I spent 10 weeks this summer interning at Centrica and it was the best experience of my life. The graduate job market is notoriously difficult to navigate and with stiff competition, getting an internship under your belt puts you in a great position to get that graduate job. I am by no means an expert, but I want to share my experience and give my tips for how to land one.
||| Deciding Where to Apply |||
This is crucial, you need to find a company that suits you and you can see yourself working well with. I started by looking at the Times top 100 graduate employers and then I looked at which companies treated women and ethnic minority employees well. This is where Centrica began to shine through for me. I also looked into the culture in these companies and read their reviews on ratemyplacement. If you're going to set the goal of getting an internship at a FTSE then you need to invest time. I spent days on my application form. The way I see it, there's no point in sending a half-baked attempt riddled with spelling mistakes. Invest the time and get the reward.
||| Application Form |||
Once you've settled on where you want to apply, you'll need to start filling in the application form. You can count on needing to answer, " Why do you want to work at companyX". Answering this questions wont be difficult if you've done your research. I think my answer was a long the lines of " I want to work at a company that values women and I would grow when working in the culture of mutual trust and respect". It was phrased better that that but you get the idea. MAKE SURE YOU SPELL CHECK. Speaking to people in recruitment, they reject applicants with any more that three spelling\grammar mistakes. Some will reject even one. Again there is no point spending hours filling in these applications if you get instantly rejected by easily avoidable spelling mistakes.
||| Online Tests |||
Practice practice practice and then practice some more. I would spent an hour a day practicing in the library to make sure that I was ready for these. You will be able to do well in them if you practice; they're largely a test to see how you work under pressure. They are a way of ruling out people that don't practice. Again recruitment is looking for candidates that have been bothered to practice. Did I mention practice? There are loads and loads of free online practice tests.
||| Telephone Interview |||
Telephone interviews are usually competency based which means demonstrating a competency that they look for in their employees. Most companies have a page where they list the competencies they look for. To prepare for an interview, always think of at least one unique example that demonstrates that competency.
When answering questions, use the star technique. Here's an example, Give me an example of a time you've had to change strategy.
Situation - context e.g. I was participating in the young enterprise scheme our product wasn't making money
Task - What you needed to get done e.g. work out how to make to make a profit
Action - What YOU did not what we did. e.g. I suggested we change from a product to a service and used real evidence to back up my arguments. It was difficult to get people on board to start but the evidence persuaded everyone.
Result - what did you achieve e.g. in the end we made £400 profit
||| Assessment Centre |||
If you make it to this stage then give yourself a pat on the back. Very very few people make it here so you've already impressed recruitment. The biggest tip I can give is to talk to the other candidates. When you realise that everyone is nervous it can put you at ease. Also assessment centres often have a group task so if you talk to the other candidates, it'll make you a bit more comfortable in the discussion. Try and stay calm and be yourself. I'll give you a run through of my assessment centre for Centrica.
Group Task: We were given a broad brief to discuss. We had to discuss it as a group and give a small group presentation at the end. TIPS: Try to involve quieter people in the group. In a business people have different styles, not everyone is extroverted and loud. Sometime the quietest people have the best ideas. Contribute to discussion but don't talk over people and keep an eye on the time
Presentation: I was given all of the information I needed for the presentation. I had to give a 15-minute presentation based on the information. I was doing a HR assessment centre so I tried to demonstrate my knowledge of different HR functions and actions.
Interview: I had a one-on-one interview where I used the star technique to answer questions. My biggest tip is to always have some questions to ask at the end of the interview. I asked about the green energy future of Centrica and the challenge of recruiting people with an appetite for change as the energy market will be going through a huge transformation.
I hope this helps some of you. I'm thinking of doing another post about how to impress on an internship. Let me know what you think.