We are Brightsparks.
We are not recruitment.

Many students find that their introduction to working life is way before their graduation day. For many of the students who work for Brightsparks, the pay they receive for work in our event and hospitality side is a vital source of the funds they require to be able to get through university; to pay to live and study as well as to party!

The demands on the students will vary from role to role – working in a bar requires stamina and a smile, tutoring schoolchildren requires endless patience, working in a factory demands muscle power, but there are certain sorts of roles that require a whole range of skills that will be vital in a future career.

Working in (corporate) hospitality is one of these roles.

Far from being a mindless monotony, the demands on students working in the hospitality sector are considerable and varied. The expectations are on a level with that of professionals in the sector, so there is an incredibly steep learning curve. If you don’t meet the standards, you may not be invited back the next day and you certainly won’t receive any tips!

Hospitality teaches students some fantastic life and work lessons; it is one of the reasons we do so much work in the sector.

We work with students through their university careers, and the top performers go on to have fantastic careers in all sorts of sectors. How do we know? Well, we place them in their careers once they have graduated too.

The primary benefit of taking on a grad who has excelled in the hospitality sector during their student days is that you know they will have honed their people skills. It is one thing sitting in a draughty university room debating some dusty text, it is another thing entirely juggling a hundred and one tasks in a room of expectant customers. Performing under pressure is a key part of your first job – hospitality will teach you that in spades.

The focus on customer service is not only about external customers. Many grads start in business thinking about themselves and their needs, but they have an office full of people with whom they must work. One key reason for a grad failing to integrate into their first company is their inability to realise that their internal customers (their colleagues) are just as important as their external customers.

Grads also take their first steps in management in these roles. They must manage each other as well as their supervisors, making split-second decisions and keeping the clients at the front of their mind at all times. These hospitality roles rarely involve a purely one-to-one relationship – doing a great job nearly always involves working with others to make it happen.

Maybe the final point to make is the personality that you require to turn up at work with a smile on your face every day.

Hospitality can be a grind if you don’t have a relentlessly positive attitude. If you start your first proper job with this sort of attitude, the sky is the limit.

Whenever someone comes into an interview, it is vital to gain an understanding of their personal values. When someone has a track record of previous employment, it is not so hard to perceive their values from their past behaviour. However, when a grad comes in who knows little else but work placements and holiday jobs, it is a little harder to get to the bottom of how they operate.

Any values-based discussion must contain an element of imagination. For me, therefore, one of the most interesting questions is this:

“Which behaviours will help you to get promoted?”

Ambitious graduates don’t join a company to sit at the same desk for the next five years. They want to get involved in the action, and they want to make a difference. Even on their first day, their thoughts are trained on what they will have to do to take that next step. This can be a little annoying for some of their colleagues, but this level of drive is why they were hired in the first place. They want to go places, and this can’t happen without a great amount of thought and effort.

These thoughts start way before they even get their first role. They have a view on the sort of employee they want to be, and if you touch on the subject at interview, you will likely receive a series of carefully considered thoughts as to how they want to go about building their career. This is an incredibly good place to start a values-based discussion.

Their answers to this question also reveal how well they have researched the company and the particular role. If there is an obvious mismatch between their expectations and the reality, you can be sure that they will be the type of people to become disillusioned and disruptive sooner rather than later. If, on the other hand, they show a deep understanding of the company culture and see how they will fit in, the discussion becomes a genuine exploration of mutual interests. This is where both parties start to get that magical feeling that they would enjoy working with each other, even though there is not so much tangible proof that this would be the case.

When people talk about their ideals of behaviour, a pinch of salt must be added, but you know when they are genuine about their intentions – their eyes light up, and their body language gets that little bit more animated. Being asked to imagine how you would behave in the job is an exciting discussion for anyone who has a genuine desire to join the company – painting a picture of where you would love to be is not a difficult task.

