Interviews – be a STAR…..

….shine in your interviews! 

Whether it’s your first graduate job, summer internship or work experience, make sure you display STAR qualities in your interview.

With questions such as:

  • ‘Tell me about a time when you worked in a team….
  • ….when your communication skills contributed to the success of an event……
  • ….when you solved a difficult (non-academic) problem…..’

–  competency questions appear with great regularity on  application forms, and come back to haunt you at interview –  so it pays to refine your STAR qualities.

What does this mean? It means being analytical in your response, not purely descriptive.

So think STAR!

  • S – a brief description of the Situation
  • T – outline the Task to be done
  • A – talk through the Action you took (NB you, not we, in team questions)
  • R – what was the Result of your actions

Need an example? –

Situation I am on the committee of the University’s Landscape Photography Club. There are 6 members on the committee.
Task We arrange an exhibition of students’ work every year.  Last year due to a lack of co-ordination we found ourselves behind in getting the venue set up.
Action I organised a meeting where I suggested a systematic plan with each committee member agreeing to take on specific jobs. I checked progress throughout and reported back to the committee .
Result We co-operated and communicated more effectively and this meant we caught up and managed to open the exhibition on time.

Whether in writing or verbally at the interview, giving examples of competencies or strengths, if you stick to being a STAR, you wont go far wrong.

Final impressions also make a big impact – so make sure yours is positive – think of the questions you want to ask – get ideas here – and leave with a smile and a thank you.

Find out more on applications and interviews via our web resources (advice, downloads and videos), and make sure you practice being a STAR, and get more ideas for your own questions, via our Interview Simulator resource on MyCareerHub, (find it under the Resources tab).

Make sure your STAR qualities shine at your interview.

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About to graduate? What next?

For some of you the answer’s easy: answer

  • start my graduate job with xxxxx (after a relaxing summer post-exams)
  • start my PG course in September after a relaxing summer away from studies
  • start my gap year by earning some money and then setting off …
  • continue to gain experience for that job/course I want to apply for in the future eg Clinical Psychology
  • etc etc

Well done if this is you, have a great future!

For many of you however, I suspect the answer is less clear-cut – you’re still not sure of an immediate direction, never mind longer-term,  you’re not quite sure what to do about it, panic may be rising…….not to mention pressure from family and friends to come up with an answer to that ‘what next?’ question! what next

So don’t just sit there worrying about it, do something

Some of you may be signed up for the Graduate Development Summer Programme – make the most of it, it’s a great opportunity to focus on your future plans, with lots of support from the Careers Service and employers. However, if you missed the deadline for this programme, all is not lost!

Your friendly and supportive Careers Service is here to help and support you in your next steps – now and for 2 years after graduation – yes, 2 years! (We do Skype interviews – bookable via MyCareerHub), in case you’re wondering about the cost of travel from far flung corners of the globe….plus our information resources via our website (both the Careers Service Website and MyCareerHub) are vast….)

So – let’s get startedwhere are you at? Take a look at the categories below – browse those that most closely fit your current situation.

No ideas? Browse the PPLS Careers web resources for your subject – ideas

Not clear how your skills, interests and strengths – from your degree and beyond – might relate to different jobs/careers? Try our Career Planning  activities – from quick exercises to get you started, to CareerEd – designed to get you thinking about what’s important for you in your future after graduation.

Need experience?

Some ideas – need to research? research

  • use our extensive information and vacancy links for the wide range of graduate careers in our Guide to Occupations
  • Come along and talk to relevant employers/internship and volunteer providers at our Grad Fair on 30th May (see above)

Need help with finding vacancies?

Need help with applications and interviews?CV

  • use our online resources – information, advice, recorded talks and videos – on all aspects of the recruitment process
  • sign up for and come along to our sessions on CVs, applications, interviews, using LinkedIn – and more – via the Events section of MyCareerHub

Need reassurance?! – be inspired by recent graduates! Listen to them talk:ReassuranceTop

  •  how being fired 3 times helped Emma to really focus on what her strengths were, and find work that used those strengths, rather than the opposite!
  •  how reflecting on what Lee enjoyed about his university life and degree-subject helped him to move from unfulling work in retail, to stretching roles in finance and consultancy.
  • taking advantage of chance meetings (networking!) secured a first position in marketing for Laura
  •  Alasdair used his passion for IT and liking for the university environment to get his first job in support services at the university – he’s since moved onwards and upwards in the university!

Need individual help with all of the above?

  • book an appointment to talk things through with a Careers Consultant via MyCareerHub,
  • call into the Careers Service (3rd floor MLB)  for help with your information queries from our supportive Information Advisers – no appointment necessary.

