You are a recent graduate scouring the graduate jobs section across all available newspapers. You’re registered with numerous job sites and awaiting their alerts as new jobs are posted. You’ve been to a few job interviews but frustratingly been unsuccessful due to ‘lack of relevant experience’.
For those seeking graduate jobs it’s important to understand what ‘experience’ actually means and why it is relevant to for employers with job vacancies. If you are an employer looking to take somebody on, there are a few basic questions you need to ask in order to make decisions upon someone’s suitability for a role. What has this person done before? Is it relevant to what I want them to do now, and if so how relevant? And finally have they done it well?
There are a couple of fairly simple recruitment ‘laws’ which come into play here. Firstly, people’s basic traits are consistent over time, and from one context to another. Secondly, people’s behaviour is consistent from one context to another and over time. To translate this, if somebody has done the task you wish them to perform before, and done it well, the chances are strong that they will do it well again. If someone has displayed desirable traits in other contexts, these should be consistent into the future in new contexts. In summary, an interviewer can use past behaviours and experiences to predict future behaviour in a job role.
So how is this relevant to a graduate looking at new jobs, particularly a graduate with no previous work experience? Ultimately your prospective employer will have a ‘shopping list’ of what traits and experience they would like to see. If the employer can find someone doing the exact same job, with a fantastic track record, they may look no further. Although even this is not straight forward, if they are doing a fantastic job, what are their motives for looking to move to an identical job? Perhaps they aren’t doing so well after all? Perhaps they are awkward to work with and have fallen out with their manager? Sometimes a fresh graduate, highly motivated to make their mark and prove a point is a better bet. But how do we overcome the ‘lack o experience’.
Your task is to find past behaviours and achievements which are related and ‘transferable’ to your prospective job. For example, you are a graduate looking at sales jobs, but you have never held a sales job before. How do you answer when asked ‘have you done any selling before’?
Let us consider a definition if ‘selling’. Selling could be defined as ‘persuading someone to change their behaviour’. Have you ever done this before? Of course you have, countless times. You may have persuaded a group of 10 friends to attend a party at college instead of watching the football. So what process do you go through to achieve this? You will have sold the benefits of your proposition against their current choice such that these benefits outweigh the benefits of watching football.
So, if you are able to demonstrate that you understand what the task of selling involves, the process you need to go through to achieve sales, and can give ‘transferable’ examples of having achieved this, you can convince a prospective employer that you have the ability to deliver results in a sales job, even without direct experience. Employers will also enjoy the show of tenacity. Clearly you don’t have sales experience, but to use the experience you do have to demonstrate your potential is the sort of resourcefulness employers love to see.
Summary of top tips when applying graduates jobs
1) Create your employer’s shopping list. There should be enough clues in the job advert, you may be able to get more from either the recruitment agency or company concerned.
2) Analyse your past and find situations where you can demonstrate the qualities they are looking for, even if it’s not the direct same scenario you should look to demonstrate ‘transferable’ skills.
3) Remind employers that whilst you may not match others of more direct experience, remind them the transferable skills you can demonstrate and also that you are hungry to prove a point and want to make your mark.
4) Don’t be put off if you don’t get the first job you go for, very few people do, interviews are like anything, they take practice.
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