There is no right answer to this question. That will depend on the personality of the manager in question and the demands of the job itself. You can, however, be sure of one thing – if they say “I don’t know” then they aren’t the right person for the job.

Great grads have a vision for their career before they even start. Explore it at interview.

The nerves are jangling, but the door to their future is now slightly ajar. They have the first interview at the company of their dreams, but will the door swing invitingly open or slam in their faces? A lot will depend on how the grad handles themselves during the interview.

When you have a stellar career behind you, you can be forgiven a few mishaps at interview. Your CV will still speak for itself, and people will often give you the benefit of the doubt, well at least to invite you back for a second interview, in any case. For a graduate, however, the stakes are that little bit higher. 80% of your success will depend on your performance at interview – lesser mortals get better jobs because they interview fantastically and better mortals get lesser jobs because they interview less well.

Why wouldn’t you give every possible thought to the preparation?

Now, interview tips are a subject that has been well documented, and I do not intend to give chapter and verse on the perfect recipe (as everyone is different), but there are three evergreen tips that every single grad should bear in mind when they walk into that room. These are things that might seem obvious for more seasoned interviewees, but for a grad in their first few interviews, these snippets of advice might as well come from Mars.

The grads that heed them are those who smash the door down.

  1. Ensure that your authentic personality is front and centre. The interviewer doesn’t only want to know the detail about how you went about researching your dissertation – they want to know you. That means being honest, telling some stories and being open to not fitting in immediately. The biggest mistake that any grad can make is to “adapt” their personality to the role – that is far too easy to detect. Show them what you are really about and let them decide whether you would fit in. Any other approach is doomed to failure; after all, if you don’t fit it’s not the job for you anyway!
  1. Ask the right questions at the right time. An inquisitive nature is expected in a graduate, so if you sit there timidly answering questions like a frightened deer in the headlights, don’t expect much success. If, however, you ask questions in line with the conversation (and where the answers are not publicly available on the internet), you can demonstrate your ability to gain value from your communications. Employers want bright grads who aren’t afraid to say that they don’t know something, but who will then seek out the answer with the determination of a heat-seeking missile. The ability to ask the right questions will always get you nearer that elusive answer.
  1. Project a sense that you are in control of your own destiny. This is the hardest thing to pull off, for any interviewee. Obviously, you are desperate to impress and probably really need the job, but you must let the interviewers understand that you will only join if you feel that it is the right thing for you to do. It isn’t in their interests to take on people who are just in it for the monthly pay cheque, so for them to feel that you are engaged. It is important to let them know exactly why you want to join them, not from their point of view, but from your point of view. What is in it for you? Why exactly are you choosing to join? That is powerful.

Personality. Questions. Control.

Focussing on those three issues will ensure that you come across as a composed and compelling candidate. Something that is surprisingly rare in graduate interviews.

There is so much hype about the explosion of entrepreneurial success and the expansion of the “gig economy” that you might be fooled into thinking that the modern-day grad has one eye on a solo career from the day that they graduate.

They crave the freedom that they had at university, they want to be their own boss from day one, and they want the licence to make decisions without the shackles of corporate politics or overbearing bosses.

That all sounds great, but a tiny minority will actually take the plunge in the first few years.

Most grads work really hard to get their degrees. They want to have a successful career after university, and many see themselves working in a corporate environment while they are cutting their business teeth. If they had the drive to go it alone, they would probably have done that before university – you don’t need a piece of paper to enjoy success as an entrepreneur, you don’t need to prove anything to the world, you simply need to go out there and make your difference.

More and more employers are starting to be suspicious of potential graduate hires who show a particular bias towards entrepreneurial activity, but this should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. The concept of “intrepreneurs” is also coming to the fore – much better to give creative and innovative thinkers space within your business to work their magic rather than have them build potentially competing businesses from the outside. In a uniquely disruptive age, you can’t afford to just take on corporate yes-men and yes-women.

