Getting Your First Post-Grad Job

Welcome Students! 

Being a new graduate can be an exciting time. One chapter of life is closing and another is just beginning. But, in many ways, finding post-grad work is a job in itself. Making that transition from student to employee is not always easy.

We’re here to support you on your journey and have outlined our best tips and actionable steps that will make your job search a little easier and lessen the worries that come with starting down the path to gainful employment.

Here’s a list of topics you may wish to explore in more depth:

Curriculum Vitae and Covering Letter

The very first thing you’re going to need to do is draft a professional looking curriculum vitae and a covering letter template.  Your CV and covering letter will be the documents that will get your foot into the door and land you your first job.

So where should you begin? First, let’s start with your CV.  Every recent graduate CV should begin with contact information and an objective. Make sure you include your current mobile phone number and email address. A quick side note on email addresses:  An unprofessional or inappropriate email address is not a great way for job seekers to make a positive impression on potential employers.  If you’re email address is anything other than generic ie. janedoe@gmail.com, set up a new one and use it going forward.

Start by writing an objective that states who you are as a professional and which position you hope to obtain.

While most professional CV’s you see continue with work experience, a recent graduates’ CV needs to begin with education. While internships and part-time jobs have been crucial to you as you’ve developed professionally, it’s not the most important thing you’ve accomplished in the past few years.

Afterwards, you may get into your professional experience. These can include internships, part-time jobs, work study jobs, etc. If you’ve had a lot of work experiences, try to filter those and include only that which would be relevant to the field you’re interested in or the jobs that have been most impressive.

Next, extracurricular activities, leadership positions and volunteer opportunities. Detailing your activity helps to show your personality and qualities, whether you’re motivated, ambitious, a team player, etc.

Finally, you can close your CV with a list of referees.  Employers rely on these references to fact-check what you told them in your CV or during interviews. For this reason, you should be sure to include credible references who can speak highly of you. And, you should let these people know that you are applying for jobs and listing them as references.

Check out the Careers NZ’s CV template builder for more help.

A Covering Letter is usually a one-page document sent with your CV to provide additional information on your skills and experience. The letter provides detailed information on your background and why you are qualified for the job you are applying for. You’ll need to tailor this template for every job that you apply for.

Career NZ also has a Covering Letter template builder.

Cleaning up Your Social Media Presence Before Job Search

Now that you’ve prepared a CV and covering letter template, you’re almost ready to begin applying for jobs.  Before you do, you’ll need to prep your social media profiles for scrutiny by a potential hiring managers or recruiters who will make judgments about you based on your online reputation.

  • Google yourself and see what’s out there in the public domain.
  • Polish and clean up your social media accounts. Make them more secure, lock down your privacy settings.
  • Make sure you have a professional looking profile photo across all accounts.
  • Delete any of the following posts: those containing photos of you partying, political and religious rants, vulgar and violent language, inappropriate statuses, relationship or personal issues.
  • Set up a professional LinkedIn page and keep it up to date with correct information and upload a professional looking headshot. Start engaging with your industry and connecting with others.
  • Before posting onto your personal social media accounts, be mindful of what you’re sharing and who is going to see it. Internet content lasts forever, and while privacy settings may protect your accounts from some threats, nothing will ever be truly private.
  • If you find that going through all your old Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts is time-consuming, Scrubber is a handy tool that show you any posts that may be a red flag to employers.

Starting Your Job Search

  • Start looking at online job postings to get a sense of what entry-level positions are out there, who the most notable employers are, and what they say they’re looking for in new recruits.
  • Be selective in which jobs you apply for and make sure you tailor your covering letter to suit each role.
  • Be prepared to get a phone call in relation to any of the jobs you’ve applied for.
  • Make copies of the job ad and your covering letter so that you can refer to it quickly should you get a phone call from a hiring manager.
  • When you are job hunting, it is important to answer your phone in a professional manner at all times. If you are in a loud place and unable to take a call from a recruiter, don’t answer your phone, they’ll leave a message and you can call them back when you’re in a quiet environment, free from disruptions.

