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Move up the Career ladder - What recruiters look for at different stages

Move up the Career ladder with
So you have bagged yourself a graduate position, with an average starting salary of £25,000 (Association of Graduate Recruiters) you should be smiling. But how long will you be content for in the same position? You may be wishing to move up the career ladder for one of many reasons – it may be the salary, challenge or the knowledge that you are progressing. A common test that both graduates and more senior positions are faced with in the recruitment process is the OPQ Personality Test. This post will explore what recruiters and talent assessment agencies are looking for in terms of personality traits, specifically for graduate and management roles and how you are expected to progress between these points.

What makes people employable?

According to researchers at the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), when asked what makes a graduate ‘employable’? The majority of recruiters said that when hiring graduates, employability skills were more important than any occupational specific knowledge, technical skills or education. The two most common employability skills that recruiters look for is a positive attitude - an openness to new ideas and a ‘can-do’ approach and entrepreneurship/enterprise - which broadly speaking is someone who is not afraid to take risks and who is innovative and creative. These skills only become more sought after as one works their way up the career path as CEOs need to be enterprising in order to make money.

That said, talent agencies are specific about what traits they like to see in both these positions. Of course this varies according to the position being applied for, but detailed below are the general traits talent assessment agencies look for at graduate and management level sectioned into relationships with people, thinking style, feelings/emotions and working with others.


Interactions with people
In general, graduates are as happy as most to be influential. They are slightly more likely to stand by their own opinion, rather than follow the group consensus. They are reasonably sociable and have a general need to spend time with people. They are well-balanced in terms of being neither too outgoing nor quiet and feel a little more comfortable than most when meeting new people or in formal settings. They are moderately empathetic in terms of comfort with consultation and decision making. They are proud of their achievements and are willing to talk about them. However, they prefer to keep a professional distance from colleagues and are less prepared than others to interfere in others’ personal problems.

Thinking style
Graduates tend to enjoy analysis, working with facts and figures and critically evaluating arguments and information. But, they have less interest in understanding what drives people and in other people’s behaviour. They are slightly more creative than others and have a preference to think abstractly. They are slightly more likely to be consistent in their style with dealings across different situations. They are as happy to use their own ideas as the ideas others have generated and crave neither novelty nor a consistent routine. In terms of structure, they are very detail-orientated and tend to consider situations spontaneously rather than taking a long term strategic overview of issues. They are focused and see tasks through to completion and are balanced in terms of sticking to and breaking rules.

Feelings/ Emotions
Graduates are moderately anxious and are as easy to offend as the next person. They are very calm before important occasions and tend to keep their spirits up. They are likely to find it difficult to hide their emotions from their colleagues but are likely to view the motives of others with suspicion. They are driven, ambitious and highly value winning and performing better than others. They prefer to understand things before reaching conclusions and therefore tend to take their time when it comes to decision-making.

Working with others
In terms of working with others graduates prefer to focus on the task rather than the relationships with the people they are working with. Their strengths lie in planning, evaluating ideas and sustaining team productivity.


Interactions with People
Managers are prepared to be a leader when required and readily express their own opinions, criticising others in some circumstances. They are lively and enjoy talking about their own achievements. They are at ease in formal situations and when meeting new people and prefer to consult others when it comes to decision-making. They have an average interest in negotiating and have a slight tendency to go along with the group consensus. They are comfortable spending time alone and are very selective in giving support to or sympathising with colleagues.

Thinking Style
Managers are strongly inclined towards critically analysing information; they take strategic views and tend to think in the long-term. They are interested in new ways of working and prefer coming up with their own ideas. They are as interested as the next person in understanding the behaviours of people and in discussing abstract ideas. They are balanced in terms of seeking novelty and repetition in work and are as likely as anyone else to keep rules and regulations.

Feelings/ Emotions
Managers are optimistic and work well in a competitive environment. They are averagely sensitive to criticism and are balanced with their emotions in terms of being open or keeping things to themselves. They are generally slightly tense in their work-life, but are less anxious than most when preparing for important events. They are unlikely to rely on the ability of others and are more cautious than others when making decisions.

Working with others
In general managers are competitive and like to do out-do others even if it means hurting their feelings. They provide well thought-out solutions and come up with radical, creative ideas. They strive for recognition and are reluctant to delegate to others.

Start Making Your Move up the Career Ladder

When looking to move up the career ladder you will often be asked to take a recruiter personality test, or recruiters will look for certain traits at interview. It is important to research the position you are applying for and to be aware of the traits the recruiter is looking for. JobTestPrep offers a customised Situational Judgement and Personality Test pack - our Personality Test provides feedback for each trait and will tell you which traits you need to work on (or restrain) according to which position you are applying for. The Situational Judgement Test can bring a better understanding of the competencies expected at these stages. Try a free sample Personality Test with JobTestPrep.

