Author Archive | Rob Jack

Telephone interview success

It’s encouraging to see lots of students from Southampton Business School being invited to telephone interviews, video interviews, and assessment centres at this time of year. In her last post, Riikka explained how not to answer some common telephone interview questions. What, then, can you do to ensure you are equipped for telephone interview success?

In this video extract from our online placement preparation course, Paul Hanrahan from Enterprise Rent-a-car gives his advice; including how to prepare, where to hold a telephone interview, and some sound advice on outgoing voicemail messages…

Keep an eye on the blog this month for more tips on how to succeed in video and telephone interviews.


Tailoring a covering letter

Tailoring a covering letter is really important if you want your application to be progressed to the next stage. If a recruiter suspects that you’ve used this covering letter to apply for other organisations, they’re unlikely to progress you to the next stage.

Talking about why you want to work for that company, in that role, is the obvious way to do this, but as BSc Marketing student Andy tells us, it’s also important to tailor your skills, too. Andy is currently enjoying a placement on Regent Street at Firebrand Training.


CV and covering letter tips

Students in Year 2 have recently submitted their Individual Employability Portfolios consisting of a CV, covering letter, and mock application form responses. This formal piece of assessment ensures that you’re all ready to make great placement applications, with valuable feedback provided to boost your success.

Marking the portfolios has revealed a few common mistakes, so here’s four CV and covering letter tips. Students in Year One take note!

#1 – Passive vs Active

Subtle differences in language can really make a difference to your CV’s and covering letters. Using words like “required” or “had to” gives the impression of a passive employee who only does things when they have to. Avoiding these words will make you seem much more proactive:


Passive language examplePassive language example 2

#2 – Keep it brief

There can be a tendency to adopt an ‘academic’ tone when writing covering letters. The person reading your letter is probably pressed for time, so adopting a more ‘to the point’ writing style will ensure the content of your letter is noticed.

“I have many attributes and have had many experiences which make me an ideal candidate for this role. I regularly play football as part of the university team, and we practice every week. Doing so alongside my other commitments (such as academic studies) requires me to carefully manage my time, which has increased my organisational skills. My resilience has also developed through sports, as it’s important to keep going even if the game goes against you”.

That’s too long.

“Keeping my sporting commitments alongside my university studies has developed my organisational and time management skills, as well as resilience: keeping going when the game is against you is vital”.

That’s better!

#3 – Spell your name right

It’s the little things.

#4 – Skills!

Some fall into the trap of listing a job’s responsibilities on their CV, but don’t follow it up with the skills that this demonstrates. It’s really important that you show you are aware of what skills you possess – a recruiter isn’t going to do this for you.

Served customers and operated the till during your part-time job? That doesn’t sound very relevant to an application for a professional services firm. But what skills does this demonstrate?

– Developed excellent customer service skills, resolving challenges quickly and professionally.
– Quickly progressed to operating till, using attention to detail to ensure accuracy.

You’ve listed your skills, and evidenced them. Great!

And just to prove that skills are what’s really important, here’s a partner at Deloitte:


3 lesser-known opportunities for skills development

After a summer break, we’re back! It’s been a while since I’ve exercised my blog writing skills but with the new academic year it’s a good moment to start again.

We’ve had a think about how we can use this space for most benefit, and decided that this year, we’ll focus on a different topic each month, roughly plotting the progression of our new online placement preparation course (of which more later). So first we’ll look at skills and how to develop them, before looking at how to make great placement applications, and then progress through the recruitment process before accepting your role.

As ever, we’ll have a mix of authors, including students, employers, and colleagues at the University. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch!

3 opportunities for skills development at university

Skills – or rather, your ability to talk about them – are essential in your placement search. For reasons why, see this video extract from our new online course:

There’s loads of different ways you can develop them whilst at University, including involvement in societies, sports teams, and group work. Here are three opportunities you might not have heard of:

#1 – Become a course rep

As a course rep, you listen to your course mates and present concerns or praise at meetings with fellow reps and academic staff. This is a great way to develop your communication skills, and can provide a great example of being able to communicate at different levels.

Your leadership skills can also be furthered, as can your negotiation skills as you seek to further improve the educational experience of studying at Southampton.

Nominations for course reps close at 12pm on Thursday 15 October. More details on the SUSU website.

#2 – Business Challenges

There are a variety of different business challenges that take place throughout the year at Southampton which all allow you to develop your skills in an exciting environment.

If you’re interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, then the Social Innovation Challenge could be for you. The’ challenge’ is a one day competition to find the best social and environmental ideas for improving student life at the University of Southampton. As well as workshops on design thinking, prototyping and social business model canvassing, students will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to an expert panel for a chance to win seed-funding and a place at the Social Innovation Summit in Toronto, Canada, from 26th – 30th January 2016.

smoothie bike

The smoothie bike: a useful innovation?

Interested? Learn more here.

Employers often come onto campus with their business challenges, and on 17 November, JP Morgan will be visiting with their Operations Business Challenge. More info can be found by logging in to and visiting the ‘Events’ section. A great way for Business School students to show off their skills to a top employer!

#3 – Online courses

Taking an online course, be it a MOOC or a SPOC, is a great way to boost your skills and knowledge, plus demonstrates your motivation and initiative to an employer.

The ICAEW is currently running a MOOC with the University of Leeds entitled “The Importance of Money in Business”.   This free course “gives you the opportunity to delve into the exciting world of business, and gain the skills that are required by employers for a successful career in accountancy, finance and business.”

As a student at Southampton, you have free access to all the course on, which are not only great for developing your IT skills, but can also be used to help aid your personal development, such as this course on learning to be assertive. To login and gain access to the courses, go via this link.

If you’re on a placement programme in Southampton Business School, we will soon be launching our new online placement preparation course, which covers your entire placement journey. Watch this space!


The jobs board arrives!

It’s finally here! When we first started the Placements Office we knew we wanted to create a great way to advertise our opportunities to students within the Faculty. It’s taken a while to get there but on Monday, we went live with the board to second year students on BSc Marketing and BSc Accounting & Finance. We’ll roll it out to the rest of our students in the Faculty over the coming weeks.

We hope you find the board intuitive and hassle-free. You will see that we are primarily using it to advertise year-long placements but in time more internships and other short-term projects will appear for all students whether at the Winchester School of Art, Southampton Law School, or Southampton Business School.

Developing the jobs board was not without its frustrations and looking back, we learnt a lot in the process. Some of the lessons learned are applicable to all sorts of project management so here are my tips for anyone embarking on an ambitious development:

#1 – Research the competition

When creating anything new, it’s really worth checking out what others with a similar product are doing. This works in two ways: first, you can observe what works for others, and build it into your design. Secondly, by exploring the limitations or frustrations you encounter when using someone else’s product, you can reflect and make sure that your design doesn’t have these flaws.

#2 – Think of your user

When embarking on a project it can be easy to get bogged down in making it as advanced, or technical, or as complex as possible. You think you’ll have a product that blows everyone away, but in reality, you might just impress a few people with your know-how, and annoy the rest of your user base. When making something for other people, remember the people you are making it for! Imagine their experience, put yourself in their shoes. Does it provide a good experience for them?


Developing the board provided a great tool for reflection.

#3 – Build delays into your project plan

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