Chapter 39: Job Offer

Apparently, I haven’t updated my blog since more than 2 months ago. Many things have happened during the progression of my graduate job hunting. I would like to start this blog post by mentioning how things did not turn out to be what I expected as the results for my face-to-face interview back in last March and April. With the reference to the Chapter 38, there were two companies who had not yet released my interview results at that time. In the end, one of them sent a refusal email two months after the face-to-face interview without any further feedback on my interview performance and the other one had never even contacted me again until today.

Consequently, I needed to restart my job hunting process. In May, there were few vacancies and I only received one chance of face-to-face interview with the HR manager of a small bespoke software development company located in Morden. This interview ended up with a rejection because the company wanted the potential employees for a long term prospect, in which my temporary working visa was the barrier towards this requirement.

Nevertheless, my graduate job hunting progress in June became better. I had received two face-to-face interviews invitations in June, in which each of them was done in two rounds, and one of them was concluded with a job offer. The company, which gave me the job offer as an ERP Technician, is a well-known manufacturer of rooflight products based in West Oxfordshire; whereas, the other global company in printing, business processes, and IT outsourcing industries, which is located in Uxbridge, interviewed me for the graduate business analyst position. In the end, I accepted the only job offer that I received within the last 8 months of hunting, relocated to the countryside area of West Oxfordshire, and started my new job last week.

Based on my overall experience in the whole graduate job hunting progress, the job market in the UK is very competitive. After using many different sources for job vacancies, including many online job boards, it was the Brunel University jobshop website that finally provided me with an apparent result. I have also learned that potential employers typically interested with candidates, who are capable of utilizing the face-to-face interviews session to express their interest towards the offered position by matching the job’s requirements with their actual abilities and knowledge that are stated in their exceptional CV.

FAQ for MSc. BSI course

This post compiles FAQ related to the MSc. Business Systems Integration course, which I took at Brunel University. I feel the necessity of writing this post as I have received few comments/emails regarding my personal experience during and after I completed the course. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that my answers will be purely based only on my personal experience and there might be different opinions and perspectives from other alumni and current students of this course. Hopefully, this post will be useful in helping future potential students with their final decision, whether to take this course or opt for another course. (Ps. please refer to my chapter 18, chapter 23, and chapter 27 for further information regarding this course)

1. The experience you are having in your job search, how typical is it for graduates of MSc. BSI course from previous years?
As far as I know, some of my classmates (particularly international graduates) are still struggling in finding jobs in the UK. Some of them already returned to their home countries to find a job over there (which I suppose should be easier). I reckon that the reason of why most graduates are struggling in finding a job is because we don’t have enough working experience in SAP, as there are only few available SAP vacancies for graduate/junior level. Most of the available SAP vacancies in the market required working experience of minimum 1-2 cycle(s) of SAP implementation. As a result, fresh graduates like me, who only have short amount of IT working experience, have to opt for other IT opportunities (such as graduate developer position). However, although there are many available vacancies for graduate software developer, I think it is still difficult to compete against fresh graduates of Computer Science course.

2. How much development/programming is there in this MSc. BSI course?
For the first and second term, there is no programming at all. However, for some modules, such as Service-Oriented Architecture and Semantic Integration Framework, it is important to understand source-code and SQL syntax to some extent for the purpose of explanation in the assignments. Nevertheless, the example regarding this are available within the respective lecture notes of each module.

3. Is the industrial project for your dissertation a paid undertaking? How typical is it that a dissertation project will involve development?
Unfortunately it is an unpaid industrial dissertation project. Beyond six students, who involved in this project, it is only me, who developed an application. However, there was only 1 company that arranged these projects and there were no projects related to ERP/SAP as I expected when I decided to take this course. However, this industrial project is quite useful to boost the resume of fresh graduates like me.

4. Now that you are through with the program and struggling to find work, would you make the same decision about the program if you were to do it all over again?
Well, for me, I would still say yes. Because this course offer a BI module, which is an interesting module for me, as I could not find it within the study modules of other courses in other schools. However, the study contents and modules of any course are always updated, so there might be other universities offering BI as well at the moment. Also, there is an opportunity to gain the TERP10 certification, for the similar course fee in comparison with other courses that do not offer this opportunity. However, this certificate only acts as a foundation to give a little boost for my resume. As I already mentioned before, in order to apply for SAP jobs, work experience in SAP is usually required. Compare to other universities that also offer the TERP10 certification opportunity within their courses, I believe Brunel provides a better training before the certification exam, as one of the lecturers is an expert of SAP ERP systems and some of the foundation/basics of SAP ERP had been introduced within the ERP modules in the first term, so that students can easily understand and follow the TERP10 training after the second term is finished.

