Applications / Job market

Aligning yourself to an employer in applications and interviews

‘Why should we hire you?’ A question asked by a lot of graduate employers in interviews to assess the candidates motivation. Warwick Law Schools Senior Careers Consultant, Rachel Vacalopoulos, suggests that convincing the employer that you share their values will help you to succeed by demonstrating that you are a good fit. 

I once asked a family friend what the secret to her long and happy marriage was. Her answer? “Shared values”. That’s all she said. She made it sound so achievable in its simplicity….is that really the secret to every successful long-term relationship, marriage or otherwise? It certainly seems that most organisations agree that it’s a good place to start, with many firms’ recruitment literature highlighting the importance they place on getting the right people for their workplace. Phrases such as ‘we are looking for someone who matches our values’ and ‘we want people aligned with our core values’ come up a lot.

It’s for this reason that I find myself saying the same thing when I’m talking to anyone with an interview coming up – try to align yourself with the firm’s values and culture when answering questions. Most people agree that this sounds like a good thing to do. But they don’t always know how to do it. As with many things, it starts with…..

Doing your Research

I always suggest starting with the organisation’s own website. This is a place for company driven information. The firm can say what its values are and market its strengths, in the hope of converting website visitors into clients. Often, in the “About Us” section of a firm’s website, there is some sort of statement as to what the firm is all about. Something like,

“We are a forward-thinking global law firm with expertise in M&A, Technology and Communication and Private Equity. Our people are driven to be the best in their field, with a real focus on building long-standing client relationships. We recognise the importance of collaboration and we work across offices and borders to ensure that our clients get world-class legal solutions and service.”

If you can remember what the firm has said about itself when you are in the interview room, this can show that you have done some research. You’ve at least looked at their website. Check. But this is actually the minimum they would expect of someone wanting a job in their organisation! But if you really want that graduate job or internship then it’s all about making links between you and the firm.

Take the example mission statement above. I would suggest reading it again, this time picking out and underlining the key words that tell you something about what could be important to this firm. Once you have these key words, you can use them to come up with examples from your own experience that match (as closely as possible) those ideas. I often suggest splitting an A4 piece of paper in half with a vertical line down the middle, and writing the key words on one side of the page and giving evidence from your own experience on the other side. For example,

  • Forward-thinking/Duke of Edinburgh Award: expedition and contingency planning due to bad weather.
  • Global/Educated in Dubai for most of secondary school: spent last summer on a 4-week trip to Africa to expand experience and volunteer in a school building project out there. Pro Bono-Death Penalty Project (USA).
  • Driven/Planned and organised a sponsored exercise marathon: Raised over £1,000 in first year so aimed to double that in second year. We actually raised £2,854 so we exceeded our target.
  • Building relationships/Work Experience: return every summer to my part-time job at Co-Op. Always stay in touch with manager. Built up trust and reliability over the years. Recently been promoted to til supervisor during university holidays.
  • Collaboration/Team-work: captained university Rugby Team to semi-finals of Inter-University Competition 2015 and 2016.
  • World-class/Academic achievement: top marks for module in first year. Play trumpet to high level but working towards Grade 8 this summer.

Looking beyond the firm’s Website 

Other resources you can use to build up a real picture of the firm include the following:

Twitter look at any social media links for the firm. This is a really good way to build up an understanding of what is important to them

You Tube Employers increasingly use their own You Tube channels to raise their profile and awareness of their brand

Marketline  Available through Warwick’s Careers and Skills website is a database providing up to date information and objective analysis of sectors and industries

If you can successfully align yourself with the firm then you could well be lining up that internship, placement or graduate job!

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