ARE YOU READY?!
Companies around the world are recruiting at any point of the year.
Have you thought about what to consider when picking a graduate employer? It’s one of the big decisions to be made to kick off your career, so ensure you are well prepared, rational and considered.
We are going to cover off 3 main topics:
- How to choose companies to apply for and what factors to consider
- What questions to ask yourself to ensure you are accepting the right job
- Where to find the information you need to make informed choices
When picking a company to apply for (and if you should accept the offer) there are many factors to consider. Of course you will always consider what your gut, heart (and parents) tell you to do, on top of this there are logical and constructive factors to consider and analyse, which have been listed below.Factors to consider when choosing which companies to apply for AND if you should accept an offer:
Is bigger better? Would you prefer working for multinational or an SME? Consider the impact of company size. There are advantages and disadvantages to both big and small companies.
What’s is the salary and benefits package? What influence does salary have over you? Does a few thousand dollars really make a difference or should you accept the company which pays less that you really want to work for.
Do you like the part of the country you’ll be working in? Do you prefer to work in the city or suburbs/ rural locations? Ensure you apply to the relevant companies that work for the location you want to be in.
Is it easy to get to work every day? This can be an important factor as a long commute can really start to effect some people, it’s certainly not the be all and end all, however keep it in mind if it’s important to you/ if you will have a commute over 1- 1.5hrs each way.
How does the company compare to its competitors? Ensure that you do your research and understand if the company you are applying for is keeping up with its competitors or is it falling to the way side? If cutting edge technology is where you want to be, then ensure you pick the right company.
Is the business performing well and are there opportunities for growth? This is a harder factor to assess, however for a listed company, you can easily check the financials. For non- listed companies you can research recently published articles and see if there are any insights into a reduction in revenue, high volume retrenchments or shutting down of offices/ warehouse/ plants etc. This may not always mean that the company is not performing well and may mean they are off shoring for example. It is however good knowledge to have in mind to help ensure you make the right choice and listen for warning signs. There is nothing worse than when companies rescind the offer a few months after you received it and you are stuck without a graduate position.
The hours of work. For some people working a 9-5/6 job is very important, for others working until 9 or 10pm is essential on their path to success. If work life balance and flexible working is important to you, then it is essential you understand what your work hours will look like before you start. MANY students are so dismayed when they start and realise they finish at 9pm at least 3-4 nights per week. Steer clear of particular industries such as investment banking or law firms if you want work life balance.
Flexible benefits packages. It goes without saying that typically large companies have more benefits than smaller ones as they can afford it and also have providers wanting to supply to them. Generally small companies really struggle with this aspect, but don’t let a free phone and discounted movie tickets sway you.
Social life. It’s hard to get an insight into this, the best way will be ask the manager directly “what are team dynamics like outside of work hours?”. If you get a chance to chat with a current graduate during the process, you can easily ask them directly what the social life is like. Finally, ask your networks to see if you know anyone who works there and ask them what the culture and social life is like in their eyes.
Is the work challenging? It’s a complex question as it’s seen differently in everyone’s eyes, but worth working out early in the piece. Some graduate roles have you fetching coffee and running files for the first 12 months, some throw you straight into real and challenging work from day 1. Ask the right questions to find out what the work will be like.
Does the organisation value Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? This is far more important for some people and industries than for others. This will be easy to find on the company’s website.
Long term career prospects. There are 2 factors to consider here: 1) what happens after your program is over? Will the company slot you straight into a role, or do you have to interview for one or is your graduate program contract only and only top performers will be offered a permanent role? 2) Pretend you have a role to go straight into after your program, does the company offer you the career prospects that you are looking for? Will they give you access to the tools required to develop your career as you expect?
Overall reputation of the employer. How is the company viewed in the market and by family and friends? This can often be a bigger factor than you expect. There are many industries and companies that aren’t viewed positively by the surrounding community. If others view’s and comments on who you work for is important to you, than it’s worth keeping this in mind.
Training and development. This is a very important aspect of all graduate programs. Often large companies have structured and tailored programs for the period of the program. These T&D opportunities gives you access to great training and can quickly enhance your knowledge. Remember some companies are too small or can’t afford formal programs, however you will get this exposure via the breath of work you will get exposed to in smaller companies. This information is often on the graduate part of a company’s website and if not, ask directly what the T&D program looks like.
Overseas opportunities. Overseas work is a very alluring option and becoming more prevalent with graduate jobs. If this is important to you, feel free to ask the question directly. Overseas opportunities are an awesome and engaging way to understand new cultures, gain international knowledge and a quick way to ‘grow up!’.
Security of employment. It’s important to understand the company’s current market position. There are tell-tale signs to be careful of such as closing down of offices, recently published articles on the company having ‘troubles’, financial issues, recent graduate programs being reduced, missed or offers rescinded before the graduates started. All tell-tale signs to be aware of.
The culture within a particular organisation refers to the pattern of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours which influence how people work together. Culture is a very powerful force inside organisations, something developed and always active. A great deal of the selection process is intended to ensure you will fit in with and maintain the existing culture. Ensure you join a company where their culture and values fit in with yours.
We appreciate the list is quite long but all valid things to consider. Some people may only feel 5 things on the list are worth considering to them, some may consider 15, either way ensure you are thinking about your priorities and future when making your decisions. Write it out on paper and make a list!
Once you have applied and started in the recruitment process, it’s time to ask yourself (and the company where applicable) probing questions to double check what you thought and researched was accurate. Often we have one view and impression of a company, however once we start engaging and go through and interview, it’s not at all what your expected, the work, the people, the culture and not at all where you want to be. Some of the below questions once in the recruitment stage will help you flush this out.
