How to secure a placement during a global pandemic

You can never have too many awkward video interviews

When students enrol in university, the thought of searching for a placement during a global pandemic doesn’t even cross their minds. All they hope for is to experience a normal assessment centre or a face-t0-face interview like the one’s you see in The Apprentice. However, this dream was far from reality in 2021. Instead, for the past few months, most students have been sat in their hometown bedroom or student house applying for any placement mildly applicable to their course.

We’ve accumulated some of our best tips for anybody hoping to do a placement year during these strange times.

CV, Cover letters and application questions

Our first tip is to perfect your CV and covering letter. Get your family, friends or even your university careers team to check it for you. It is important that you focus on how you want the employers to know whether you’re the right match. If your CV is four pages long for example, you will be put at the bottom of the pile. Ensure your CV is no longer than two pages.

In terms of your covering letter, make sure you tailor it for every application. Try to specify how you think you will be suitable for the role and what can you bring to the company.

Make sure you visit the Careers Centre for more help on your applications.

When filling out any application questions, make sure you read the question. You don’t want to go off on a tangent about some extracurricular activity which is quite frankly irrelevant to what they’re asking you. Try using the STAR model to help you:

Situation- what is the situation

Task- what was the task and did you face any challenges

Action- how did you complete the task

Result- what was the result of the task/ reflection

Do your research and be open-minded

Many companies are struggling to offer their typical number of placements at the moment. When you do find a suitable placement that you like, do your research. Check out if the company has been in the news recently or maybe they have started a new project that you’re interested in.

When researching, make sure you visit ratemyplacement or The University of Sussex Career Hub.  Also, search the companies’ websites and sign up for job alerts.

Try using RatemyPlacement, LinkedIn or even Facebook to find jobs.

Online tests

This is the part of the recruitment process students hate the most. You’ll most likely find yourself completing the most ridiculous questions – questions which have nothing to do with the placement you’re applying for. To help with this part of the recruitment process, try practising with online tests.

Online video interviews

Get ready for lots of automated video interviews. The computer will ask you a question, and you have about three minutes to think of your answer, and two takes to perfect your answer. Have some general notes next to you – this might be general information you find interesting about the company or some key points from your CV or experience you want to make sure you say. Even recording yourself on your laptop to see how you look and come across is great practice.

Assessment Centres

This section can be quite hard. Knowing that because of the pandemic there wouldn’t be any in-person assessment centre, many students wonder how completing it online would work. Most assessment centres will consist of an interview and a group task.

Make sure you research the companies values and how you might apply these values throughout the day. When you’re doing the group task, try to be the scribe, the timekeeper or maybe even the candidate who is ensuring that everybody’s voices are being heard. The interview is all about being yourself but also ensuring that you answer the questions being asked. Try to not go off-topic, but also ensure you’re not responding with one-word answers.

When you’re successful in securing a placement, make sure you celebrate. Rosé  always goes down well.

If you’re hoping to complete a placement year, we hope these tips will help you with the process. Completing a placement year is a great experience and allows you to apply the knowledge you’ve learnt in first and second year into real work scenarios. Good luck!