Getting Selected to Be Part of a Hiring Process

If a hiring manager is interested in getting to know more about you and your qualifications, they’ll contact you to discuss their hiring process.  Once you are selected, you’ll need to prepare yourself for some common candidate experiences such as psychometric testing, competency-based interviewing & assessment centres.

Introduction into Psychometric Testingaccounting tests header

What are psychometric tests?

Psychometrics literally means ‘measurement of the mind’ and these tests are designed in a way to measure your suitability for a role based on the required personal characteristics and cognitive abilities. Essentially, they seek to find how you process and reason information, and how your preferred working style and personality drives your behaviour.

Tests are divided into the following broad categories:

Aptitude/ability tests: these tests usually measure your cognitive ability and assess areas like verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and abstract reasoning.  These tests can be general in nature and others will measure your ability to apply critical thinking in these areas.  Critical thinking tests assess your capacity to conceptualise, analyse and reason when presented with a specific scenario. There are also technical tests such as mechanical & spatial reasoning and visual acuity or industry-specific tests like chartered accountant or bookkeeper test.

Personality tests: these assessments work out your workplace behavioural style and preferences. Review some sample personality questions here.

Interests/Motivation tests: These tests focus on your values and motivations measuring the factors that stimulate and energise you.

Skills-based tests: Skills-based tests usually require prior knowledge of concepts associated with a particular field and therefore can include assessments on clerical skills, computer programming or a range of software products like Microsoft Office.

Situational Judgement Tests: In a SJT you will typically be presented with a realistic workplace scenario and asked to respond to it. This scenario may be presented to you in writing, as an animation or even as a film clip.  Typically you will be given a number of different potential courses of action and asked to identify what is, and what is not, appropriate.  Have a look at the following four example situational judgement test questions and answers.

What You Need To Know Before Your Test

Make sure you know whether the tests are to be supervised and conducted at the employer’s offices, or unsupervised, in which case you complete them in your own time.

Employers and Recruiters are required to provide you with example/sample questions to try ahead of the event and if they aren’t forthcoming in sharing this information with you, you should politely insist on being able to do so.  Be aware, you might be sidestepped by busy recruitment consultants or people who simply don’t know which direction to guide you, nevertheless, persist in getting an accurate test name and sample information.  Trialing the actual tests is critical to your success.  Simply going online and googling any old ability test, will likely result in you wasting your time getting prepared for the wrong type of test.

Supervised Testing Sessions

  • Where the tests are to be supervised, confirm the location and timing for the testing session with the person who is managing the testing session. If you are not certain of the location, get specific instructions from them so you know exactly where you are going on the day and can arrive in good time.
  • Find out the type of tests you’ll be taking and the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to the session.
  • Check out the website of employer you are applying for. Some organisations offer free demo material of the psychometric tests they use to help you prepare.
  • If you don’t receive a set of practice questions to prep for the day, ask for them.
  • Familiarise yourself with the types of questions you’ll be assessed on, spend some time practising with sample questions. When you know what to expect, it becomes much easier to manage stress and decide how much time you will need for each question considering you will be working on a strict timeline.
  • The night before the testing session, try to get a good sleep.
  • If you require reading glasses, remember to take them with you. Also ensure you have a working calculator with you.
  • Plan to arrive ten minutes early. Remember to allow time for transport and parking.
  • If for health reasons, you do not feel able to perform to the best of your ability on the day of testing, please inform the test administrator before commencing the tests.
  • Turn off your mobile phone before you enter the building.
  • Make a good first impression and be professional, positive and polite.
  • Read the instructions on how to complete the test carefully before commencing.
  • Try to remain calm and relaxed. Remember that this is only one part of the selection process.

Unsupervised Testing Sessions

Some employers will ask you to complete tests in your own time and send you the link to access the online system to complete your testing session.

