Solid foundations: tips for landing your first grad role

Getting a degree can put your career on a strong footing, although it’s not the only thing your future employer will be looking for. In a competitive jobs market, you’ll also need to build – and then showcase – the right skills to secure that all-important first role.   

No matter how tempting it is to talk up minor achievements on your CV and during an interview, always strive for truth and substance over style. This is why it is essential to plan ahead and put in the hours well before graduation day. 

The starting point for any ambitious graduate is getting a good degree classification. We would certainly be worried if a candidate, applying for their first job after university, had only managed to scrape a 2:2 (yes, the drinker’s degree). Unless there are extenuating circumstances – or they have gained significant work experience while studying – it normally rings alarm bells about their commitment, maturity, organisation and passion for a subject.  

The next step is to highlight any skills that would make you an asset to the company. For example, while essay writing probably took up a lot of your time at university, and made the biggest contribution to your degree classification, it is unlikely to be something you do day-to-day at work. So, rather than listing ‘essay writing’ on your CV, pull out the specific skills you learned during the process, such as time management, working to deadlines, research, communication and analytical thinking.  

On top of a good degree, ambitious graduates will also get as much work experience as possible, particularly if they have chosen a popular profession like marketing, journalism or TV.  

While many students undertake a placement as part of a sandwich year, managers are always impressed by someone who proactively seeks out opportunities independently.  

Juggling academic studies with working part-time in a café or shop is no mean feat and prospective employers know this. Even if the role is not directly relevant to your chosen career, you’ll have picked up plenty of invaluable skills along the way, including team working and dealing with customers. 

Then, of course, there is the voluntary work you might have been involved in, whether abroad during the holidays or as part of a project organised by the NUS. In fact, any extracurricular activities will help you stand out, so always include details in your CV. In a competitive role, like sales and recruitment, sporting achievement demonstrates you have grit and determination, while someone who has travelled widely or is passionate about art and design could bring insight and ideas to a creative role. 

It goes without saying that CVs should be clear, engaging and easy to read. If you are applying for a job in the creative industries, you could even wow the hiring manager with a video presentation or interactive graphic. 

However, as we stressed above, nothing is more important than putting in the time to develop your skills in the first place. An eight-week placement with a respected and well-known firm is a powerful way to learn how a real business is run – and you never know, you may even be offered a permanent job with the company at the end.

To find out about the latest career opportunities with ESA Group, keep an eye on our blog and LinkedIn page.

Reasons why you think you want a job vs. why you really do


You’ve just left university and, with a degree under your belt, it is time to think about your next steps. Of course, it is tempting to blast out applications to every company you can think of, especially if you can’t wait to finally pay off your overdraft and get some money in the bank. But let’s take a step back and unpick the reasons why you are applying for a job in the first place. 

Like many grads, you’ll probably be swayed by salaries, holiday allowances and perks. Or perhaps you’re looking for employers in the town or city where you went to uni or close to your parents. Then there is the lure of shiny offices filled with ping-pong tables, beanbags and games consoles. 

There is nothing wrong with making pay packets and bonuses your priority in a sales-driven sector like recruitment – as we said in our last blog, everyone likes to be rewarded for doing well!  

Lifestyle factors will always play a part in your decision too. Maybe you can’t immediately afford to rent your own place, so it makes sense to move back to your parents’ house at least until you’ve found your feet. 

If you’re thinking about a career in recruitment (and of course we’d recommend this as a great move), bear in mind there are more than 40,000 consultancies in the UK – and each one offers different experiences and opportunities. 

This is why it pays to do your research, particularly if you want to be exposed to the latest industry thinking, and put it into practice. Some recruitment firms are prehistoric in their approach, normally selling candidates’ skills to solve a specific problem. 

The more dynamic consultancies like ESA Group, on the other hand, take the time to understand their clients’ needs, positioning applicants as experts who can drive innovation. Their employees understand the sectors they work in and stay on top of new developments. 

At ESA Group, we think perks (and don’t worry, there are plenty!) are the icing on the cake of a good job. 

The reason many graduates ultimately stay in a job is because of the progression opportunities available, and what support they receive along the way. Just as nobody wants to get stuck in a rut, nor is it a good idea to move up the ranks too quickly without gaining the right level of knowledge and experience first.

So, by all means ask about salaries and holidays during a job interview – but don’t forget to probe your potential employer a little more to see if their values and management style will help you fulfil your career ambitions.  

