Archive | February, 2016

How to stand out from the crowd: Placement Applications

 How much do you know about the career path you wish to follow post studies?

dream job

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

strength and weeknesses


Third Year, BSc Accounting and Finance student, Joe Knowles, recently wrote an excellent blog considering the value of year-long internships to summer internships. However, in order to stand out in your year-long placement applications, amongst fierce competition from other undergraduates, you might wish to consider a summer internship.

Placement Application Challenges

Applying for a placement year can be challenging in many ways. How much do you know about the industry you will be applying to? Have you applied for jobs before, experienced assessment centres and interviews? One way to prepare yourself for your placement year job search is to undertake a trial run by applying for a summer internship.

Summer Internship Benefits

By taking part in an internship you will develop employability skills, explore a career path and gain insight into a business and its culture: as well as gaining confidence. In addition, your employment experience will enable you to accumulate evidence of your abilities to demonstrate various competencies in your placement applications, talk about at interview and best of all you can stand out from the crowd by fulfilling the criteria ‘previous experience desirable’.

Where to look for a internships……

Many companies offer students summer internships which they advertise on their websites. The length of an internship is usually between 10 and 13 weeks, starting June/July time. Application timescales vary from company to company as do their application procedures. Whilst many companies only recruit penultimate year students for summer internships – which is a way for companies to test drive talent and find future employees, there are some who will accept applications from first year undergraduate students.

Alternatively, send out speculative applications to companies or search Southampton University’s Excel Internship programme by visiting:


An Operations Interview: My experience

This blog post was written by second-year BSc Accounting and Finance student at Southampton Business School, Sujaya. Sujaya is also treasurer of the Nepalese Society.

Preparing for an interview can be a nerve-wracking task. If you’re in a similar position, don’t worry: many are feeling the same as you!

I was recently successful in an interview with J.P. Morgan for a placement year and I’d like to share my experience with you. Read on for my tips on how to succeed.

Stretch your expectations

When I started applying for placements, I didn’t believe that J.P. Morgan would be where I would end up. I loved the idea, but thought I would probably have better chances elsewhere. Nevertheless, after doing initial research, I applied for the Operations placement in Bournemouth and after talking with employees at J.P. Morgan’s Bournemouth office as part of my placement preparation, I had a better idea of what Operations was about. This proved to be invaluable: research is key!

Interview preparation

After arranging a date for the assessment, I asked my placement advisor if he could help me with the interview. I believe this was the turning point which helped me be ready. I had done two video interviews for other roles and honestly thought I hadn’t done very well. Maybe it was the fact that there was no one asking me questions or that I was unprepared for the questions, I felt nervous and uneasy which led me to getting rejections from both. After talking to my placement advisor and discussing questions about the interview and how to prepare for it, I slowly realised what I had done wrong in the previous interviews and got a good grasp of what to expect.

When I was preparing, I realised that practising with another person made a huge difference. They could give you pointers on what you did right and what you could have done to improve. I remember that when I was practising with my placement advisor, they told me to smile more in the interviews which seems like common sense but in the highly stressful environment, you can forget even the simplest stuff.

In addition to practising with another person, I practised in front of a camera and recorded myself answering questions. This proved to be useful as I could see what I had done and then tried to change a few things to ensure I was not doing anything that was too distracting, like tapping my pen on the table!

On the day

Finally, when the day came, I remember being very nervous for the interview and this was not helped by the delay in my train journey. Lesson learned: plan for delays!

When I arrived at the venue, they explained that we would have interviews first and then a group exercise. We were going to be interviewed by two people from J.P. Morgan and they were back-to-back for 30 minutes, each with a 10 minute break. My first thought was this was going to be tough but I needed to just go and do it.

Although you hear all of the horror stories about people having terrible interviewers and them being tough, I am pleased to say that at J.P. Morgan, they were friendly and did not try to force you into a mistake or make you look bad. All of my interviewers were professional and treated me very fairly. I slowly felt at ease as the interview progressed as what I had practised came up and I felt I was prepared for any questions. When they asked me an unexpected question, I tried to remain calm and ask for a moment to drink water whilst trying to find a good response. This brief moment of pause can be the difference between a good answer and a great answer so I would advise taking it.

The group task

After the interviews, we got a short break before being divided into two groups for the group exercises. We had to read a booklet which was full of information for a particular system and give recommendations based on the information. Each of us had a unique piece of information and we had to share this information later on when we had 30 minutes to discuss with the group. This proved to be quite hectic and chaotic at the first five minutes as there was a lot of information being discussed around. I nominated to be a time keeper and kept an eye on the time whilst listening to my group. It’s important to make yourself noticed in this group task, whether it is asking a question or clarifying a particular point. Also, try to not be dominating or aggressive when trying to get noticed. The best way to figure this out is to ask yourself how you would feel if someone else had repeated a particular behaviour in your group work. If you’d view it negatively, avoid such behaviour.

When the group discussion was finished, we were asked to spend the next 30 minutes writing down a presentation for a J.P. Morgan employee about the group task and this would be followed by questions. This proved to be quite challenging as the 30 minutes was not enough to discuss all of the information and we did not have the complete information. Nevertheless, I set out to talk about the points that I did know and highlighted this when I presented to the J.P. Morgan employee.

Then they asked me about my contribution to the group task and asked me to reflect on how it went. I believe honesty is crucial and I decided to talk about what I did well and what I could have done to improve it. Also, when I was asked about my team members, I explained what my team members did well and what they could have done to improve their contributions.