The age old question of “what do you want to achieve in your career” is also becoming a little redundant. It is fair to ask them what they want to do in their first three or four years, maybe until their big first promotion, but any further than that and you get into the realms of the crystal ball. People move organisations more often these days, they will change their career multiple times, and they will probably even go from employed to self-employed at some stage (and maybe even back again).

Graduate employers have to understand that they are picking up these hugely talented people to make a difference for them from day one, but if they want to leave to do something for themselves on day one-thousand, then so be it. That is not a reason to avoid employing them in the first place – their learning and their impact will have taken their employer forward, and there is always the next hungry grad who is ready to fill their boots.

Having said this, we have so many stories of grads rising through the ranks – the CEO of John Lewis being the most recent example. The key thing to remember here is that it takes all sorts to build a successful business. If you just recruit for people who are likely to stay with you for decades, you will be missing out on all sorts of talent.

The art of written persuasion is sadly lacking in the modern business world.

Written communication is as succinct as possible. One-word emails are not unusual, and the abbreviations of text messaging and Twitter are acceptable for many millennial-oriented companies. You’ve got to be down with the kids, right?!?

It is true that the Millennial generation and the more recent Generation Z have innate skillsets and technological knowhow that would blow the mind of many older employees, but it definitely isn’t true that fresh grads are anything like illiterate. Having recently written theses and dissertations, the writing skills of a recent grad may even surpass those of tired industry veterans.

Allowing fresh graduates to contribute to the business with their writing skills is a great way to ease them into the business and make their first mark on the company. They could freshen up some tired sales material, or be let loose on the company blog. They should be tasked with meeting minutes and follow-up email correspondence – attention to detail is something that grads tend to do well, and this will help them understand the importance of this in the work environment.

Writing is often a permanent record for any reader. What you say matters. How you say it matters nearly equally as much. Most important correspondence will be read, re-read and analysed for meaning – getting graduates’ input when putting the final polish a piece of communication can be an investment well worth making.

It is also a great way of getting them involved and responsible for something that they know and understand. No matter what their degree subject, most grads will have focussed on their writing skills, and all of them will at least feel comfortable with these sorts of tasks. When a first job can sometimes seem like fumbling around in the dark, these communication-oriented activities are something familiar, something where a graduate can gain a vital sense of achievement in those early weeks.

Having said all this, it often surprises me when grads don’t spend enough time on their CVs and cover letters. Either that, or it can show they are yet to translate their skills for commercial use. Companies expect their writing skills to be perfect, and when a CV is hastily written, it is an obvious sign of a graduate’s wider attitude towards other things. You might not have had a whole lot of work experience, but you can still write persuasively about what sort of things you would like to do with your life and how you might add value to your potential employer. These are the basics, but they get ignored far too often.

Companies value the writing skills of their graduates – when a grad is looking for a job, they need to be showcased wherever possible.

“Stack them high and pay them peanuts” is not an attitude to take when you are looking to hire graduate talent.

A key part of any HR department’s work is to deliver value to the business by organically developing every employee. As they deliver more value, their remuneration and benefits equally start to ramp up. However, when an employee enters the workplace for the first time, there is a tendency to undervalue their potential and consequently underpay them based on these initially low expectations.

That is not a recipe to encourage peak performance.

The problem is that many graduates will accept a low starting salary so that they can get their foot in the door at their preferred companies. They might have monumental debts, and they might sleep on the sofa at a friend’s house, but not many will negotiate hard on their starting salary. Too many companies are fine with this scenario as this minimises the risk of hiring them in the first place, but money is often the reason why top grads look to leave. They see what their peers are being paid (potentially for making less of an impact), and they immediately feel a little short-changed. By that point, their salary is what it is, and they are subject to the same annual increases as everyone else. They likely won’t have the opportunity to substantially increase their salary until their first promotion, if they get that far.