And wishing you a wonderful future after you move on from your studies at Edinburgh!

Posted in Career events, Career planning, cognitive science, English language and linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

AIESEC, internships and volunteering this summer – hear it from a current PPLS student…

Hello there, I’m Amanda, a 2nd year Philosophy and Politics student guest blogging for the PPLS Careers blog this week. As PPLS students, we are repeatedly told how useful our degrees are to the real world:

  • Philosophy students can utilise all that rational thinking we’ve learnt over the four years in the workplace
  • Linguistics students are well-equipped to undertake careers ranging from marketing and publishing to speech and language therapy
  • Psychology students develop a broad range of skills that spans both science and the arts and opens up opportunities with a variety of employers

Yet, whilst at university it may seem difficult to see how just how our degree-skills can be utilised in a professional environment. AIESEC Edinburgh gives you the chance to do just that: interested? Well keep on reading…

What are we about? 

AIESEC Edinburgh is part of a global student run platform that promotes competitive internships and volunteering placements in over 127 countries. Being so heavily present across the world means that we have a strong alumni network as well as entities in various universities that mean that you will not only be working with your PPLS peers here on campus but you will be meeting and working alongside other students from across the seven continents.

The competitive exchanges that we promote follow our society’s ethos of professional and personal development. We want to take you out of your comfort zone and apply all the theories you learn as a PPLS student and apply them to the real world. We also align ourselves with the United Nations global initiative of Sustainable Development Goals, therefore if you choose to go on a volunteering exchange with us you will be working towards one of the 17 development goals thus making a contribution to a globally recognised initiative. If you are looking for a more professional placement, we provide internships in numerous fields that suit your skill set and degree programme.

Why did I join AIESEC? 

I was drawn to the professional team made up of people of different year groups, degrees and backgrounds all working towards one common goal. I have been trained in public speaking, marketing strategies and interviewing skills, all transferable to my future career. The committee is also made up of three PPLS students, which helps build a personal network within AIESEC Edinburgh. By joining our team, you can join 4 different functions: marketing, finance, human resources or exchange departments and there is scope for you to be promoted to a Team Leader or Vice President in each function. National and international conferences are a chance to meet other AIESECers and the opportunity to go on exchange as a team member in one of the 127 countries in which we operate is not be missed. I am excited to say that I will be working with an NGO in Argentina over summer, and have colleagues who will be in Vietnam, India and Egypt doing similar placements.

Our AIESEC mission since 1947 is to strive to promote exchanges here on campus through effective team work. You will be trained by AIESEC to help develop you as an all-rounder, and not just someone with a degree from PPLS. We balance professionalism with socials and regional meet ups. All we need is you!

Interested in joining our society? Contact

Looking for a competitive volunteering opportunity this summer? – we offer placements with NGOs across our 127 partner countries. Each project aligns itself with SDGs, chosen by the communities themselves, enabling you to tackle global issues and make a positive impact in the world. If you are interested or want more information, contact

If it’s a global internship you’re after this summer, we offer thousands of placements with various start-up companies, thus expanding your personal and professional network to support your future entrepreneurial ventures. So, if you’re interested in a professional placement, where you can live in a new city and immerse yourself in a new culture, contact

Apply here to get started on your application:

Deadline to apply for either placement: Friday 19th May 2017



Posted in cognitive science, English language and linguistics, internships, Philosophy, Psychology, volunteering, work experience | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Journalism for PPLS students – a profession with many guises

Are you interested in a career in journalism? It’s a career area which plays to PPLS strengths, whether it’s your understanding of language from LEL, of how people are influenced from psychology, or your logical approach to building arguments and problem solving from Philosophy. A browse through the PPLS graduate destinations over recent years throws up PPLS grads working in various different areas of journalism.

At the recent Creative and Cultural Careers Festival in March (CCCF17)we had a fantastic panel of speakers who shared  their top tips for getting into this area.

