Getting on to graduate schemes: from graduate recruit to recruiter

I have recently started my last rotation on BT’s graduate scheme, and for my grand finale, I’m doing a stint in the recruitment team, focusing mainly on graduate and undergraduate recruitment. Being on the other side of the table is strange to say the least and I can still well remember going through the recruitment process myself.

So far I’ve really enjoyed the role and there is a great variety to the job I’m doing and the people I’ve met. I enjoy meeting and talking to the candidates and, being in the position of being a graduate myself, I feel I can often reassure them as I’ve already been through the same process.

My job on a day-to-day basis is varied: it can be anything from sifting through undergraduate CVs to see if they’re suitable for the summer or industrial year placements we offer; or talking to internal hiring managers to find out what kind of thing they’re looking for from the applicants.

One of the hardest parts of the job is delivering the bad news to unsuccessful applicants, and it’s the part of the job I enjoy the least, because I know how time consuming and stressful applying for jobs can be.

I’ve also been involved in the graduate assessment centres: from playing the actor in the one-to-one role play, marking the business case studies and chairing the evaluation meeting at the end of the day with the hiring managers, to discussing who has and hasn’t been successful. It was very weird being involved in this, but also really interesting to see what it’s like. I imagine what my assessment centre was like when I attended myself a couple of years ago.

One of the things I’ve picked up from the recruitment team is how important it is to be yourself. Hiring-managers who conduct the interviews want to see the real you, and hear your honest answers to the questions they’re asking. I used to believe that there were right and wrong answers to interview questions and that giving a well-structured generic answer was what the interviewer was looking for. But from personal experience I now know they’re much more interested in hearing the real answers to the questions, not the textbook answers you think you should give.

If candidates understand the real reasons why they want to work for the company that they’re applying for, and the real reasons why they’ll be the perfect candidate, then more likely than not they will come across as a lot more suitable for the job than if they use generic responses.

Another tip from being on both sides of the process is to make sure you put in as much effort into the first exercise as you do to the last. All of the exercises are marked individually, and your overall performance will be evaluated, so try not to get down-hearted if you feel one went badly. From chatting to candidates on the day and comparing this to their overall scores, I’ve also noticed that there’s not always a correlation between how well candidates perceive they have done and how well they actually did , so I would say try not to second guess yourself.

After the assessment centre, whether you’re lucky enough to get a job or not, we’ll provide feedback to you detailing what you did well, as well as your development areas. This can be a really good opportunity for personal learning. You can use this knowledge of your key points for development when you start. For example, if your presentation was where you fell down, you can try and get some experience presenting to your team once you’re in your role.

Everyone has development areas, and sometimes just being aware of them is half the battle. If you attend an assessment centre where no feedback is provided, get in touch with the recruiting department and asking for some so you can improve on things for the next time.

Hannah Salton is graduate recruitment manager at BT Recruitment Centre of Expertise

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