Securing an industrial placement in the electronics manufacturing industry can add a deeper level of understanding to your degree studies and can provide an invaluable boost to your future career. But with so many applicants competing for so few opportunities, it's vital you do everything you can to stand out from the crowd.
This blog post talks you through the typical interview stages you're likely to encounter as you go through the application process, and offers some tried-and-tested tips to make the best possible first impression.
Probably the most common form of assessment you're likely to encounter is the phone interview. This often takes place at the very start of the assessment process, and can act as an initial point of contact between you and your prospective employer. Sometimes the call may be pre-arranged, so you'll have time to prepare answers to specific questions. But in other cases it might be sprung on you with no notice at all.
The very first phone interview I had, I was in the gym at the time. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest and I was completely put on the spot. So my advice is, once you've entered into the application process, be prepared for the phone to ring at any time.
Many companies use video interviews as a way to vet their candidates. In some cases these might be a live conversation via Skype but they can also take the form of a recorded session where you're simply given a link to a web page and have to record the answers to a set of questions.
Being put in a position where you're sitting there staring at and essentially 'talking to yourself', can be a very strange experience. In my case, I had just thirty seconds to prepare for each question before it started recording. This really put the pressure on, as I was trying to think of an answer whilst also watching the clock.
A lot of the video interviews that I took part in also quizzed me about my knowledge of the company. So make sure you go in well prepared. I strongly advise that you do a lot research beforehand, and get clued up about their current affairs.
Even though you may not be actually speaking to a real person, it's still important to treat the computer screen as if it's a human being - so maintain eye contact, be friendly and engaging - and smile.
Face-to-face interviews can be a daunting prospect. No matter who you are, and how prepared you are, nerves will be present. But the one piece of advice that I have always been guided by is to ‘be yourself’.
A lot of the questions that I was asked in interviews tended to follow a generic formula. The key though was to be ready to provide answers that were personalised to meet the requirements of the different companies I was speaking to.
The STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) approach was also really helpful when it came to answering competency-based questions in an interview. Competency-based questions are used by employers to find out how we react to certain situations, by asking us to provide real-world examples from our own experience.
Using the STAR method enables you to structure your response to these questions by describing a specific situation you've experienced; explaining the task or goal you were looking to achieve; outlining the specific actions you took to address that situation; and then explaining the result (or results) of your actions.
Assessment centres are becoming increasingly common as a means to narrow down the list of potential candidates. The good news is, if you've reached the stage of being asked to attend an assessment centre, then typically, you will have already 'passed' a number of the internal 'checks and balances' and are moving towards the final stages of the selection process.
Every company will have its own unique structure for the day. However, you can expect the assessment to consist of a combination of group activities, face-to-face interviews and presentations.
I attended three assessment days, and all three required me to do some preparation before the day. It's so important that you do this prep work, or you could run the risk of falling at the first hurdle.
Lastly, looking the part is always important. My advice would be to arrive on the day well presented and if needed, go out a week before and buy yourself a fresh suit or dress. At the end of the day, first impressions count.
Psychometric tests are often used by recruiters to assess your ability in specific areas. They can take the form of aptitude or skills-based tests to assess your verbal, spatial, numerical or diagrammatic reasoning. They can also be used to gain further insight into your personality type, character and values to determine your suitability or 'fit' for a particular company.
Common personality tests include the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which slots you into one of sixteen personality groups, and the Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) which tests your personality fit for a specific role.
For me the psychometric tests were probably the hardest part of the application process. Staring at a screen full of patterns, sequences, formulas and other crazy things, is a lot harder than it sounds and takes a lot of concentration. Luckily my university provided me with plenty of support and resources so I was able to practice each different form of test and then go into these feeling as confident and prepared as possible.
Securing a place on an industrial placement scheme may well feel like a daunting process. There will be stiff competition, plenty of form-filling and a few stressful moments. But by doing your homework, seeking out any available support and being ready to think on your feet, you'll give yourself a much better chance of success.