To find out about the latest career opportunities with ESA Group, keep an eye on our blog and Linkedin page.

Join ESA Group: Graduate Trainee Recruitment Consultant


Are you a hard-working, ambitious graduate looking to set yourself up on a high trajectory start to your career?

If yes, then ESA Group wants to hear from you. We are specialist recruitment consultants, sourcing the best tech and digital talent for some of the biggest businesses in the Midlands and beyond.

We’re looking for six ambitious, driven, high achievers to join us from September as Graduate Trainee Recruitment Consultant.

In return for your commitment and dedication, you will be rewarded with a competitive starting salary plus impressive commission, with an additional pay rise following successful completion of your probation.

To give you an idea one of our recent starters earns over £35k.

Alongside your starting salary and generous commission structure, you will benefit from a comprehensive training program, flexible working, monthly lunch clubs and incredible opportunities to grow with the organisation, making the fast progression to director level a possibility.

ESA Group, which was founded in 2014 and regularly works with household names including Purple Bricks, Claire’s accessories, NEC Group and Gymshark, is centrally located at Birmingham’s Colmore Building.

As well as its fantastic central location, this new development benefits from a host of envy-inducing amenities such a state-of-the-art 6,000 sq. ft. gym, an on-site all day coffee house serving breakfast, lunch and snacks, beauty treatment rooms, doctors surgery, and even a dry cleaning service.

If this sounds like the start your career needs then email a CV and a covering letter to

What’s in it for you:

● Competitive starting salary plus commission scheme and pay rise following probation

● Clear career trajectory and opportunities for swift promotion.

● Outstanding workplace with on-site gym, café, doctors surgery and beauty treatment rooms.

● Flexible working as standard.

● Supportive team promoting a true team-player culture.

● A robust and structured training plan.

What we are looking for:

● No recruitment experience necessary and we welcome candidates from all degree levels

● Excellent communication skills

● An ability to build relationships

● Ambitious characteristics with a drive to succeed

● Good decision-making skills within fast-paced working environments

If you believe you have the required skills and attributes to join us as Graduate Trainee Recruitment Consultant, then apply online ASAP. Email a CV and a covering letter to

Closing date: 01/07/2019

Why everything you've heard about recruitment probably isn't true


Recruitment, like other sales-based roles, has a reputation for high-pressure working environments with consultants chasing the commission, seemingly at any cost. There’s no doubt we’re target-driven and tenacious (after all, who doesn’t like to be recognised for a job well done?) – yet a career in this industry offers plenty more rewards beyond the financial. 

 As a graduate, who has spent the past three years in higher education, recruitment might seem like a big leap into the unknown. But choose the right employer and you’ll soon find the negative perceptions are unfounded, as our myth-busting guide proves.


‘People are only motivated by money’

 It is certainly true that there are opportunities to earn big money, and that’s no bad thing. Most recruiters love the challenge of hitting their targets and securing a bonus, so it isn’t a career for those who plod along, only willing to do the bare minimum.

 Unless you are a volume recruiter, who helps companies take on high numbers of workers often to meet seasonal demand, you won’t sit at your desk making call after call. 

 Recruiting for more specialist roles, you still speak to candidates and clients on the phone (and use LinkedIn), but you’ll also build relationships that sometimes last for years. Strong recruiters are able to closely align candidates’ skills to clients’ needs, so new hires stay in the job for longer. 


‘It’s stressful’

 There are always days when your adrenaline is pumping, although you’ll be pleased to know the days of ‘sweatshop’ style offices are long gone. 

 In order to attract the top talent (that’s you!), good employers know they need to create attractive working environments and have a clear set of company values. Our values – integrity, empathy, focus and pride– are at the centre of everything we do and alongside regular perks and staff socials, we promote flexible working, along with employee health and wellbeing.   


‘My boss will see me as a money-making machine’

 The best managers support their teams and want them to perform well but not at the expense of their mental or physical health. We’re not afraid to tell our consultants to take a holiday if it looks like they are putting themselves under too much pressure, for example.

 Rather than letting juniors take on impossibly heavy workloads, a good boss will pick up the phone and speak to clients and candidates directly. They lead by example, which enables you to develop skills and confidence.  