This is always a difficult call, but for the true superstar grads, the value of “overpaying” them by a few thousand in the early years will create a unique sense of loyalty that will last for far longer. They might not have earned the right to this “extra” income, but the knowledge that they are being paid a little more than their friends in other companies gives them an inevitable sense of pride – they feel wanted. This shouldn’t be the case for every grad, but where employers think “this is our person,” it makes absolute sense to reward for potential.

There is a strong argument for spoiling your top performing grads rotten. Of course, once they are in the business, these various benefits should be earned, but if they are not rewarded for “smashing it,” they will soon look elsewhere. In the heads of many grads, the link between hard work and good grades is still very fresh, so hard work in employment should also be rewarded. If it is ignored, they will be less happy to put in so much effort next time.

As such, paying bonuses early in their career can be a strong motivator and links hard work to remuneration. The targets for such bonuses need to be achievable and appropriate for someone at their stage, not necessarily aligned to the targets for more senior members of the team.

No business hires a grad to lose them to a competitor within two years, but if they are not remunerated in line with their potential, that is exactly what will happen. A great grad has as much of a chance of becoming a future leader as anyone else. Why would you want to underpay them?

Paying grads a pittance just because they don’t have much experience doesn’t make sense. You pay them for their potential, not for their past.

They are used to getting on well with hundreds of near strangers. They are practiced in the art of empathy and are surprisingly good listeners. Humour is never far from their lips, and with their infectious enthusiasm, they are often a pleasure to be around.

When a new wave of graduates joins a business, it often takes the energy levels up a notch, both in the office and out of the office. The first instance is important, as shaking up the daily office routine is always healthy, but it is often the case that socialising out of the office is where the real magic happens.

Many grads are naturally social animals, and their impact in this area should be nurtured by HR departments as a catalyst for bringing everyone that little bit closer.

It is a cliché, but it is often the younger members of the team who suggest going for a drink and maybe a meal after work every now and again. Many employees with families probably wouldn’t suggest this themselves, but surprising amounts of them would be very happy to “tag along for a while” if someone else has seized the initiative and organised it. Recent grads often act as the social secretaries who galvanise slightly tired teams to get out of the office and actually talk to each other as normal people.

Getting out of the office is the important part.

Too many of us feel a little restricted while we are in our offices. Everything we can say can be overheard by the most inappropriate of people, we don’t feel that we can let our hair down too much and we feel that conversation should be confined to work related matters. In short, we may find it hard to be ourselves when we are chatting to others at work. There are always exceptions, and certainly more companies are encouraging people to bring their authentic selves to work, but for the most part, we can’t relax too much.

When we are out with colleagues in a social context, this is also the case to some extent, but it is definitely true that our personalities can come to the fore that little bit more. When you are having a drink in a bar, it is almost taboo to talk about the sort of stuff that you have been droning on about all day. Yes, most people love their work, but not so much that they want to talk about it 24/7.

If companies encourage their grads to be sociable with each other (cross functionally), they will then naturally form social groups outside of work, groups that will invite other colleagues to join in with, thus binding people that little bit closer. Much is said for the guiding impact of experienced mentors, but the impact of the sociable graduate is also a factor in binding a team together.

It is nice when we feel that we can open up to the people around us. An injection of grads every year can ensure that this energy never leaves our teams.

If you worked in mobile a decade ago in 2007, the launch of the iPhone felt like all your Christmases had come all at once. It wasn’t really a phone; the iPhone was form and function from the future.

The iPhone promised us so much. And, just under a decade later in July 2016, the billionth iPhone was sold, no doubt the ultimate proof of the power of that promise.

In truth, the iPhone was a pretty poor telephone for a while; indeed, its ability to make and receive calls and its “iPhone” name felt like bread crumbs designed to get you to buy a hand-sized computer and put it in your pocket, not sit it on your desk.

