduates will now have to adapt to these environments.
This can give graduates more opportunities in different locations or even different countries. However, it can still be challenging to get to grips with a new job while in a hybrid or remote environment.
Hughes said it’s a good idea to try and find a mentor to help navigate these changes. “By leaning on somebody a few years ahead of you for guidance, you can avoid their pitfalls and get insider tips on how to land your first job,” he said.
“Grads still rely heavily on the advice of career counsellors, university career departments and their parents, who all entered the job market for the first time many years ago. With the constant rate of change, particularly in tech, you are better off seeking advice from somebody a few steps ahead of you on the career ladder you want to climb.”
Acing your interview
When it comes to your graduate interviews, Hughes said the most important thing to do is practise.
“Interviewing is a skill and requires lots of dry runs before the real deal. You can find frequently asked interview questions online on sites like Glassdoor, you can study the cultural values of a company on their website, and you can find recent news articles on Google for each company,” he said.
“Become a ‘master of information’ regarding each company you are interviewing at. Then practise your mock interview scenarios in the mirror or with your mentor. Make sure you have three to five questions prepared to ask at the end to show you are genuinely interested in the company and opportunity. Lastly, be sure to be punctual, polite and presentable for each interview.”
When graduates do land that first job, Hughes said it’s important to be curious and ask questions.
“Become a sponge to everything going on around you and have the self-awareness to know the first six to 12 months are going to be hard,” he advised. “It is the same with starting every new job, the first few months are tough getting up to speed. Have patience, work hard, and it will all be OK.”
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