 CCCF17 hosted an inspiring panel of speakers:

  • Chaired by: Dr Kate Wright, University of Edinburgh, an award-winning journalist for the BBC who is now the university’s Chancellor’s Fellow in the Cultural and Creative Industries.
  • Hilary Mitchell, BuzzFeed UK,.Scotland Editor for BuzzFeed UK, has also written for the Guardian, the Metro, the Daily Record and the Independent in the past, as well as previously working in our very own Edinburgh University Students’ Association.
  • Nick Oswald, Bitesize Bio, after a molecular biology PhD, time working at biotech startups and then in labs, he set up a blog to help answer the questions scientists ask each other. Now is a popular website viewed by almost a quarter of a million researchers per month.
  • Ben Thomas, BBC, a journalist and producer for BBC Scotland News, working for television and radio. Ben’s experience includes Panorama, Radio 5Live, undercover investigation, documentaries, and rolling news coverage of major UK and international events such as the 9/11 attacks in New York
  • Tom Gordon, The Herald, Scottish Political Editor, has been reporting since 1998. Starting out covering Glasgow City Council, then moving to Holyrood in 2004.
  • Mark Fisher, National Union of Journalism, studied Drama, and worked in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviewing theatre, before gradually working his way up to being theatre editor at the List – now working freelance and for the NUJ.

Their top tips for getting into Journalism were:

  • Know yourself – jobs in the sector vary widely depending on whether you are working freelance or employed, so try to get a sense of what your parameters are, e.g. what do you want from a job in terms of location, whether you’re self-employed or not etc
  • Be specific about what you want, and what you can offer when you ask for work – If you are sending out a speculative application, make their job easy by identifying how you fit straight away. If you can ask about getting experience in a specific area, that helps the employer to match you to a gap they may be trying to fill. And, if you can, send examples of your work.
  • Write and keep writing – practice the discipline of being clear, succinct and timely with submissions – it is a skill that you can hone
  • No experience is too small, e.g. start writing reviews for student newspapers or at the Fringe festival and you’ll start building your portfolio
  • Your qualification is not as important as who you are – be brave! You, your qualities, determination, insight and creativity are what are important!
  • Don’t wait for permission and don’t expect opportunities to come to you – be proactive, find your own, talk to people (do your research on individuals and flatter them), get out there and just do it!
  • Get some support – ask a professional to mentor you
  • Don’t be shy about asking to get paid for what you do!

What next?

  • Read about the sector via our website and MyCareerHub including tips for how to get into local and niche areas of Journalism
  • – The NCTJ offer good, practical courses to be able to hit the ground running (but, as above, qualifications are not as important as your experience and qualities!)
Posted in career areas, English language and linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology | Tagged | Leave a comment

All the fun of the (recruitment) Fair…..

Advance notice – and a diversion from exam prep – Tuesday 30th May sees the EGRF (Edinburgh Graduate Recruitment Fair) roll into town again at the Pleasance Sports Hall.

PPLS finalist? still looking for a graduate role or course? This is an essential event if you’re looking for graduate work, further study or opportunity to gain experience.

You’ll find a range of employers looking for people with your range of skills, including –

  • TPP, a leading software company which recently employed Linguistics grad Laura
  • National Library of Scotland – philosophy grad Jamie is forging his career in Library and Information Management, and had placements at the National Library
  • EY – leading professional services organisation, employs Rachel (Cog Sci) as an IT Risk Assurance Consultant and Robert (Philosophy) as a Global Trade Consultant – to name just a few of the PPLS grads employed with EY.
  • Explore Learning – tuition providers – great experience for psychology and LEL grads considering teaching as a career – each year grads from both these subjects go into teaching.
  • Freshfields Law firm –  your PPLS skill-set, and in particular the philosophy skill-set – is very valuable in a legal career

….and so many more…. check out all the exhibitors via MyCareerHub.

PPLS student looking for experience or internships? – exhibitors include:

Want to make the most of the Fair? Come along to one of our short workshopsPrepare for the Fair – get tips and advice on how to make the most of the event – search for the events and sign up via MyCareerHub

So get ready for the Fair – Prepare! – research who’s coming, attend a Prepare for the Fair event,  and come along on Tuesday 30th May ready to make the most of this great opportunity to talk with a range of graduate employers, internship providers and further study institutionstoo good to miss.

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Your career – how lucky can you be?!

I was prompted to think again about the role of luck in people’s career by a recent article in the Guardian, – The secret of success? Believe in luck’.

I often hear people talking about the role luck has played in their career – statements such as ‘Oh, I was just lucky to get that job / talk to that person / be in the right place at the right time….etc’. However, if you unpick stories a bit more, I usually find that yes, luck has played a part, but so also has the fact that someone has been prepared to take an opportunity, talk to someone and follow up on that conversation, do something different. To make the most of ‘lucky breaks’ it helps to have some idea of:

  • what interests you
  • what you’re good at doing
  • and be positive about trying things that fit with these interests and abilities, without necessarily knowing where this may lead.

Careers happen in different ways – there’s the more obvious route of deciding on the career you want to get into – clinical psychology, law, marketing etc – and putting into place all the pieces of the jigsaw you need to get there – research, talking to people, gaining experience, vocational courses, applications and interviews etc. You’ll find lots of examples of people who do just that.

