Archives for category: Jane Simm

This is the final Think Ahead blog post from, Jane Simm, Careers Adviser for Researchers. Jane retires on the 31 July 2017 — we wish her all the very best and thank her for her long, passionate and dedicated support.


So what actually does a graduate scheme involve?

Many of the larger organisations provide opportunities for graduates to join them via a ‘graduate scheme’, ‘grad programme’, ‘training scheme’, ‘graduate development programme’ etc etc…in fact a range of terminology is used so take note of this! It is  usually a way of gaining experience, receiving training in functional areas e.g. finance, marketing, purchasing, to name but a few, but can involve routes into obtaining Chartered status also, for certain professions. Read the rest of this entry »


Happy New Year

I wanted to start my first blog of 2016 by reflecting on how many times I have told researchers that they possess a very marketable commodity (if you will excuse my use of a business phrase), and how companies outside academia who employ PhDs value your specialist knowledge, research skills and problem solving ability. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching is a popular career route for all graduates including those with a PhD and one where researchers often seek careers support in terms of how to make sense of the various routes to qualifying as a teacher. Early applications are advised so the timing of this blog is intended to get you going immediately – now is the time to take action. 

I confess that as a so-called ‘experienced’ careers adviser working with researchers, a request from one of our PhDs or research staff that asks me to outline how to get into the profession sends me running for cover!

Help is at hand and I do find the Target Postgrad pages on teaching an excellent starting point for commencing your research… and research is what you need to do! Now assuming you are able to meet the academic and professional standards required to teach in a state school, make sure you consider all the entry options that could be open to you: Read the rest of this entry »


When it comes to writing job applications do you struggle to find the right words to tell the recruiter or why you think you’re the best candidate? Maybe you’ve submitted an application recently but not received that call or letter inviting you to interview and you’re wondering what, if anything, you’ve done wrong?

WE HAVE A MOOC FOR YOU! This was designed for all students but plenty of researchers have now signed up. Read the rest of this entry »

For the researcher keen to step out of the academic environment it’s wise to appraise yourself of the changing recruitment scene that employers may be using. And as a careers adviser for researchers I have received three requests in the last fortnight from PhD students and postdocs asking me…

(a) what Situational Judgement Tests are,

(b) how you handle them, and

(c) what’s the difference between Situational Judgements Tests (SJTs) and

Strengths Based Interviews (see our previous post on this).

STJs assess how you approach situations encountered in the type of workplace you’re interviewing for, presenting you with realistic, hypothetical scenarios and asking you to identify the most appropriate response. It’s where recruiters find out about your strengths, what you are good at and what you enjoy doing.

STJs are designed to predict likely job performance by measuring how effectively a candidate responds to work related situations. In effect they are a type of psychometric assessment package, and they are slightly different to most other aptitude tests, as they are tailored to the exact requirements of the organisation conducting them.

‘STJs present applicants with scenarios that they might encounter on the job and ask applicants to evaluate various actions that might be taken in response to the situations’ (McDaniel & Whetzel, 2007) – see here for a fuller review

Designed specifically for the employer concerned, they simulate typical situations that might occur in the job you are applying to. They then offer several possible actions to deal with the problem. Your task is either to select the most effective response, or in some cases the most and least effective response via multiple choice. You might be asked to complete them online before your interview, or actually on the day of your interview or assessment centre.

Some employers, such as Jaguar Landrover, have moved to SJTs as an initial stage of their full recruitment process. I attended an excellent training session by them last year where I learnt that this was due to the demands of of a competitive job market where many people apply for each position i.e. they are able to process large numbers of applicants, candidate feedback was favourable, the STJs supported applicants who had dyslexia so made this a fair process, and for Jaguar Landrover it could be used across the various job role functions as it was based on company behaviours and core values, rather than ‘right or wrong answer’ cognitive tests.

So how do you prepare for such tests?

Firstly, take a look at a company’s core values, what’s important to them, the way they like to do business, the culture, and the competencies they are looking for and try and consider what these mean in the context of the post you are applying for. Lots of this info will be on their web pages, in the job description, and you will pick up key messages at the assessment centre so keep your ears open.

And secondly, in the test, consider the information in the scenario and what you would honestly do, and try not to think too far outside the situation. Answer the question with what you think is most effective in that scenario. It is wise to be true to your beliefs and go for what you think is the right thing to do.

Here’s a link to a couple of free practice sites you could try via Assessment Day and the European Commission. And remember there is no need to hand over any money for practice tests, the Careers Service is here to discuss and advice on past or upcoming interviews and assessment centres.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 22.21.19You may remember that a couple of weeks ago my colleague Kay talked a bit about the knowledge economy and the researcher pipeline and I think it’s worth further unpicking an interesting piece of research recently published by Research Councils UK and the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales which gives a very positive view of how doctoral graduates contribute to the competitiveness and innovation of businesses. The full report can be accessed here. Read the rest of this entry »


Previous blogs have focussed on enhancing researcher’s employability skills via career planning, job seeking skills such as coping with challenging application forms, and even new interview techniques such as Strengths Based Interviews.

So, what happens if you come up against a personality type question where an employer asks you have you would behave or react in certain situations? Would you tell them what you think they would like to hear i.e. you are an extrovert person even though you honestly feel that may not be your preferred style? What to do?

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My colleague Kevin Mahoney recently posted a discussion of how doctoral graduates can use Graduate Fairs as an alternative to direct entry or ‘experienced hires’. He focussed on the fact that many employers just don’t understand why PhD graduates or postdocs for that matter would consider applying to them. The Think Ahead team strongly emphasises the need to make sure you can describe and articulate your researcher skill set, or ’transferable skills’ before approaching organisations. I will go further and implore you to do your research in checking how you then apply to an organisation of interest. Have you found out what is required by the employer? Do they want a CV…? Maybe they do if this is a speculative enquiry. So, is your CV targeted towards the company, their aims, needs, and reputation? Is it the right length and format (usually shorter and straight to the point)? Is it different from your standard academic CV – because it needs to be. SKILLS Increasingly employers are using online application forms and expect you to answer challenging competency or situational questions because they want the best people. Many of the popular employers are inundated with applications, and may are rejected due to basic mistakes, lack of preparation before competing applications, or failing to address the person specification. Ask yourself are you ready to face questions such as:

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