How to Get the Best Graduate Job
Insider Strategies for Success in the Graduate Job Market

By David Williams, et al.
Pearson / Prentice Hall
February 2006
ISBN: 0273703552
160 Pages, 5 ½” x 8 ½”
$29.95 paper original

You're one of 400,000 students to graduate from university in a year. You want a good graduate job. Yet you know competition is fierce. This is the first book to go behind the scenes and show you exactly how you do it.

Over the last three years, two leading political economists went behind the scenes of the graduate jobs market. The first independent observers ever to be allowed into assessment centers, they sat in on final interviews, observed psychometric tests being given, and watched decisions on candidates being made.

What they discovered was that there were far fewer graduate jobs than anyone had realized, that the way that the successful candidates were chosen was arbitrary and subjective, and that some candidates had worked out how to manipulate the system in order to secure the jobs for themselves.

Part 1: The Brutal Facts
• How nearly everything the reader knows about graduate recruitment is wrong
• How government, employers, universities, careers publishers and on-line job-sites maintain the myths about the size of the market
• The real size of the top jobs market – 20:1
• Where the graduates who fail to get these jobs disappear to
• What this does to graduate salaries
• The effects of this potential loss of lifestyle, status and parental approbation on what some graduates are prepared to do in order to get the job they want
• How competitive the market really is
• How to use this book – each section gives you the facts and then suggests some strategies

Part 2: The Pre-Cull and what to do about it
How your chances are determined before you even think about applying
• How there are so many potential applicants that employers have to actively prevent most of them from applying
• How employers only push their vacancies at a few carefully-selected universities
• How the vast majority of students never hear about some of the best opportunities
• How the UCAS points-bar further discourages applications
• How, for those students who do have enough UCAS points, some employers give the impression that they have more jobs than they really do
• How in some cases this means that the chance of getting some graduate jobs could be as low as 40:1
• Looking for vacancies they won’t show you
• Turning down vacancies they do
• How the time you spend on application forms should be invested according to a realistic assessment of your chances of getting a job
• The three things that make a difference to this: your understanding of your self, your skills and your commitment; understanding the ratio between applications and vacancies; how you can estimate those chances
• How to write answers to behavioral questions

Part 3: The Cull and how to avoid it
application forms ? CVs ? cover letters ? what employers want to see in them
• Employers have to cull applicants down to the manageable few whom they are prepared to meet face to face
• How they do this (while avoiding explicit discrimination)
• No 2.1 – No chance?
• What employers say they look for – professionalism, evidence of key competencies, addressing the questions they ask of you
• How, despite all their rhetoric about organization-specific key competencies and cultural uniqueness, all employers want something very simple: a 2.1 who’s fun and who knows how to fit – that is someone who has the blend of intellectual hard skills and interpersonal soft skills that modern knowledge-work requires
• What differentiates the millions of 2.1s who’re fun and who fit from the tens of thousands who get the jobs is the idea of employability
• How employers expect to see a narrative of employability that they can read in an application form and then see performed at interview
• How some middle class and upper-middle class candidates already instinctively understand this
• How despite the employers advertised commitment to inclusiveness and equality, ethnic minority and working class candidates cannot presume that their differences will be appreciated
• Commodifying the self, but at what personal cost?
• Soft skills and hard skills
• Creating narratives of employability from your soft skills
• The difference between commodifying the self (articulating the soft skills) and lying (making up the hard skills)
• The sorts of acceptable activities that demonstrate these skills: prestige sports and hobbies; volunteering; exotic activities in far-away places; low-wage or no-wage internships
• What to do if you do not have these experiences

Part 4: Making the Cut
assessment centers ? psychometric tests ? interviews ? job offers
• What goes on at assessment centers
• The different types of tests and assessments used: in-tray tests, psychometric tests, group discussions, competency-based interviews
• The tests used to check your hard skills, and how a few jobs do require essential hard-skill competencies (such as advanced chemistry)
• The tests used to look at soft skills
• Criticism of these tests; the science of gut feeling; can such tests ever be objective measures of someone’s ability or potential?
• How employers use the tests to confirm decisions made in other ways
• How employers commodify candidates: nerds, razors, stars, geeks, etc
• What they say about you after the interview is over
• How the final selection is actually made
• The way that candidates approach the assessment determines the outcome
• Players versus purists
• How some candidates have the cultural resources and skills to play the assessment centre as if it were a game
• Living up to your CV – constructing not just your CV, but your entire self according to what you think the employer wants to see
• How far will you go?

Part 5: Deal with it – The Brutal Strategy
• This is how the market works
• How you approach it could determine your status and your income for most of your twenties, if not beyond
• How far you are prepared to commodify yourself within the market
• How to avoid commodification
• Taking control
• The personal cost of commodification, of faking it and of playing – losing touch with your authentic self
• How the requirement to be successful never ends
• If the selection process involves such compromises, how far is it any individual’s fault if they do not secure a graduate job?
• Making your peace with the market

• This is the first book to reveal how graduate recruitment really works and how some students work the system – and get the jobs.
• Highly practical – will tell graduates exactly what they need to know and what to do about it.
• The ONLY book to be independent and research based – this book tells you how it really is (not how the recruiters say it is, or how people suppose it might be).
• The authors are two political economists and a broadsheet journalist

David Williams is a freelance journalist and a regular correspondent on recruitment issues for The Guardian and The Times. He contributes editorially to the Hobsons Careers Guides series, and his work has also appeared in The Independent on Sunday, The Irish Independent, Wanted Now, IT Now, CareerScope, The Author and Eat Japan. He is the author of Kicking: Following the Fans to the Orient (Mainstream, 2002) and he has been a guest on the Simon Mayo Show on Radio 5 Live.
Phillip Brown and Anthony Hesketh are political economists. Their research into the graduate market made the lead story in The Times on March 29th 2004 and generated leaders in The Times, Daily Mail, Times Higher Education Supplement and Western Mail. Phillip Brown is Research Professor at the top-rated Cardiff University School of Social Sciences. Books include High Skills: Globalization, Competitiveness and Skill Formation (OUP, 2001), Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in a Global Economy (Palgrave, 2001).Has extensive media experience. Anthony Hesketh holds a PhD from the six-star rated Lancaster University Management School where he is currently a lecturer in the Department of Management Learning. He is the author of Beg Borrow or Starve (Lancaster Press, 1997) and his media appearances include Channel 4 News and Radio 4 News at Ten.


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