And mobile display advertising was also only fractionally less rubbish when experienced on an iPhone versus on other mobile devices with their teeny tiny screens. But goodness, no-one outside marcomms cared. The arrival of the device was a flashpoint moment in culture, ushering in an era that saw ‘mobile technology’ move from geekdom to mainstream adoption; and appreciation of user experience and UI move out of design forums and into common parlance.

Then, as the expression “there’s an app for that” took hold and mobile usage spiked, entire industries were aided and abetted by the uptake of the iPhone and its smartphone rivals. With each new release, every social platform and every mobile game had the opportunity to speed up and increase capacity. A virtuous circle ensued as the decade passed, increasing smartphone usage to the insanely high levels of today.

The design of the Apple device unquestionably helped fuel that response. Its carefully proportioned weight and the feel of the screen under your fingertips. The gestural and voice UI that quickly eschewed skeuomorphic design and just felt intuitive. Even the stuttery, early geo-location capabilities felt like technology as magic.

Fast forward ten years, the iPhone is a sleeker, faster, more powerful, smaller-then-got-larger-again version of its forefather. Along with its Android OS competitors, the iPhone is ubiquitous and omnipresent in the lives of its owners.

But, inevitably, I wonder for how much longer this will be the case.

With the advent of AI, our addiction to screens of all sizes looks under threat in the longer term. Wearables are one obvious alternative, but when the very fabric of a wall you wander past is capable of reading your data and serving up answers to questions you barely knew you wanted to ask, that is an altogether different kind of interaction. Whilst it’s premature to think this, once there is a viable alternative, I suspect we will drop our handheld device with its clunky, fragile physicality like a hot coal.

Goodbye smashed iPhone screen, hello intelligent voice assistant.

Right now in my household, Alexa is answering the umpteenth request from my daughter to “tell us a joke”; entertaining but hardly taxing. Rest assured, she is listening and learning behind the scenes though. Reading streams of data. Connecting the binary dots. Making herself indispensable.

Apple will fight back. It will keep finding ways to bring extraordinarily designed interfaces and products that become habitual parts of our lives. The iPhone was the perfect Apple product both in concept and design in that sense: an upgrade on an understood and familiar tool, in a package that surprised and delighted.

A technological sheep in wolf’s clothing that went on to change our lives.

Perhaps the next generation Siri in development at Apple will emerge this year and take the driving seat. One thing is for sure, ten years after the introduction of the iPhone, it’s time to move the game on again.


By Wendy Hooper, Commercial Director at Brightsparks.

This subject is not one that is touched on very often, but it is something that sometimes crosses my mind. Graduates are often seen as indestructible machines, with their energies simply redirected from party hard to work hard. Many of them will have completed some work experience while at university, so how hard can their first “proper” job be?

Well, pretty damn hard actually, although you may not see any signs.

The first few years after university are a unique time in someone’s life. They are often “on their own” in all aspects of life for the first time, making their way as best they can, and for many the road ahead is less than clear. With student debts at astronomic levels, there is a pressing need to start their careers as soon as they graduate, but for many of them, there will still be many unanswered questions about where they are going.

The potential for stress lies around every corner.

I am glad that mental health is getting more press these days. Rather than having a “shut up and deal with it” approach to employees, managers are increasingly aware of just how debilitating mental health issues can be. The UK economy loses billions to “presenteeism” every day, and the youngest members of the workforce have as much to distract their minds as anyone.

For me, the solution lies in encouraging grads to be open.

If a business expects them to turn up in a (mental) suit of armour and unflinchingly take on everything that is thrown at them, burnout will not be far away. The grads won’t feel that they can give feedback if they need help, and they will carry the burden in silence.

If, however, a business recognises that grads will often find the early stages of their career difficult, it will encourage them to share their thoughts and fears. In this way, others can get involved to improve their situation, and they will build stronger relationships with those around them. If you suffer in silence, nothing will change. If you invite others to help you in your suffering, both you and they will grow as a result.