‘I won’t be supported’

 Unlike some industries, ambitious recruiters rarely get stuck in a rut – the problem is you can sometimes move up the ranks too quickly. There’s nothing wrong with having your eye on a managerial role, as long as you have the right experience. It can take two years for someone to become an effective manager, which is why we believe a phased approach – where you mentor juniors first – works best. 

 At every job interview, ask how you will be supported and make sure your employer fulfils any promise they make once you’ve started. 


‘My degree subject isn’t relevant’

 Some degrees, like management and business studies, might seem more relevant to a career in recruitment, but any subjects helps you develop valuable skills, like problem-solving and understanding complex concepts.

 Your degree subject could also be relevant if you work in a specialist area of recruitment, like tech or marketing, because you’ll have a better understanding of your clients and candidates. Don’t forget, customer-facing or admin jobs you had while at university, as well as voluntary work, will bolster your skillset too.  

 To find out about the latest career opportunities with ESA Group, keep an eye on our blog and Linkedin page.

Why every MD should lead by example


‘In the competitive and rapidly-evolving recruitment industry, there is no room for managing directors who do not roll their sleeves up and get stuck into billable work’ – Andrew Stocks

Hands-on MDs are essential for the recruiting industry, where demand for highly-specialist skills is always changing. However, bosses can often appear too remote, out of touch with what’s happening on the ground in their consultancy’s specialist industry. At ESA Group, we think they should be seen on the phone, speaking directly to candidates and clients, remaining involved in the recruiting process and the general day-to-day tasks.

After all, someone who combines years of recruitment experience with up-to-date industry knowledge is well-placed to match a candidate’s unique skill-set to more niche positions. It is therefore essential that they speak the language of businesses they represent and be as confident interviewing a potential CEO as they are speaking to an entry-level developer.

It is also really important that strong leaders demonstrate a strong work ethic and close understanding of what clients need right now.

We believe there is tremendous value in showing your team that you are still involved in every aspect of the company. By breaking down hierarchies, you can ensure that people feel supported at every stage; sharing in their frustrations and embracing the sense of satisfaction that comes with a successful hire.

Open-door culture promotes shared learning at ESA Group. It goes without saying that junior consultants benefit from shadowing those who have been in the profession for longer, right up to director level. However, MDs can learn a lot from their younger colleagues too. Fostering an open-door culture means senior managers are more likely to hear about the latest trends, observe the dynamics of their team and spot talent within their workforce, enabling them to nurture and take full advantage of their team.

Recruitment, like other industries, has become an extremely social profession. Using platforms such as LinkedIn allow you to stay in touch with candidates beyond the initial hire. For example, if a candidate you placed years ago drops you a message, this time as a client, it is an opportunity to build on a pre-existing relationship. It expresses to the client, candidate and your own team, the level of care in your work, proving that you value your candidates and clients time.

At ESA Group we firmly believe it is essential that MDs keep the latest industry developments and insights at the forefront of their minds. This equates to remaining involved in the operational side of the business, to help secure clients and guide and support their team. Of the 40,000 or so recruitment consultancies operating in the UK today, the winners will be those who commit their whole team to staying close to their markets.

We’re hiring!


Are you looking for an opportunity to further your career with a fast-growing, UK-wide recruitment specialist?

ESA Group specialises in placing top talent around the country in marketing, technology, and sales roles. As we continue to grow our service offering and global reach, we are interested in hearing from consultants with experience in recruiting across all professional services sectors, also including finance, procurement, supply chain, engineering and financial services.

This year, we are embarking on a period of significant change. We are saying goodbye to our old home in Edgbaston, and relocating to the centre of Birmingham’s bustling commercial district. From this March, we will be found at the newly launched Colmore Building.

As well as its fantastic central location, this new development benefits from a host of envy-inducing amenities such a state-of-the-art 6,000 sq. ft. gym, an on-site all day coffee house serving breakfast, lunch and snacks, beauty treatment rooms, doctors surgery, and even a dry cleaning service.

In taking on this extensive space, we are setting ourselves the bold target of doubling our current number of consultants in 2019. We are already off to a flying start this year, celebrating record turnover and profit figures in January, and this is only the beginning.

With this great change, comes great opportunity. Which is where you come in.

We take great pride in our consultants, nurturing their talent to encourage growth within our business. Now is a particularly crucial time to join ESA Group, as those joining the business now will have the potential to secure a management position in the coming years.

This is an exciting time in our history; so if you are looking to build your career in recruitment at a leading global specialist, then apply today.

For more information, call the team on 0121 516 3850.