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All you need to know about the SAT
With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.
To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we asked students who are already abroad to share their experiences. Here a former student of Warwick University, Aruni Mukherjee shares his advice on how you can improve your chances of landing a job post graduation.
In the first part of this article I discussed how Indian students studying at a British university can hone and develop their skills in order to be more employable when job-hunting. However, it is perhaps useful to have an inkling of what the process would entail, and how best to tackle each stage. I appreciate that for some industries the following process might be different, but as a general rule this is what you expect to see during the recruitment process.
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An important thing to remember is that for graduate positions starting in September, the recruitment process begins in September/ October of the preceding year, particularly for applicants who require a work permit (which takes time to process). So your third year of studying will have to be juggled with applying for jobs, an additional hurdle that you must overcome.
Your university will almost certainly have a dedicated careers service which will guide you towards the main employers in the sector you are targeting. Many careers services run sessions to develop your communication, presentation and interpersonal skills, and these are a good way of testing yourself. You may also find that a careers tutor is prepared to proof read your application, so make full use of the resources available to you.
During the academic year, your careers service will organise a number of employer events focussing on particular sectors or large graduate employees which you should attend to get an idea about your potential employer, and speak to current employees to understand the profile of the person they are looking for.
Once you have decided on a few employers to target, the actual recruitment process begins. Almost invariably the first stage will be filling out a lengthy application form on the company's graduate recruitment website. Expect a whole host of questions on your educational qualifications, extra-curricular activities and skills. You should also expect qualitative questions such as "Give two examples of situations where you demonstrated leadership" or "Demonstrate how you have displayed organisational and problem-solving skills from a past experience."
It is because of these questions that I suggested you should get some decent work experience and get heavily involved in the running of a university club or society. In India, it is pretty difficult to clock up such valuable experience, so your three years at university is all you've got.
If your application is considered strong enough to proceed to the next stage, you will get an e-mail from the company (usually within two or three days after submitting your application form) asking you to sit for some aptitude tests online. These will be timed, and are always in Maths but can also be in Maths and English.
The Maths is not difficult in itself -- its just basic arithmetic. However, the test is styled as a comprehension, and is very time-pressured, so don't expect an easy ride. The good thing is that it is a multiple-choice test, so you should know whether you have given yourself a good chance of landing the right answer. The English test is also multiple-choice and is comprehension-type.
If you've reached this far, you've definitely got something! Again, contact will be made with you via e-mail within two or three days of you completing your online tests. You will be informed about the location, date and time of your interview and reasonable travel expenses will be paid.
In other words, you have complete freedom to focus entirely on the upcoming interview. Your interviewer will make you feel very welcome and comfortable. Be polite but confident, a lot can be communicated through your body language and posture.
The interviewer will be a manager in the department you have applied to. The interview is usually based on two things: first, building and expanding on the qualitative questions asked on your application form; and second, a set of competencies that the company looks for in its potential employees. These are rather generalised (such as "good team worker" or "resilience"), but you must be able to give specific examples through your education and/ or work experience and/ or extra-curricular activities that you have displayed most of these competencies.
You will almost invariably be asked about your motivation applying for that particular job, and the reason for choosing the company. The answers may be "Because the job pays well and the company is famous", but you must have more substantial responses than that. I suggest you prepare thoroughly for the interview, usually by visiting the company's website, researching what the competencies are, and carefully going through the thought process of why you decided to apply.
There is nothing wrong if you have a few burning questions during your interview. In fact, employers like inquisitiveness in an applicant. The interviewer will give you the opportunity to ask questions, so feel free to ask meaningful ones.
You should be very proud of your achievement if you get through to this stage, as very few people do. Again the communication of the logistical details will be via e-mail, and you can expect (though not demand) to be put up at a plush hotel for the night if the location is a long way away so that you can direct your energies towards the process, not worrying about how to pay for the commute.
The structure of the day varies across organisations, but usually it comprises a second interview (this time with a senior manager or partner) for which you may have to give a small presentation, a group discussion and an e-tray (or in-tray) exercise. You may also have to take some aptitude tests again.
The e-tray exercise is designed to test your analytical and organisational skills. You will be given a computer in which you will see a virtual inbox. You will get e-mails and you have to respond appropriately within the given time to ensure that all e-mails have been responded to. You will get follow-up e-mails based on your responses, and these have to be cleared before the time elapses. The in-tray exercise is the non-electronic version of this test where you will be given a number of files on your desk which you have to clear before the given time.
The group discussion stage is pretty self-explanatory. My suggestion is not to be the most talkative person who hijacks the discussion. Make your points, but give others an equal opportunity too. There will be assessors in the room who are looking to see how you work in a team, not how you dominate one.
A few days after the assessment centre you should get an e-mail with an outcome of your application and some feedback on your performance (always very useful for improving your prospects in the future). If you haven't been successful this time, keep plugging at it because it may not be your fault at all. It may be that the company was after a different skill set profile.
If you are successful, go out and celebrate! The process is extremely challenging, and you have done marvelously well to come through the tunnel with a job offer in your hand.
Part I: How to boost your employability
Have you studied abroad? Do you have advice for students heading abroad? Helpful tips on how to tackle the visa interview or applications process? Did you encounter unexpected roadblocks when you applied to a foreign university but managed to overcome them? Are there paperwork issues that students should know about but don't? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice and we'll publish your tips right here on rediff.com.
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