In the worst-run businesses, grads are used to do the menial tasks that no one else wants to handle. These jobs are often still fraught with difficulties for the first-timer, but if there is a “get on with it and don’t come to me until it is done” attitude, it is easy to see how quickly an ambitious grad can become demoralised. No matter what the work concerns, there should always be a willingness to stand alongside a recent grad to help and coach them.

If grads feel that their employers are there to help, no matter what, they will feel comfortable asking for help. If they are happy to ask for help when they need it, their heads will be freed of worry, their learning and development will be expedited and they will ready to take on the tasks that add-value and drive their employers forward.

In the soul searching for the perfect culture, some companies seem to have lost sight of what really matters to graduates and young professional starting out on their career: they need to pay the rent, put food on the table and go out on the weekend. They also must have some sort of hope for the future.

Of course, the bragging rights of telling their friends about the after-work ping-pong tournaments and the on-site massages is important to the youthful ego, but the realities of life hit hard; they are truly most concerned with being fairly rewarded for the work they put in and having a chance to progress in their career.

The best graduate employers have finely-tuned performance-related remuneration schemes and an individual approach towards getting the very best out of their people. All the peripheral perks are nice, but a graduate will stay with you for years if they know that they could not be developing better anywhere else.

The best grads often have a choice of where they want to work and, in the transparent world of social media, it is easy to see which companies can retain their young talent and which companies operate like a revolving door. A simple search on LinkedIn shows the length of tenure and the conclusions are not hard to draw. If a company constantly shares posts about their jollies and office parties but cannot keep talented grads until the next jolly, there must be a deeper malaise lurking.

For the HR community, it is very much about going back to basics. It is vital to talk to their grads about their (often changing) ambitions, try to find the best possible fit for them in the business, and ensure that there are mentors on hand to handle the fallout of the inevitable failures. If someone is pushing their career to the limit, things will always go wrong. The key for a business is to support their grads with an inbuilt resource so that they might learn the resultant lessons.

The remuneration argument is often a chicken and egg scenario. Should you invest in someone that is not yet earning their keep, or should you wait until they are but risk losing them in the process? You certainly shouldn’t pay someone if they are not performing, but it could be a good few years until a grad is truly out-earning their full cost to the business. You should reward improvement and effort – otherwise their initial “brilliance” will quickly fade.

When a graduate asks me about the “culture” of a certain employer, the first things that I talk about is how they develop and retain their younger employees. Pay and promotions are fundamental to this consideration, and examples of young grads fast-tracked into management or even board level will beat talk of ping-pong tables and massages any day of the week. If you have a great company culture with shared values, your people will thrive.

That is what grads are truly searching for; that perfect mix of pay, promotion, culture and values.


Yes, a plain yellow DHL top produced by fledgling Parisian label Vetements, retailing for £185, no less! The frenzy was such that it sold out in days despite the original one selling for £6.50 on the DHL official website.

Corporate logos being referenced in apparel is nothing new. Go to Camden Market in London and you will find various stallholders selling all manner of nostalgic wares emblazoned with logos from defunct companies such as PanAm and Polaroid.

But a new subversion is afoot. Carrefour, Boots and WHSmith serving as motifs on Anya Hindmarch handbags, boots and jumpers. McDonalds being referenced in Moschino’s catwalk shows. Fashion is usually a good barometer for millennial attitudes – so does this trend suggest that they think logos are a big fat LOL?

After turning their backs on traditional media long ago, Generation Y now seem to be turning their backs on traditional branding too. Making a fashion statement out of corporate symbols is just another way of poking fun at the establishment. In the 1990’s cultural manifesto ‘No Logo,’ Naomi Klein said: “the public psyche is delighted to see the icons of corporate power subverted and mocked”. Twenty years on, this sentiment is alive and well. The trappings of traditional branding are now meme-worthy to an entire generation.