Preparing for unsupervised tests should include:

  • Ensuring you can complete the tests in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for the duration of the assessment. Under no circumstances should you attempt timed ability and skills tests in noisy environments prone to interruption by others or to your internet connection.
  • If you require reading glasses, find them before starting. Also ensure you have a working calculator with you.
  • Read the instructions on how to complete the test carefully before commencing.
  • Complete the example questions before starting the actual test.  The example questions not only give you a valuable look at the type of questions in the actual test, but also how to navigate the test before you start the actual timed test.
  • The tests are an assessment of your current knowledge and skills. In an unsupervised setting, this requires you not to seek support from other people or the internet. Subsequent discovery of taking steps such as these to achieve a higher score could result in termination of your employment.

Here are some useful testing websites worth checking out:

Practice Aptitude Tests – a website where job applicants and graduates can take free practice tests or purchase tests.

Institute of Psychometric Coaching – provides an introduction to psychometric tests and offers free samples for practice.

CareerHunter – consists of aptitude tests, personality and interest tests providing a full report on suitable careers taking into account your skills and personal characteristics.

CUBIKS Online Assessment – offers ability tests (Logiks Intermediate and Advanced), personality assessments, situational judgement test and assessment and development centres exercises.

Psychometric Success – provides the ability to take free psychometric tests from each type/category and assesses technical and clerical ability.

Open Psychometric Test Resource – offers insightful information for each type of tests e.g. .mechanical, critical thinking, inductive reasoning amongst others, and allows you to practice for free.

Assessment Day – has free practice tests but also premium packages for which you can get 12 months online access and practice for SHL, Kenexa, Saville, Talent Q and Cubiks tests.

Job Test Prep – offers online preparation for assessment, free practice tests and aptitudes tests that are specific to a profession/industry.

Accountests.com – offers a comprehensive set of Accounting and Bookkeeper related assessments and sample questions.

NumericalTestPractice – includes numerical and other aptitude tests that allow you to test your knowledge in Accountancy or Finance and prepare for the interview.

Assessment-Training.com – offers 18 free practice tests, including diagrammatic reasoning and spatial reasoning. 

During the Test

  • Read each set of instructions carefully.
  • Use rough paper to work out calculations.
  • Don’t try to throw a curveball at personality test, you need to be candid and honest when you’re completing these and think about your preferences from a work perspective.  Most personality tests will pick up on candidates who respond in an overly positive or overly negative manner, which has flow-on effects to the application, future interviews and even development planning.  Basically, you don’t want to harm your application or be seen as evasive and dishonest from the beginning, so it’s best to answer personality questions as honestly as you can.
  • Plan your time effectively – you’ll need to allocate time for each question.
  • Don’t spend too long on a question. If you don’t know the answer, just move on to the next one and come back to the one you skipped if you have time at the end.
  • Try to work as quickly and accurately as you can in the time you have available, finishing the test in it’s entirety isn’t everything.  Remember, you can skip questions and return to them later if time allows, but best to note the question numbers skipped so you can quickly return to them if time allows.
  • Do not panic if you do not finish all the timed exercise questions – it is natural to feel under pressure and most candidates do.
  • Let the employer know if there was an issue.
  • Find out the next steps in the hiring process & who will make contact with you.

After the Test

  • Check with the test administrator or hiring manager if you are able to receive feedback on your results and what form this will take.
  • Continue your job search!

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to higher rates of accident and injury due to worker impairment. Poor judgment and carelessness lead to unnecessary risks, both for the employee who is under the influence, and for others around them.

Workplaces have to provide a safe working environment for their employees. For many jobs drug testing may be necessary if an employee’s ability to do their job can impact on the safety of others.

Pre-employment drug tests are common in industries such as fishing, horticulture, transport, construction and forestry.

What does Drug Testing Involve?

The Hiring Manager will let you know if drug testing is part of their recruitment process and will explain the type of test they use, how it works and when you’ll know if you’ve passed or not.

Most workplace drug testing involves urine testing. Urine tests detect a range of prescription and illegal drugs. You will usually give your urine sample in a specially prepared toilet area designed to ensure your privacy while keeping the sample safe from tampering or contamination. This will be done under strictly controlled conditions.  The process can be completed within 10 to 15 minutes, and the sample will typically be sent off to a lab for testing.

It’s recommended that you drink plenty of water in the hour before you’re tested to make sure you don’t have any trouble giving a sample. Urine tests do not measure alcohol, but breath tests can be given at the same time to check for this.