What career is right for me?

Experience the Tests Employers Use - Personality Test - JobTestPrep's BlogDo you ever think to yourself that you have the talent to make it to the top of your field – you just don’t know what that field may be? Do you think you could make it as almost anything- but you don’t know which thing to start with?

Do you ever think to yourself that you have the talent to make it to the top of your field – you just don’t know what that field may be? Do you think you could make it as almost anything- but you don’t know which thing to start with? In today’s ever more educated work-force, there are usually a range of appropriate jobs to suit the skills and interest of each job-seeker. Therefore, deciding ‘what career is right for me’ can be a difficult process. Even if you do land a suitable role, there is little chance you will stay in the same field for the rest of your working life. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics workers change their careers on average five to seven times in a lifetime (this varies according to industry). Moreover, The US (2008) Census Bureau found that the average job holder stayed with the same employer for just 4 years. Graduates, however, are likely to stay in a career for longer because their jobs are more likely to be related to their career goals (Miller, 1997). That said there is no harm in thoroughly exploring the subject and trying to find the most suitable career for both your skills and interests. From there, it is easier to decide if a given career or role is something that resonates with you and whether it is something you are willing to try. There are many ways you can go about deciding which career path to choose.  Of course, there is no exact formula that can tell you where you are most likely to achieve. Even if there were only you could know if it matched your ambitions and career-goals.

One of the ways to help one decide which career path is right for them is to take a personality test. There are hundreds of personality tests available; each one will differ in length and style.  In general, a personality test consists of different questions about your habits, behaviours and emotions. Questions are usually yes/no or are ranked on a 4-5 point scale. A personality test will give you an indication of how your traits compare to the traits of other people who have taken the same test. JobTestPrep offers a personality test which indicates where you are lacking/over-performing on particular traits according to the position being applied for. 

Although, in general, employers look for well-balanced individuals who do not show extreme scores for any trait, certain employers look for certain skills depending on the position for which they are hiring. Furthermore, recruiters look for specific traits at specific points in peoples careers. There are unlimited roles that this article could discuss but this article will explore what talent assessment companies look for in term of traits for three roles – Manager, Salesman and Administrator. This of course depends on the industry, but in general:


Managers are able to take a birds-eye view and see things on a larger, more long-term scale. Therefore, managers must possess strong planning and organising skills. They should also be someone who is capable of delegating tasks and responsibilities and who is very able to motivate others. They should also be good decision-makers who act on their own authority and don’t necessarily follow the example of others. Managers are high on creativity and are honest communicators. They are as willing as the next person to make unpopular decisions and are moderately tolerant of politics. Managers are not so cautious when it comes to making commitments and have less self-discipline than the average worker when it comes to efficiently managing time.

Never taken a personality test? Try a free sample Personality Test with JobTestPrep.


Salespeople are curious about people and are very insightful when it comes to perceiving the buyer’s needs. They are courageous and able when it comes to making new contacts. Salesmen are optimistic and are good- negotiators who handle objections tactfully. Salesmen enjoy maintaining relationships with clients and do not hesitate when it comes to closing deals. They handle rejection as well as the next person and are no more competitive than anyone else if it means winning at all costs. 


Administrators must be very cooperative and diplomatic. They tend to conform to management objectives more than others. They are as able as the next person to deal with change. They are not so capable when it comes to following systems and have low patience when it comes to following detailed instructions.

When contemplating ‘what career is right for me?’ It is important to remember once you have decided on a career path or accepted a job offer that no career choice is final. However, choosing a career is a very important decision and taking a personality test such as the one on our site could make the decision easier and will make you more confident in your decision making process. Start exploring your career options with JobTestPrep’s Personality Test.

Assessment Centre Advice - Your Questions Answered

Psychometric Test Preparation by    Jeremy Kin; organisational psychologist, assessor and coach at JobTestPrep; gives invaluable Assessment Centre advice.

JobTestPrep    Why the setting of an Assessment Centre?

Jeremy Kin    Past research has shown that Assessment Centres are good at simulating real workplace scenarios. In particular, they can induce real stress and they show how people interact with both superiors and subordinates.

As an Assessor, what is your role at an Assessment Centre?

Given the above, my role is to assess candidates in four main areas:

1. Cognitive skills – this includes candidates abilities at coming across intelligently, planning  ahead, seeing the full picture, self-expression, creativity, fluent thinking, procedural thinking and being aware of the consequences of their actions.

2. Working style – whether candidates are serious, energetic, reliable, independent, initiative-taking, task orientated and competitive. (Here Jeremy points out that different traits are valued in different positions).