5. You mentioned that those with good grades in the first period could get industrial placement for their dissertation. How does that really work?
It is simple. There are 4 modules in the first term, and all you have to do is to make sure that you can secure 2 grade of B’s and 2 grade of C’s for these modules. Later in the second term, when the course director send email regarding these industrial projects, you can opt to apply for them only if you have already secured 2 B’s and 2 C’s, as they will double-check your study results in the first term before processing your application.

6. From the training you got in this program, what other options do you have for jobs besides SAP?
As I mentioned before, even I already certified in TERP10, it just acts as a foundation to give a small additional boost towards my resume. Regarding my jobs hunting process, I’m still relying more on my previous short working experience, although the other elements of my resume are also important for the consideration of potential employers.

7. Do you really feel adequately prepared for the SAP world of work?
Honestly, I don’t feel adequately prepared. However, I receive a chance to join graduate SAP scheme from big companies, I believe that these companies shall provide an initial SAP training. Alas, the competition to get the job role from these companies is very tough, despite the fact that I have already obtained the SAP TERP10 certification.

Chapter 38: Face-to-Face Interviews

After months of endeavoring in hunting for graduate jobs, I finally have received some good opportunities of face-to-face interviews with five different companies. However, most of these five companies are not listed as “big companies”, which usually advertise their graduate schemes via online job board, such as Target-Jobs, Prospects, Inside-Career, or Graduate-Jobs. Therefore, up to now, I have not experienced any assessment day, which is common as the final stage for any graduate scheme of big companies.

My first opportunity of face-to-face interview came last January in Farnborough for a small software house in music industry. It was very informal and gave me an impression of how easy-going the interviewer was. He even flexibly asked me to directly demonstrate some examples of the IT projects that I have done during my study. Nevertheless, the company decided to opt for a more experienced candidate for the job role.

Then, my second face-to-face interview came early February, with a small-to-medium company in bathroom solutions business based in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The company was so nice to arrange travel reimbursement for me. However, I also did not manage to secure this job role of Web and Middleware Developer. I can only suppose that my lack of experience was the reason for them not to pick me up, as I did not ask for further interview feedback.

After that second interview, I received my PSW visa. Then, in the end of February, a small software house in rail signaling industry, which is based in Trowbridge, invited me for another face-to-face interview. The interview was quite formal and well-conducted, but no IT-related test was required as they already included two IT-related tests within their application form. In the end, the company decided not to offer me the job role, as they feel my career objective is not match with their requirements. Nevertheless, I always look at the bright side, as the interview gave me a good insight towards software development to solve rail signaling problem.

My fourth face-to-face interview was the most formal interview that I have attended so far. It’s probably due to the nature of the company, which can be considered as a public company in gas and electricity market. This company, which is based in Central London, was looking for graduate .NET developers. Therefore, they prepared a 30-minutes theoretical & conceptual written test related to .NET technology. As someone, whose .NET knowledge is limited, I could only manage to answer 13 out of 24 questions. Following the written test, the final face-to-face interview was held in the form of panel interview of 3 persons, in which one of the panel members was from their HR department and the other 2 panel members were from their IT department. The interview was held for 45 minutes in the form of competency-based questions and few technical questions related to .NET technology. I am yet to receive the result of this interview, which was done on 20th March 2012.

Finally, my fifth face-to-face interview was held on 2nd April 2012 with a global company in the industry of valve and TPMS, which is based in Northern Ireland. On the interview day, I flew there in the morning, attended the interview in the afternoon and returned in the evening. I feel appreciated because the IT manager picked me up in the airport and then the Business Systems manager returned me back to the airport after the interview finished. Because they are looking for a graduate ERP system analyst, they also prepared a 30-minutes written test related to ERP system logic, simple programming logic of palindrome, and SQL querying. Moreover, I was also asked to provide possible improvement recommendations based on the case-study of their typical ERP system’s scenario. In the end, they presented a short tour regarding the production process within the manufacturing site of the company. Overall, the interview took 2 hours and I am also yet to hear from the company after the interview.

Chapter 37: Alternative schemes for PSW visa

As most international students and graduates already aware of, the Tier-1 Post Study Work visa scheme will be closed on the 6th April 2012. Therefore, these international students and graduates are speculating about the alternative visa schemes that are eligible for them to apply. To address this issue, Brunel University PCC held a short seminar on 16th March 2012 by inviting associated external visa consultancy representatives. In summary, there are three alternatives to Tier-1 PSW visa to be considered by international students and graduates.