Asking the right questions now can increase the chances that your next strategic career move will be smart professionally and a fulfilling experience personally. You will want to evaluate:
- How the skills developed on this job will impact your next career step- will this job set you up to fulfil the area, speciality or industry you want to work in?
- How the size and culture of this company will impact your goals- you can relate back to the earlier point on this, will a large company, for example help give you the breath of technical knowledge that a small one may be able to give you?
- The professional development path for this job and how others moved along it- this way you can help navigate and map your own journey and understand what you need to aim for to continue along the path.
- Who succeeds, who fails…and why- GREAT question to ask and even better if you know the findings. There is no one equation to success, everyone has their own paths, however there certainly may be specific examples of events or traits to / not to display that have affected graduates before you.
- How the company and this manager are known to treat employees- it is well known and proven that the majority of people quit their jobs because of their boss or the people they work with, not the company or the work they are involved in. So from the upfront, ask questions, get to know who ever you come across in the process, ask around your networks and be true to your inner voice, if you think you won’t get along with the manager, likelihood is you won’t- trust your instincts!
It’s a little different for graduates, however before starting, we suggest for you to understand how you are going to be evaluated and on what grounds that is used to determine your future. Don’t wait to find this out a your first review 6 months in, as you will have already missed out on 6 months of understanding how to put your best foot forward, be upfront and ask questions.
- What are the projects/responsibilities that will take up the majority of your time every day? How does management prefer these responsibilities/projects to be executed? How will success/failure be judged? What feedback/direction/coaching can you expect to ensure that your efforts are on track?
- How is your performance judged on a daily and weekly basis? How can you get feedback? How will it be delivered?
- How your manager’s performance expectations and evaluations will be communicated?
- What would this manager like you to have achieved at end of thirty days? Sixty days? Ninety days?
As a side note-some companies are starting to develop ‘post programs’ for after the graduate program, which exposes you to extended development and growth. These programs are usually designed for top performers and there will be assessments involved to be accepted. If you want to be on those programs (who wouldn’t?!), you should ask from the start about what these programs entail, what the assessment criteria are and what you can do to meet those criteria. Understand what professional growth and potential career paths for someone joining the company as a graduate looks like, and how others have moved along such paths.
Now we move into the final section of where can I find graduate job adverts and further information apart from company websites.
Most people start their graduate job search investigation by asking their networks- family, friends, other students or university careers services. These are always a great place to start.
After this, it’s time to start in depth research and learn how to connect and build networks effectively via the mediums out there.
Here are the various ways to engage:
Go direct to company websites and don’t just gloss over! Read about their values, points of differentiation, career paths, etc.
Ensure you connect with your preferred companies on social media– Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and blogs are excellent ways to engage as you have real people from the company, (often from the graduate team) who are managing these platforms and there for you to ask questions directly. It’s often a quick and easy way to get personalised and direct advice from the company.
At interviews- ensure you make a concerted effort to speak with as many people as possible to get a good feel for the people and culture. Your best approach is try and chat to recent graduates at the company, as they will probably give you the best insight into the company.
Face to Face Careers Fairs– these are now dwindling events across many countries in the world, however still prevalent in others. If you are interested, it is a great way to meet directly with people from the business and a great chance to leave an impression (hopefully a good one).
Virtual Careers Fairs– this is still relatively new, however gaining popularity FAST! Many countries are still to join the craze, but for example Australia has a Virtual fair run by Career One. Have a look at Careerone Virtual Fair. This is also an excellent chance to engage as employers reply to every question posted and often have ‘live air’ time to answer your questions real time or present on a life video feed.
University Careers Services are often the most useful but totally underutilised resource for students. Careers services are there to help you find a job and connect you with the employers of choice. They often have excellent relationships with corporates and also help them target ‘top talent’. We would strongly recommended for you to understand what your careers services has to offer, be active in using their services and don’t be afraid to ask for help to leverage off their networks and industry contacts. Read our careers services blog to learn how they can help you.
Websites who list Graduate jobs are a great way to see multiple jobs and industries at once. You can often list your profile, engage with employers and get access to further information on these sites. See below for some of the ones we at UC Grad Recruiter rate: REVIEW THIS WHOLE SECTION
Australia, Asia, London:
There are a lot of websites in the graduate world who rank the ‘top graduate’ companies to work for (see some examples below). These results come from surveys by graduates in their respective countries. The thing you must be cognisant about is often you will see the big brand names at the top of the list and typically, all the way through, this is because often these companies graduates are invited to participate and have a larger number of graduates in each cohort which brings results up the list due to the game of percentages. Sometimes you will see it listed as smaller and larger intakes, but not smaller and larger companies. If you want to work for a small or medium sized company who is a specialist in your industry of choice or it’s your passion to work in SME as a future business owner or someone who wants to develop broader and wider skills sets, we would suggest these lists may not be as useful for you.
It’s easy to say, but we’re being honest when we tell you to not accept an offer because you have received one. Make a concerted and educated decision based on the list you developed and what factors you deem important that we have mentioned throughout this blog. Make the right choice and choose for YOU. Don’t choose for a company just because they have offered you first and pushing you for an answer. As a recruiter, we have all experienced a graduate accept our offer, to only decline it sometime later. It happens and we are all aware of it. But what’s worse for companies is if you accept and start out of obligation to only leave 6 months later for that offer you should have accepted. Again, choose for you and not whoever has offered first.
- Make a list of factors important to you when choosing who to apply for
- Ask the right questions to understand if it is the company you want to work for
- Do your research on the company, find out everything you can and connect with them via any means they have available
- Accept the offer that is right for YOU. You are the one who is going to have to work there.
GOOD LUCK and happy applying!
UC Grad Recruiter.