3. Interpersonal capabilities – whether candidates are cooperative, generally easy to get along with, empathetic, good listeners, compromising and respectful of their superiors. Whether candidates are critical of others, and if so, if it is done in a constructive manner. How do they cope with criticism?

4. Managerial capabilities (if relevant) – whether the candidate is assertive, dominant and able to make decisions. Whether the candidate shows strong leadership skills and the ability to motivate others

In your opinion, how do people usually slip-up on an Assessment Day?

Firstly, stress – when candidates let stress manage them instead of managing the stress they feel. Secondly, in their approach – when candidates become angry about the situation, get easily offended by the psychologist or other people in the group, thus disrespecting the situation usually because they think an activity is stupid and not indicative of anything. Thirdly, passive or aggressive behaviour.

Is there anything a candidate could do at an Assessment Centre that would be an immediate red-flag?

Being disrespectful to the situation or the psychologist. This is apparent when candidates roll their eyes, laugh inappropriately or answer their phones during Assessment Centre activities. Don’t be offended by the psychologist’s behaviour! - It is often intentional to see your response.  

What really impresses you?

It depends on what the role is that I am assessing for. In general, calm, task-orientated candidates who take the day seriously and are respectful to others. Furthermore, determination – when candidates keep trying even after they fail personally or the group fails.

Do you have any Assessment Centre Advice – particularly, about candidate interaction with the psychologist?

The psychologist is your manager for the day. Approach the psychologist as you would your manager in real life.

How should candidates go about introducing themselves?

In terms of non-verbal communication - sit straight, look others in the eye, be confident!
What to say - start with biographical info, then your education (what/when/where?) and then go on to your work experience.

Do you have any advice for candidates who are requested to give a presentation at the Assessment Centre?

In terms of non-verbal communication - don’t put hands in pockets; look your audience in the eye; try to be confident.

Be aware of your time frame - (Tip! If appropriate, appoint someone in the group to watch the time for you and let you know when to move on – this shows the assessor that you have taken time into account).

Be clear! – Your presentation should have a clear structure. Introduce your topic in a nutshell, present the problem, present your answers, summarise and leave room for questions.

Do you have any advice for the Group Decision-Making exercise?

In the Group Exercise, be sure to express your opinion and be willing to really listen to others’ opinions. Moreover, if after assessing the legitimacy of someone else’s opinion you deem it to be better than yours, you should be willing to accept their opinion. If, however, you think it’s not - try and convince the others that your opinion is the more suitable.

Can you give any advice for the In-Tray Exercise?

The big issue around in-tray exercises is prioritising! I recommend splitting the tasks into three – very urgent, important and can be postponed. Start addressing the most important things. ‘What is most important depends on your earlier differentiation’, explains Jeremy.  For example, if you decided that your priority is a meeting regarding budgets an hour from now, this makes all items to do with budgets critical. This means that an email about your son’s birthday, or important company issues that are not about the meeting are now not your first priority.

If you have two urgent matters and have to decide what to prioritise, you have to make a decision that you will be able to explain later. It is important that you are aware of your decisions and that you can explain them. My last piece of advice here is that while it is important that you take care of critical matters, less critical matters can and should be delegated to others.

Take a full-length free in-tray exercise examples.

How can candidates prepare for an assessment centre, is there such thing as Assessment Centre Practice?

Know the job you are applying for and be aware of the skills that you will need so that you can best play to your strengths. Be familiar with the tasks used at your specific Assessment Centre - knowledge is power! (Tip – try and integrate some de-stressors before or during the Assessment Centre. This could be having a cup of coffee, talking to someone from the group or reading your favourite novel – whatever works for you.)

JobTestPrep offers a real simulation of an Assessment Centre – that is face-to-face practice. This is great at reducing stress and giving you an awareness of how the real day is likely to pan out.

Do you look for different things at a Graduate Assessment Centre?

 I look for graduates who show potential - someone motivated to succeed, who is energetic and task-orientated. I would expect graduates to have the ability to learn new things, accept criticism and be respectful to managers (i.e. the psychologist). Most other things come from experience.

Can you give an example of where someone really stood out at an Assessment Centre?

There was a time when the group was requested to build paper planes to fulfil certain criteria. Someone offered to do a Quality Assurance check for the group at the end. This indicated broad-thinking, and that the candidate was task-orientated.

And when did someone stand out for negative reasons?

The group was requested to build a bridge and they forgot to build a platform for the cars to reach the bridge. When asked why they didn’t build a platform, instead of taking responsibility for their planning failure, the group made the excuse that they weren’t asked to do that – it exhibited narrow-mindedness.

Do you have any other Assessment Centre Advice?