In summary

Overall, looking back at how my interview went, I can definitely say that I could have changed a few things, but overall I was pretty happy with how it went. The next day, I received a call from one of the people who interviewed me and was offered the placement!

I hope this will be of some help to people who are preparing for interviews and I wish you all the best for success.


Placement Year? Can’t I Just Do a Summer Internship?

The following blog post was submitted by 3rd year BSc Accounting & Finance student, Joe Knowles who is currently on a placement at Morgan Stanley.

When it comes to applying for grad jobs, everyone knows the benefits of having work experience on your CV, and some individuals will even secure a grad job off the back off an internship!

“But if all you need is some work experience, what’s the point of doing a year-long internship when you could just do a summer internship?”


Why should I?I always get asked this question at open days and, based on my own experience, here’s what I have to say:

The experience and exposure you gain on a placement year is far more powerful.

Placement positions are usually permanent roles. They are set up so that the placement student carries out tasks that are integral to the team. You’ll take over from the previous placement student and hand over to the next one when your year is up. In contrast, summer interns will often find themselves being given ad hoc tasks to keep them busy that don’t really add value to the team they’re placed with for 8 weeks.

Spending a whole year in a role will truly make you realise if it’s what you want to do long-term.

Over a short summer, you get caught up in the excitement and novelty of it all and won’t have fully considered what it’ll be like doing that type of role for the rest of your career.

People think they know what a role involves, but they don’t really.

So the job you’ve just started turns out to be very different compared to your expectations…better to find that out on a placement than at the beginning of a grad scheme! (Of course, you can pull out of a grad scheme, but you’ll have to wait another year for the next grad cycle to begin).

If this did happen to you on placement, you might think, “I still have to do this for another 11 months!” Well, you can use those 11 months to find out about the other roles in your industry that may interest you, and then use this informed viewpoint to stand out during grad applications.

If you’re really keen, you still have the opportunity to apply for a summer internship straight after! (if your placement finishes in June)

If, like me, you don’t believe you can truly know what you want to do for a career after experiencing one role in one industry, you still have the summer free to apply to an entirely different internship.

Unlike those who go straight into a grad job with no prior internships, I’ll have two different experiences behind me. So when I come to apply for grad jobs, I’ll be able to focus my efforts on securing a role that I’ll want to do for the foreseeable future.

(Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a long summer instead…)


Yet, despite these advantages, some still worry about undertaking a placement year. I’ve attempted to quell some concerns I hear below:

“I don’t want to delay graduating by a year”

What’s the rush? There’s no benefit to speeding through uni to then end up in a position you’re not happy with. Do the year in industry and then revaluate what you really want from your career.

You don’t lose out financially either. Placement years often pay very competitive salaries. Think of it as earning the salary you would get from the first year of a grad scheme before you’ve even graduated! (With a healthier bank balance, you’ll probably enjoy final year more too).

“I don’t want to leave my friendship group behind”Missing friends

Placement years are growing in popularity, so it’s likely your course mates will be going on placement too. You’ll also probably know people on other 4-year courses (e.g. Masters, Erasmus).

“A placement year seems like a lot more effort”

I won’t humour this point for too long as that’s the reality of working life, but look at it like this: Would you rather do a placement, go back to the comforts of uni for a year and reassess your goals…or: Jump in the deep end by going for a grad job fresh out of uni with no experience, discover you don’t like it, and then despair thinking, “what have I done? I’ve chosen the wrong grad scheme!”


5 top resources for interview success

We know that being prepared is critical for interview success, but with so much advice out there, knowing where to look can be troublesome.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 5 top resources for interview success. If you’ve got an interview or assessment centre coming up, these sites offer an invaluable resource:

#1 – Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a broad ’employment’ website offering all manner of company reviews, salary data, and more. It’s an invaluable resource when preparing for an interview or assessment centre. Users submit their own experiences of interviews with an organisation, from placements or internships through to graduate roles and experienced hires. If you want to get an idea of the sort of questions you might be asked in an interview for a particular company, this is a good start.

#2 – PwC’s e-learn

So you’ve got a good idea of what sort of questions you might be asked: how do you go about answering them? PwC have provided this excellent resource which gives strong examples of how (and how not) to answer competency based questions. It does have a strong focus on these sort of questions, so isn’t the best for advice on answering motivational or other style questions, but working through this resource is a great way of practicing the STAR method and preparing for interview success.

#3 – TargetJobs

You’ve probably visited TargetJobs to conduct sector research before applying for placements, but did you know they have a wealth of tips and guidance on how to succeed throughout the application process, too? From how to dress, to how to deal with nerves, this is a comprehensive resource for interview preparation.

#4 – Employer’s websites

OK, this isn’t a single resource, but it is one of the best ways you can prepare for an interview. Almost all companies will have a ‘careers’ section of their website, and you should visit and examine this carefully before arriving at an assessment centre and interview. What sort of skills are they looking for? What’s the company culture like? Has the organisation been involved in any big deals lately, or had any major developments? Researching the company before an interview is absolutely critical to success, and can help you think of some all-important questions of your own, too.

#5 – 20 Essential Job Interview Tips

Warning: please do not actually follow these tips! For a bit of light relief, though, this list from The Poke always gives us a chuckle in the office.

Browsing the (first four!) resources should help you prepare for your next interview. Have you got any of your own tips for success?