However, that doesn’t work for everyone – it can be hard to work out where you want to end up – there’s just so many jobs out there.

So there’s also the route without a known destination – working out what you’re good at and what interests you, and following any opportunities which meet or develop your strengths and interests and seeing where that takes you. This is something we Careers people know as Planned Happenstance. It’s not about being passive and waiting for things to happen to you, it’s about going out there and finding your own opportunities through:

  • Following your curiosity and identifying your interests.
  • Being positive – wondering “how I can” rather than “I can’t because…”
  • Being prepared to take advantage of chance opportunities, such as unexpected phone calls, chance encounters, impromptu conversations and new experiences.
  • Learning, developing skills, remaining open and following up on chance events.

You only have to have a brief browse through the PPLS-grad case-studies to find plenty of instances where PPLS grads have done just this:

  • Laura got her first break into marketing via a chance conversation at a wedding which she followed up on (read her section on My Career Decisions in her case study)
  • Hannah took a stepping stone role in a recruitment agency which helped her land a role in talent recruitment with Skyscanner. Key to this was Hannah’s clarity about what she was good at, and being able to talk about why she would be good for the role at Skyscanner – listen to Hannah’s thoughts on this.
  • Rosie never thought she’d end up working as a team leader for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). A friend spotted the ad and thought the skills needed matched Rosie’s, gained from leading a team or Saturday staff at Boots, among other thing. As Rosie concludes ‘Do not limit yourself to what you once wanted, what you’ve been told you should be, or what your degree naturally inclines you to. Find that thing that makes you light up, and then find a job that pays you to do it.

In reality – most people’s career path owes something to both preparedness and luck. The key to being able to make the most of lucky or chance encounters, is to be prepared!


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Strength-based interviews – an insider perspective.

I’ve blogged on the changing nature of interviews – video, strength-based etc – in the past. Now my colleague, Rebecca, shares her insights and advice after observing strength-based interviews in action with the IT employer FDM group. Read on to find out more.


‘Recently I visited FDM Group to observe an assessment day at their Glasgow office (big thanks to the FDM staff who were very welcoming and importantly to the candidates for letting me observe them too!).  FDM use strengths based interviewing as part of their assessment process and I picked up so many useful tips to pass on to those of you who are preparing for a strengths based interview.

1. Preparation is vital

As with any interview the key to performing well is proper preparation.  The wording of many strengths based interview questions doesn’t always make clear that the interviewer is looking for examples, but they are. Make sure you put the time in to preparing properly and thinking through different examples that you can talk about to back up what you’re saying about your skills.

2. Pause for thought

It might sound a bit strange but a bit of silence in an interview can be a good thing.  You might get asked a tricky question, something you weren’t expecting or something you just haven’t prepared for.  You don’t need to launch into your answer the instant your interviewer has asked you the question; it’s fine to take a pause to give yourself some thinking time.  Much better to take a pause for thought and then answer the question rather than fill the time with ‘waffle’ that doesn’t really address the question!

3. Remember results!

In many strengths based interviews your interviewer won’t probe you for more details, so it’s crucial that you give enough detail in your answers, especially when you’re talking about specific examples from your experiences. Remember results and sum up the outcomes from your experiences; were you successful at what you did and how do you know? This also ensures your answer finishes on a positive note.

4. Take an interest and show your enthusiasm

Much of the advice on the web about strengths based interviews tells you to be yourself and certainly you do want to be yourself as strengths based interviews are all about understanding you and what motivates you but you should also consider how you can express your interest and enthusiasm in the interview (you might even be being assessed on the level of engagement and enthusiasm you show in the interview).  Think about how you can come across in an engaging way through your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.  Interviewing candidates all day is also a tiring business and an enthusiastic and interested candidate can go a long way towards helping the day go that bit better for an interviewer!

5. Beware of the Google search!

Finally beware of just using a Google search to find information and advice about strengths based interviews online.  There’s a lot of misleading advice out there (such as not needing to prepare for strengths based interviews!), so if you’re using online information to help you with your preparation make sure it’s credible and reliable.

Want to find out more?

Start with the Interviews section of the Careers Service website which includes a section on strengths based interviews and links to a few good websites with handy advice on how to prepare.  If you’re interested you can also read my Insider News report giving the full lowdown on the FDM assessment Day on MyCareerHub.’

Many thanks to my colleague Rebecca Valentine, one of the Careers Consultant team here at Edinburgh, for writing this very informative piece and letting me share it with you via the PPLS careers blog.

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