Once you’ve received your results from the tester then there’s nothing further to do. If you fail a drug test, you have the option to dispute the result. If further testing confirms the result, or you accept its findings, then it will most likely result in you not being offered employment.

Introduction into Competency Based InterviewsJob Interview

What is a Competency Based Interview?

Competency based interviewing is a technique that is used to discover how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations in the past. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future, i.e., past performance predicts future performance.

There isn’t a difference in the actual format of the job interview, you will still meet with an interviewer and respond to interview questions. The difference is in the type of interview questions that will be asked.

In a traditional interview, you are asked a series of questions which typically have straightforward answers like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?” or “Describe a typical work week.”

In a competency based interview, an employer has decided what skills are needed in the person they hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills. Instead of asking how you would behave, they will ask how you did behave. The interviewer will want an example of how you’ve previously handled a situation, instead of what you might do in the future.

Before the Interview

  • Review the job description, the job posting or advert. If you do not have a copy of the job description, ask for one.
  • Try to work out 10 skills and behavioral characteristics the employer is seeking from the position requirements. Use these as the basis for your interview preparation and practice answers using the STAR method:
    • S – Situation – set the scene/give context
    • T – Task or Target – specifics of what was required by who, when and where
    • A – Action, what you did, skills used, behaviours, characteristics
    • R – Result – Outcome, what happened?
    • Check out this 5 minute You-Tube clip relating to STAR Interview Technique with Questions and Answers and other resources.
  • Review some commonly asked competency-based questions here.
  • It’s important to remember that you won’t know what type of interview will take place until you are sitting in the interview room. So, prepare answers to traditional interview questions as well.
  • Research the company to better understand their ethos and what drives them. You’ll need to know a bit about their history and plans for the future.  If you can, speak to someone within the company to get the inside scoop.
  • Plan what you’ll wear – make sure you look professional and wear business attire, such as a shirt and tie or skirt and blouse and professional shoes, is best. Make sure your clothes are neat and wrinkle-free. Be sure that your overall appearance is neat and clean.
  • Plan what you’ll bring – a notepad, pen, extra copies of your CV or certificates, list of referees, information you might need to complete an application ie. Driver’s license, a portfolio with samples of your work, if relevant.
  • Drive to the interview location so that you know where you’re going the day of the interview – take note of where you’re able to park. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Prepare some intelligent questions for the interviewer and bring them with you. Here’s a list of questions that you can choose from.
  • Watch this short video on how to prepare for a competency based interview.

During the Interview

  • The minute you walk into the building, the interview starts, so ensure you’re polite, professional and positive to everyone you meet.
  • Introduce yourself to everyone in the room, smile, establish eye contact and offer a firm handshake.
  • Posture counts – sit up straight and be aware of nervous gestures such as foot tapping.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal communication.
  • Reign yourself in if you start to ramble.
  • Ask your prepared questions at the end of the interview. Seek assurance this is a place you want to work, a culture you’ll fit into and a place where your work will be valued.
  • If you are not sure how to answer a question, ask for clarification.
  • Most importantly, be yourself.
  • Cover information not discussed or clarify a previous topic — do not ask for information that can be found on the organisation’s website.
  • Find out the next steps in the hiring process & who will make contact with you.

After the Interview

  • Follow up with the hiring manager with an email. Keep it succinct, thank the interviewer for the taking the time speak with you, supply any additional information and express your appreciation for the opportunity.
  • Connect with the hiring manager or interviewer on LinkedIn
  • Alert your references that they might receive a call or email and send them a copy of the job description of every job you apply for. Keep them in the loop on your progress so that they get no surprises.
  • Begin prepping for your next interview.

Introduction into Assessment Centres

What is an Assessment Centre?

An assessment centre is an event held by a company to determine whether a candidate’s skills and personal attributes are a good fit for the business and role they have applied for.  They can be held online or in physical location and usually last for 1 full working day, but sometimes they can by 2 days long.

