Career inspiration: Nadiya from GBBO

Posted by S Donaldson on 14 October 2015


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week you’ll know that Nadiya Hussain quite rightly won 2015’s Great British Bake Off. Her acceptance speech brought a tear to many an eye and her victory has been all over the papers and EVERYWHERE online.

But this is a careers blog. Surely we can’t make the GBBO about careers, right?


We think Nadiya’s performance holds important career lessons for us all. And we’re going to tell you about them.

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Topics: News, employability skills, Comment

Start your own blog!

Posted by Mark Gilbert on 17 July 2015

We really hope you are finding these posts useful and interesting but have you thought of writing a blog of your own? It could be a great way for you to improve your language skills and to develop your own writing style. Karen Deadfield talks you through the basics.

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Topics: employability skills, International Students

5 books to further your career

Posted by S Donaldson on 1 July 2015
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Topics: networking, job hunting, employability skills, Interviews

Is it better to study a law degree or not? 10 tips to help you choose

Posted by LouiseOgle on 30 June 2015
Would aspiring lawyers be better off studying History or Maths instead?
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Topics: employability skills, law, career choice

Leadership programme for disabled students

Posted by Rosalind Kemp on 2 June 2015

Common Purpose is a charity that runs leadership development courses and they are currently running a programme in partnership with Santander called Frontrunner for Disabled Students. It's a three-day residential course that takes students behind the scenes of a city to visit an incredible range of organisations and their leaders across different sectors (many of whom will be potential employers). Following the course, students will be able to apply to the Santander sponsored internship scheme.

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Topics: Diversity, Jobs and Internships, employability skills

Have you missed this visa option for temporary work in the UK?

Posted by Sue Moseley on 29 May 2015
Image courtesy of by cuteimage
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Topics: employability skills, International Students

The Study China Programme

Posted by Mark Gilbert on 28 May 2015


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Topics: employability skills, International Students

80,000 people did this last year - now it's your chance and it's free!

Posted by Sue Moseley on 27 May 2015

Want to learn how to make effective career decisions?

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Topics: networking, job hunting, employability skills, CVs and applications, career choice, International Students, Interviews

(Not so) Tricky Interview Questions

Posted by Laura Mackenzie on 26 May 2015

One of the most popular services we offer is interview coaching. Most people we work with have one or two ‘killer questions’ that they are dreading the most. So here, based on a random straw poll of careers consultants from across London, are the top 3 interview questions that students and graduates fear the most. And how to prepare yourself to approach them more calmly when you’re next in an interview situation. You’re welcome.

The opening gambit – ‘so tell us about yourself’

This seems like an innocuous question to open with, but it ranks high on the ‘least liked’ list. Why? Because it is so open ended, and there is a sense that the interviewer is looking for something specific but as the interviewee you are not always sure what that is. Rather than risk a long answer that might not give the panel what they want, consider the following preparation tips:

  1. Write down the key skills, experience and motivation you think the interviewer is looking for in their ideal candidate
  2. Next write down 4-5 things you could say about yourself in a short answer to cover the following – e.g.
    • What you are currently doing (e.g. ‘studying’, ‘working as X’, ‘just back from travelling’ etc)
    • Brief history of relevant experience (e.g. ‘whilst studying I did 3 internships related to X’)
    • Summary of your anticipated next step (e.g. ‘having had these experiences I am now looking for a permanent role in X where I can use my X,Y,Z skills)
    • 1-2 points about your wider interests (e.g. ‘Outside work I am a keen cyclist and like to spend weekends out with my local cycling club’)
  3. Check your list – have you talked about things that might give the interviewer some of the evidence they might be looking for in terms of the skills, experience or motivation of their ‘ideal candidate’?

The one about your weaknesses

Next stop –the one about your weaknesses. Immediate stress trigger for many interview candidates. Why? Because we are primed to think of an interview as a ‘sales pitch’ – our opportunity to convince the interviewers that we have what they are looking for. Top tips to prepare for this question:

  1. Identify 2-3 genuine weaknesses that you have in relation to work
  2. Think through whether any of these are going to be a ‘show stopper’ for the employer (e.g. being anxious about networking for a PR role) and then identify the one that is least risky
  3. Be prepared to be honest about that weakness, but also to be very clear about what you have done, and continue to do, to mitigate that weakness. It’s not about pretending everything is fine now, but about convincing the interviewers that you are self-aware enough to have strategies for ensuring that your weaknesses do not become a problem in the workplace.

The left-field ‘brain-teaser’

How many toasters were sold in the UK last year? How many hairs are there on a dog? How many strange and seemingly irrelevant interview questions have been used to torment interview candidates in the last year?

These types of questions are usually used for two reasons: a) to test your ability to handle the pressure of an unexpected question which appears to have no obvious answer; or b) to evaluate your ability to think your way logically through to a plausible answer from an uncertain starting point (and under time pressure). Essentially no one knows the actual answer to these questions, but there is usually some way to make an informed, reasonable guess. The key skills being tested here are logical reasoning and common sense in combination. Question: “How many toasters were sold in the UK last year?”

And the key to answering these questions? Pick a reasonable starting point that you have some data on, from which to make some logical inferences. Let’s do a worked example …

Question: How many toasters were sold in the UK last year?

  • Step 1. Don’t panic: the interviewers are not expecting the ‘right’ answer; they are more interested in your approach than the answer you end up with.
  • Step 2. State your starting assumptions: start off by identifying some possible starting points. This is a logical thinking puzzle with very little hard data, so tell the interviewers what assumptions you intend to start with. In this case it makes sense to think about the population of the UK in relation to number of households and toasters per household.
  • Example: “So to try to answer this question I’m going to start with the population of the UK at c.60 Million. I’m also going to assume for the sake of argument that an average household in the UK has 4 inhabitants. Therefore we are talking about 15 million households who might need a toaster, and that typically a household will have one toaster each.
  • Step 3: be clear about your logic: be clear about the logical conclusions from your assumptions – the ‘if this, then that’ arguments:
  • Example:If a toaster lasts on average for three years before being replaced then households will be replacing their toaster annually. Therefore I would say that a comfortable estimate would be that c.5 Million toasters are sold in the UK annually.

Not many of us look forward to a job interview, but with a little bit of preparation and a lot of focus on what the interviewer is really looking for, you can turn the tricky questions into opportunities to show what you have to offer.



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Topics: employability skills, law, Interviews

International Student Guide to UK General Election

Posted by AndyWalsh on 29 April 2015

When is it?

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Topics: employability skills, International Students

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