The first alternative is the Tier 2 visa, which require CoS (Certificate of Sponsorship) from the hiring company. Furthermore, a commitment and dedication from the person to continually work within that sponsor company is also required after the Tier 2 visa is obtained. However, based on my personal experience in hunting for graduate jobs, this option is difficult for international graduates, who do not have enough work-experience and/or special skills for the job, as companies shall carefully consider in sponsoring their potential employees. Another important note for this Tier 2 visa is related to the list of companies (which are usually big companies) that are licensed to provide sponsorship. This list of companies is also important for graduates, who already obtained their Tier 1 PSW visa and in the process of hunting graduate jobs, to get awareness whether their potential employers are included in the list, so that these graduates can potentially obtain the Tier 2 visa in the future once their Tier 1 PSW visa is expired.

The second alternative is the new scheme of Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. As stated in the UKBA website, this scheme is valid for 1 year with an option of 1 year extension. The requirements for this scheme are quite similar with the requirements of Tier 1 PSW visa. However, there are some limitations that obstruct graduates from applying for this scheme. Graduates are required to obtain a “sponsorship” from their respective university by proposing innovative and genuine business idea. Moreover, there are only 1,000 limit places nationwide, which then can be specified to maximum of 10 places for each university that wish to involve.

The third alternative is the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. The requirements for this visa includes the commitment to create a new business or invest in the existing business in the UK, which then subsequently shall create 2 new full-time jobs, and the maintenance of funds with the amount of minimum GBP 200,000 in terms of cash, which is stored within a valid financial institution. Needless to say, the amount of required maintenance funds is the biggest stumbling block for most international graduates to apply for this scheme.

In conclusion, all of these alternatives seem difficult to be considered for international students and graduates, who wish to hunt for jobs after finishing their study in the UK. As I already mentioned in my previous blog post (referring to Chapter 24), most potential students shall hesitate to continue their postgraduate study in the UK and might decide to choose another country as their alternative study destination because of this condition that might affect their after-graduate plan. Meanwhile, current international students, who are already studying in the UK, shall keep updated with the information from UKBA and shall prepare for the stated requirements of any of those three visa schemes that they are interested to apply, if they would like to live and work in the UK after their graduation.

Chapter 36: PSW visa is granted

Finally, after 2 months of waiting (1,5 months, if the 2 weeks Christmas holiday is excluded), my Tier-1 Post Study Work visa is granted without any problem. Hopefully, by securing this visa, my graduate job hunting process will be smoother. This visa will be valid for 2 years, so I will have the right to live and work in the UK for the next 2 years. The process of the visa application took quite a long time because I had to submit my biometric data, in which I was required to book and attend an appointment in either post office or UKBA office in Croydon. I opted for UKBA office in Croydon as the biometric data collection in the post office would cost me another GBP 16.2. It was a good choice because I did not spend extra travel costs as I could travel to Croydon by using Oyster card.

Back to my graduate job hunting progress, which has been pretty “quiet” and “slow” for the last 2 months, compare to my job hunting progress before Christmas. So far, I have done online psychometric tests for two companies, telephone interviews with five companies, and face to face interview with two companies. While I am still waiting for the decision to progress into further application stages from five companies, the other four companies have decided not to continue with my application. Among these companies, I believe seven of them are big companies, who typically offer graduate IT scheme, and two of them are small to medium companies with a more specified job position.

Overall, I think the competition for graduate jobs hunting for this year is very tough. Most of my classmates are still struggling without any invitation for interviews. I also received an email from a big cars manufacturer company based in UK regarding the number of applications they received for their graduate IT scheme, which is around 13.500 applications for only 300 offered vacancies. As an alternative solution, I suppose there should be hidden vacancies that most graduates need to consider as well in their graduate jobs hunting process. For instance, graduate vacancies on the Brunel University PCC website, vacancies on the Job Center Plus website, or perhaps vacancies in local newspapers. Also, it might be useful to setup daily email alerts for specific job search terms in some jobs website, such as Jobserve, ITJobBoard, or CV-Library.

Chapter 35: PSW visa application

Merry Christmas 2011 and Happy New Year 2012 to my blog readers. I know it’s a little bit late for those wishes, but a hectic schedule has forced me to stay aside from updating my blog. For this post, I’m gonna share my experience (and also some experience from my friends, who are in the same situation as me) regarding the application for the Tier 1 Post Study Work visa application. As I already mentioned before, I need this visa to continue my mission in hunting for graduate jobs in the UK.