“The public psyche is delighted to see the icons of corporate power subverted and mocked.” Naomi Klein, NO LOGO

Much has been said about the millennial mindset and its contradictions but while there are theories aplenty, many brands are quickly adapting to cater for the largest consumer demographic in the US with a spending power of over $200 billion. Beyond statistics, Gen Y are digital natives whose reliance on peer affirmation and desire to change the world is impacting the way companies are doing business.

So how can brands create experiences to engage this audience?

Useful is the new cool

Brands that understand customers on a personal level have a competitive advantage. And for millennials, utility and customisation converge naturally in digital platforms, especially on their mobiles.

UK insurance company AEGEAS launched a tinder-style app called Back Me Up. Users pay a monthly flat free to insure up to three items. No need for contract or any paperwork. Adding stuff just requires a photograph taken by the app. No longer need to insure that old guitar? Just swipe left.

Live your purpose

Gen Y pays no attention to traditional marketing fluff. Actions, not words will resonate and create a sense of shared values.

Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia lives by its mission of “building the best product, causing no unnecessary harm, and using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”. As a proof-point, it runs its ‘Worn Wear’ programme whereby garments are repaired for free across locations worldwide, successfully reinforcing Patagonia’s commitment to product longevity and environmental responsibility. The brand is also known for anti-consumerism advertising. The ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign placed during Black Friday sales urged consumers to consider the environmental effects of their purchases and buy only what they need. Although this approach might seem risky, it’s helped to establish a strong sense of community amongst its millennial customers who appreciate such values.

Membership, not ownership

Millennials are less bothered about owning stuff. Across many categories, they’d rather just subscribe to a service. Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify are typical examples. These brands tend to focus on branding the experience rather than the end product.

Birchbox has been at the forefront of the recent subscription box phenomenon. Born digital and social, it sends its customers a mix of 5 beauty product samples every month that can be reviewed online in exchange for Birchbox points – a currency that can be used at their bricks and mortar store. When Siegel+Gale refreshed their identity, special focus was given to design of the experience, rather than the products inside the box.

Curiously enough, the focus on utility, purpose and experience are key tenets of brand simplicity. Whether or not logos are becoming jokes, branding-fatigue and millennial mindsets are evolving how businesses engage people. Brands that embrace simplicity and keep up with the times are likely to win big – and have the last laugh.


By Wendy Hooper, Commercial Director at Brightsparks.

When you walk in the door, a shiver of fear runs down your spine.

You don’t know anyone.

We’ve all been there. Whether it is your first day in a new job, a sales meeting at a new client or a dinner party with a load of strangers, we are all familiar with that brief feeling of wondering how to navigate the initial awkwardness.

While all the typical body language advice is useful (smile, be open, etc.), the real obstacles in this sort of situation are in your mind. When a graduate walks into their first employer, their minds are buzzing with how they should react to every situation. A far more useful approach would be to put yourselves into the minds of everyone that you meet. When you think about yourself, you will be able to influence only your objectives. Thinking about others first, finding out what matters to them and helping to solve their problems, is a far better way of building rapport.

Putting it simply, put your agenda to one side.

The first day at work for a graduate is not an interview anymore. No one is especially interested in what grades you got or how you were captain of the university sports team. They might nod politely, but inside their minds will be wandering. Such conversations have little impact on their lives, and you are on the lowest rung of the career ladder. You are there to make a difference, but you won’t make a difference by making everything about you (even if you think you could run rings around most of them). No, to make a difference to people, and to get on with them, you must strive to meet them where they are rather than bringing them to where you are.

Working in graduate recruitment, this is the golden piece of advice that I would tell anyone, irrespective of their industry or type of company. Yes, they are there to make an impact, but in order to impact the business, you primarily have to make a difference to the people who are working there already. You won’t come up with a new incremental business stream in your first six months, so to make a difference and be appreciated, you must learn to get on with those around you. If you are there for them, they will be there for you later.

