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Ask James Caan – Issue 96

Written by Kimberley Startup | May 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear Member,

With unemployment on the rise once again, it’s affecting all levels of applicant, including graduates. Not so surprising, news coverage recently revealed the dip in the graduate job market meant an increased proportion of finalists found employment prospects as ‘limited’.

In this competitive climate, leaving university with a good degree is no longer enough to secure your first graduate job, instead there are a multitude of tests, interviews and considerations to make in order to separate the ‘good enough’ from the ‘very best’.

On the up-side, with some innovative thinking and a willingness to go the extra mile, the right opportunity might not be as far away as you think. But how do you make someone hire you?

This week I was approached by Tanmay, a recent graduate who has been shortlisted for a leadership graduate programme within a global company. She has been invited to an assessment day and asked to give a ten minute presentation about herself.

She wrote:

‘Can you please provide me with some important tips and advice so that I can make my presentation up to the mark?’

Firstly Tanmay, let me congratulate you on getting this far in the interview selection. The Leadership Graduate Programme is an excellent opportunity for eager graduates like yourself, to gain skills, experience and knowledge required to influence the direction of an organisation. It also provides a great platform to build future business leaders.

Before you begin, I recommend familiarising yourself with the process if you have not done so before. offers plenty of practice tests and advice to aid you to success.

One of the typical requirements of an assessment day is the chance to present yourself to the employer. This is a chance for employers to assess your talent and suitability within the organisation and the job. Particularly in your case, Tanmay, the employer will be looking for ambition, passion and the potential to influence and lead a business to greater success. As such, it is important to market yourself correctly and demonstrate the value you can bring to ensure you stand out from the competition.

As a starting point, I suggest considering the ‘5 W’s’ – who, what, where, when and why. Who are you? What do you want to achieve within the company? Where are you going to achieve this? When are you going to do this? (Once you receive the job of course), and why are you the candidate for the job?

When preparing a presentation, no matter what the subject, it is important to be aware of your target audience so you can tailor the content accordingly. This will ensure you address them with relevant information and are consequently better able to hold their attention throughout the presentation.

The structure of your presentation should comprise a short introduction where you can mention a few personal things, such as where you attended university, in order to establish a connection. The main body of your presentation will highlight how your skills, experience and knowledge will improve their company. Finish with a conclusion stating why you are the best candidates for the role.

Leadership graduate programmes typically look for those who can work with staff of all levels, deliver projects within tight timescales and recognise where improvements to a business can be made. Based on this, analyse your professional and academic accomplishments and consider how they are relevant to the employer and the role you’ve applied for. Turn any weaknesses into strengths and use stories to demonstrate your best attributes – but don’t waffle.

Yet it’s not just this information that’s important, your attitude will count too. Employers want confident and competent people for the job, but are unlikely to give you the chance if you come across as boastful or self-important.

Remember, the best candidate is not always the smartest one, nor the most accomplished one. It is the one that can successfully demonstrate that they are the person the employer should hire, and if done so correctly you will certainly be taking the first step towards a long and rewarding career.

Good luck.


James Caan

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