Yes! Approach all Assessment Centres knowing that you are the only person who is responsible for the impression you make. Don't make excuses like the psychologist wasn’t nice, the other people in the group were aggressive, I sat in a bad place, etc. Regardless of all environmental factors, you and only you are responsible for your behaviour at the Assessment Centre.

About the author: Jeremy Kin M.Sc. Organisational Psychology, is a former Assessment Centre Assessor with a major talent assessment company. He is a JobTestPrep Assessment Centre Coach, running simulation Assessment Centres for groups. Jeremy can be contacted via the comments section below.

Investment Banking Interview

How to do your research, what to do when there are holes in the job spec' and what to ask the interviewer.

Preparing for interview with Tim Thomas and JobTestPrepIn speaking with candidates, the most frequent questions I get asked involve investment banking interview technique and the best strategy to take when speaking with interviewers.

Interviews and interview technique is a very wide topic and the advice I give depends on a number of things such as the type of interview which is being conducted or may be at which stage the candidate is in the interview process – is he just about to embark on the first round or is he nearing the final stages.

If you’re not working with a headhunter to a find a role and don’t have the benefit of his advice and have secured an interview through your own initiative then your performance here boils down to essentially how well you have prepared for it.


The quality and strength of your preparation is determined by your willingness to engage in research. There are three areas to which you should focus your energy when doing this; researching the company which is hiring; researching the position you’re interviewing for and lastly, your background and experience and how it applies to the job.

« Your objective is to be as informed and as well researched as possible about your potential employer. »

If there’s news or information about the company and it’s in the public domain then you should know about it. When it comes to researching companies there are plenty of avenues you can use whether through the internet and in particular Google or Linkedin or if it’s a smaller organisation perhaps referring to the local newspaper, either online or offline will give you any background on the firm.

Always, always, make sure you look at the company’s own website; here you will find general information as well as press releases. Starting at this point you will be able to identify any relevant news stories which you can use to develop and widen your research through Google.
Moving on from researching the company, let’s look research into the position itself. While it may seem an obvious thing to do, it’s important to be clear in your mind what the job you’re applying for involves and understanding what will be expected of you. Once you have this you can fine tune your “sales pitch” to the interviewer. While the pitch you use during an interview is a subject in itself, keep in mind that it will be heavily based on the research you have undertaken beforehand.

Investigate the role

Can you find similar positions at competitor's advertised elsewhere perhaps on Monster, efinancialnews or on Gerard Knight Recruitment. Does this position mention a requirement for a skill or software knowledge which is not shown in the job specification for the role you’re targeting? Do you have this experience? During the interview you can ask why it was not included. It could simply be an oversight by the person who wrote the job spec’ or it could be that particular area of responsibility is dealt with by a separate team within the company. 

If you have the experience, asking the interviewer why it wasn’t included is a win/win for you because if it’s an oversight you’ll give yourself the opportunity to add colour to your CV and show yourself to have a bit of experience that your fellow interviewees might not have. If the reason it wasn’t included was because that responsibility is dealt with by a separate team then at least by asking the question you are demonstrating an awareness of the various approaches or the differing software platforms used amongst the industry’s competitors. This shows a good overall knowledge of the industry you’re in which will only add value to your candidacy.

Your effectiveness in handling the last point I identified is as much down to the quality of your research into the position as it is in understanding your own skills and the value placed on them by your potential employer. You need to really understand what it is about your CV and application that can set yourself apart from your fellow candidates/competitors. Identify your top three or five skills or bits of experience – not in the general sense but what are the skills your potential employer would be most interested in. Remember, what one employer values in you might well be different to another. This takes time and effort and requires you to gel your research into the job with your own CV or application. Your effort here will be rewarded in a better interview performance.

Play to your strengths

Finally, if you’ve done your homework and are prepared to think on your feet you can ask the interviewer himself what it was about your CV or application that prompted them to ask you in for an interview. Even if you know or can guess why it is, asking this direct question will give you a chance to temporarily move the spotlight away from you and allow you to play a neat trick with the interviewer. He of course will identify two or three points they liked about you which is effectively giving you on a plate, the chance to elaborate on skills which you’ve just been told are the bits they like most in you. Don’t miss this great chance to push your advantage here and add colour and detail to these skills.

It goes without saying that there are no guarantees when it comes to an investment banking interview. The intangibles like the rapport between you and the interviewer can have a large influence and I write about this on my own website but at least with your research you'll going a long way to moving yourself from the long list to the short list of candidates for the job.

About the author: Tim Thomas, has been a headhunter within the investment banking and financial services industries for over 10 years. He focuses on risk and counterparty risk hires and also offers an interview preparation and careers consultancy service to all candidates from all industries. He can be contacted via his mail address or his Facebook page.