I finally sent my PSW visa application on 22nd December 2011, a day after I obtained my original study certificate from Brunel University. Most students thought that they can only apply for the PSW visa after they obtained this original study certificate, but then I figured out that this is not true. I met my previous flat mate Kingsley on 11th December 2011, when he told me that he already sent his application as soon as Brunel announced our study result on 18th November 2011 by using only the original academic letter from Brunel without the original study certificate. However, according to a rumor that I heard, this way of applying is risky; therefore, it is more recommended to apply by using the original study certificate. Nonetheless, I cannot verify the validity of this rumor, as Kingsley’s application is yet to be accepted or rejected (but I personally think that his application will be accepted).

The other issue regarding PSW visa application is the unavailability of premium (in-person) service. Initially, I wanted to apply by using this service, even though it costs 300 pound more than the standard service by post. This is because I thought that I already wasted 1 month of my job hunting time as I should have already applied for the PSW visa in November (like what Kingsley did). Regarding this matter, I personally think that the UKBA shut this premium service with a purpose of avoiding long queue in their office.

For the requirements of the PSW visa application, there are six documents that should be prepared: the PSW visa application form, the original passport, two copies of recent photographs with grey background (this is very important as I initially wanted to submit photographs with white background), original copies of bank statements with the proof of GBP 800 fund maintenance for the period of 90 days before the PSW visa application date, the original academic letter from university, and the original study certificate. Another important thing to note is regarding the inclusion of applicant’s name, DOB, and nationality behind each photograph. Regarding the payment, it is important to note that even though the PSW visa application is made by post, the applicant is allowed to pay by using debit card. Before I met and talked with Kingsley, I did not aware about this condition and decided to buy postal orders as my payment method, which cost me extra charge of GBP 35. Nevertheless, I am not sure about the flexibility of the other type of payment, such as bank draft or credit card. It is also important to write applicant’s name, DOB, and nationality behind each postal orders, to ensure the payee name is ‘Home Office’, and the postal orders must be crossed. I did a mistake regarding this matter because I was in a hurry on that day. I just hope the consequence will not be severe for me and UKBA can still process and accept my PSW visa application.

Chapter 34: Phone Interviews

After approximately three months of graduate jobs hunting process, I somehow start to feel a little bit tedious. Nonetheless, I guess it is normal for job hunters like me and there is nothing I can do about it other than keep trying and applying. So far, I think I have sent hundreds of jobs applications (not sure about the exact number, perhaps around 300). Some agents from various recruitment agencies across the UK already called me. The common questions they ask me are usually related to job location, expected salary, visa status, availability, and IT skill. Few of them gave me initial offer of jobs, but then they never really confirmed their offer.

On the other hand, some of my jobs applications for big companies were able to progress further to the phone interview stage. Until now, I have done phone interviews with 5 different big companies. The first company is an investment bank, which is originally based in the USA. The application was for a graduate software developer position. After preparing my answers for competency-based questions, I was so nervous that I could not sleep the day before the interview. The phone interview was on Monday morning and I can fairly say that I did not prepare well-enough, especially for technical IT questions; hence, as I predicted before, they directly informed me the rejection on the next day. The second company is a well-known shoes company, which is based in Germany. I was happy with my performance for this phone interview, but they are yet to inform me the result. The third company is the biggest telecommunication company in the UK. I remember that I had to do a kind of logical tests, which are quite complicated. I managed to pass those tests and also well-prepared for the phone interview. However, the result was not good as they also decided not to progress further with my application. The fourth company is also an investment bank, which is originally based in Swiss. Nevertheless, the position is not based in the UK and they are also yet to inform me the result (although I believe I had failed as they previously mentioned their assessment center stage should took place on early December). The last company to offer me a phone interview last Wednesday is a defense electronic supplier company, which is originally based in France. Regrettably, they directly decided not to progress further because of my current visa status, which is still on student visa, even though I had explained to them that I will get my post-study work visa by next Friday.

Two lessons can be learned from my approach to the phone interview stage. First, I am looking forward to apply for my post-study work visa as soon as I obtain my study certificate on 21st December by using the premium service to avoid another unreasonable rejection because of this matter. Second, some interview questions among those companies are similar with each other, which somehow makes my preparation become slightly easier. For instance, the questions regarding company profile, teamwork experience, problem solving experience, IT interest points, extra-curricular activities, strength & weaknesses, skills that can be contributed to the position and/or company, and the motivation behind the application for the position and/or company.