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Students and graduates – watch TV to boost your employability

Authored by Mark Butler, Talent Acquisition Manager - Graduate & Intern Team at PageGroup 
Yes I’m serious and no, I don’t mean copy what you see on The Apprentice – the only thing you’ll learn is how not to act in the business world. If all you do is shout then hopefully you’re going to be fired. Dragons’ Den on the other hand, challenges small business owners to pitch their product and themselves for investment. Essentially, that is what you’re doing as a graduate when applying for a job. You are an investment for the employer and they will hope to see a significant return if you join their business. 
Graduate recruitment is an expensive investment and companies want a return on that outlay. If a company is spending an average of £5,000 per graduate hire, plus training and development costs, they won’t settle for second best. In the ‘Den’, the Dragons are quick to pick apart weak pitches and don’t hesitate to call applicants out on their shortcomings. Likewise, if an employer can’t see the potential return on an investment, they won’t hesitate to declare themselves out.
Let’s look at some numbers. UK High Fliers released their annual ‘UK Graduate Careers Survey’ last month, which has reinforced the fact that the graduate recruitment market is as competitive as ever. 
  • Total graduate job applications in 2014-2015 were 6% higher than the equivalent period in 2013-2014. According to employers the quality of applications had improved in this period too.
  • 31% of entry level roles are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for the organisations. This means the rest of the graduate pool are competing for the remaining 69%.
  • Over half the recruiters warned that graduates with no previous work experience have little or no chance of being successful in securing an opportunity. If you don’t have previous experience in a market you’re keen to get into then selling your potential is even more important.

Watch TV to boost your employability

How Dragon’s Den can help

As a recruiter, I love to see how people manage pressure and how they effectively sell themselves. This is a really important skill and when done well, can put a candidate well ahead of the pack. What interests me about Dragons’ Den is that you see very good examples of quality self promotion. You also see some of the worst; great products or services on Dragons’ Den have been rejected because the potential return on investment hasn’t been communicated well. You, as a graduate, can learn from these successes and mistakes.
Here is how small businesses pitch well and what you can take away from their approach:
  • Know their turnover and profit to date and provide evidence. In an interview, the ability to communicate what you have achieved is important. Give evidence of success you have achieved and show how you aim to continue doing so.
  • Know their projected sales. In an interview, being able to say what you can deliver and giving a reason for a company to invest in you can inspire confidence. 
  • Know the potential of their market. Don’t commit the cardinal sin of not doing competitor research and knowing the company/role you’re applying for. If an employer can’t see that you’re serious then you become a risk for that investment.
  • Correctly value their business. You are unlikely to be the finished article as a graduate. It is ok to show that you understand this. The ability to recognise your weaknesses shows good self understanding.
  • Know their facts. To operate a business you need to be an Oracle of knowledge. Not being able to answer the most basic questions, in interview, application form or in a social environment lessens the confidence people have in you as an asset.
There really is value in watching certain TV. You should treat Dragons’ Den as a careers workshop; take note of what’s made pitches successful and the qualities that have made an individual investable and then use these to improve your engagement with employers.
Check out the graduate advice section of the career centre for loads more advice on securing a job.