Before the Assessment Centre

  • Find out what to expect – you should get as much information as you can regarding assessment centre content, what you need to bring on the day and what exercises will take place on the day and allocated timing for any presentations.  If this information isn’t forthcoming, you’ll need to persist to get what you need to prepare for the day.
  • Here’s a list of the most commonly carried out exercises:
  • Aptitude and psychometric tests are a brutal, but increasingly common form of testing. The most frequent types are numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and logical reasoning. For some roles there will be tests that assess abstract reasoninginductive reasoning and even spatial reasoning.
  • Presentations: This exercise will assess your ability to create, display and deliver a presentation. How clearly can you communicate a message?
  • Group exercises: Here you will be assessed on your ability to interact in a group setting. These exercises are competitive and nerve-wracking. Success in group exercises is a delicate art.
  • Role-plays: You’ll be expected to play a part in an imaginary scenario that will closely reflect one which could appear in the role you have applied for.
  • In-tray exercise: This exercise is a business simulation and it will be your task to act as a staff member dealing with a typical workload.
  • A technical/trade test, dependent on your area of expertise.
  • Interviews: You will face a series of competency-based/experience-based/skill-based and hypothetical questions to gauge your suitability for the role.
  • Gamified assessments: You’ll play a “game” that is based on robust, scientific psychometric assessments, but creates a more engaging and contemporary looking online test. Focus will be on progressing through levels, earning points, or getting badges.
  • Plan what you’ll wear – make sure you look professional and wear business attire, such as a shirt and tie or skirt and blouse and professional shoes, is best. Make sure your clothes are neat and wrinkle-free. Be sure that your overall appearance is neat and clean.
  • Plan what you’ll bring – a notepad, pen, extra copies of your CV or certificates, flash cards with notes for your presentation, list of referees, information you might need to complete an application ie. Driver’s license, a portfolio with samples of your work, if relevant.
  • Drive to the assessment centre location so that you know where you’re going the day of the interview – take note of where you’re able to park. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Prepare for at least 3-4 of these exercises (focus your time on practicing example questions from psychometric assessments, reviewing competency based interviewing, the presentation and another area)
  • Prepare a presentation and practice giving it to a friend, making sure to complete it within the allocated timeframe.
  • Research the company to better understand their ethos and what drives them. You’ll need to know a bit about their history and plans for the future.  If you can, speak to someone within the company to get the inside scoop.
  • Prepare some intelligent questions for the interviewer and bring them with you.
  • Know the role’s job description like the back of your hand.
  • Get enough sleep the night before the assessment centre.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast that will keep you full throughout the day and try to exercise before the event if you have time – this will help to burn off nervous energy and keep your brain functioning at full capacity.
  • Check out the website of employer you are applying for. Some organisations offer information about their assessment centres & advice on how you can best prepare.
  • Watch this short video for more tips on how to prepare for an assessment centre.

During the Assessment Centre

  • Expect your day to start with some kind of welcome talk or presentation, then the assessment exercises will begin.
  • Listen to the instructions carefully.
  • Remember that you are always being assessed – whether you’re taking part in an exercise or eating lunch with fellow candidates, you are being assessed and observed.
  • Remain polite, professional and positive at all times, not just during the exercises. Don’t ‘let your guard slip’ during breaks periods.
  • Network with other candidates, get to know them a bit and develop a sense of camaraderie.
  • When participation is required, participate, be active and vocal during question and answer sessions and during group work.
  • Make sure that you have questions for your interviewer – do not be a passive object.
  • Transition between assessments quickly, if you think you’ve performed badly, try not to dwell on it. Keep in mind employers will look at your scores from all psychometric tests, exercises and other activities you were required to carry out.
  • Cover information not discussed or clarify a previous topic — do not ask for information that can be found on the organisation’s website.
  • Find out the next steps in the hiring process & who will make contact with you.

After the Assessment Centre

  • Follow up with the hiring manager with an email. Keep it succinct, thank them for the opportunity to take part in the assessment centre, supply any additional information and ask if you are able to receive feedback on your results and what form this will take.
  • Connect with the hiring manager or interviewer on LinkedIn
  • Alert your references that they might receive a call or email and summarise the job in bullet points for them – add in any points you want them to stress.
  • Continue your job search!