Interestingly, our business model enables us to find these rare individuals. The students that we take on for work in the hospitality and events industry (for example) then go on to have strong starts when we place them with their employers after graduation. They have a “service” mentality, and there is nothing more important in the first six months of your first job than wanting to give a great service to others. If your colleagues feel that you are giving without an expectation of any return, they will quickly warm to you.

Putting your agenda to one side, and giving freely to your colleagues is the best way to win their hearts and minds for the long haul.

Amid all the Christmas ad hoo-ha one story really stood out for me. And it didn’t have anything to do with a bouncing dog.

It was around the John Lewis spoof and W Communications’ decision to hire the clever lad behind it. Hiring an 18-year old with no agency experience is a bold move. And I look forward to hearing how young Nick Jablonka fares. He’s clearly got raw talent – but also a long, hard journey ahead of him.

Millennials are crucial to our industry, no doubt. As digital natives, they have the know-how most clients crave, and they are, after all, the workforce and leaders of the future. But are they really agencyland’s knights in shining armour? I think it’s time we tempered our view of millennials a little. It’s a two-way street. When taking on young talent, we should celebrate what they have to offer without forgetting our own business needs and responsibilities.

Younger recruits have an energy and vitality that’s hard to find anywhere else. They’re untainted by the cynicism that can afflict our industry. Plus, they’re often motivated, passionate and eager to learn. These attributes bring a freshness of ideas that are a boost to agencies’ creativity. But hiring young talent who exhibit these traits is just the start. Raw talent only takes you half of the way.

Agencies have a responsibility to nurture the other half. Often the very nature of our industry is the hardest thing for new recruits to grasp. Marketing hinges on the long-term and that can be an alien concept for millennials. In this era of fast-growth start-ups and declining home ownership, that is wholly understandable. They’re not driven by the same incentives as us older folk were at their age, partly because a lot of them appear to be less attainable. What’s more, youth culture in all its guises – music, film, fashion – is incredibly fast moving. If you’re coming of age right now a short-term attitude is almost a requirement.

A successful career in the marketing world is based on time and hard work accompanied by a healthy measure of experience. For wide-eyed, ambitious recruits it’s tempting to bring this instant, short-term outlook with them to business life. I love seeing this vigour in our new hires and a desire to move up the ladder is laudable. But the reality is that progression isn’t a matter of ticking boxes. Experience is complicated. It’s not just about delivering on certain objectives, it’s more intangible – it’s about testing your skills over and over again, in different situations and in different ways.

Inevitably the wheels will fall off to one degree or another (another hard and fast agency rule). And if you’ve risen through the ranks without ever having a problem to deal with, there’s going to be a world of trouble when one finally falls in your lap. That’s why agencies are so interested in graduates’ answers to situational interview questions. Unforeseen circumstances will always emerge: it’s no use saying that the systems in place will protect against them, as one of our interviewees did. It’s better to accept that you won’t always have the answer up front; cracking a problem asks you to think differently.

The beauty of experience is that it breeds flexibility. If you’ve got banks of knowledge to draw on, you’re better equipped to think on your feet and improvise. No job in our industry is mundane and no skill is exclusive to a particular job role, so that flexibility brings with it tremendous value. But how do you teach it?

In my experience, it pays to have clearly set out company values. An agency that practices openness will attract staff with the same principles. And this openness will be applicable to any job function. So, there’s a lot to be said about having a rigorous employment process too: it means you get the right kind of person who has real business benefits, both culturally and structurally.

In addition to that bright spark, agencies should put a real emphasis on emotional intelligence with their young hires. Empathetic people, who really reflect the values your company is founded on, aren’t constrained to one kind of thinking. So above all else, there’s an agency responsibility to make it clear to recruits what they want from them. There’s no point taking on a promising newcomer if they’re not the right fit for your agency.

Ultimately though, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to young talent. Agencies that expect millennials to solve all their problems will be disappointed. To get the best out of new recruits, agencies have a responsibility to make them a useful part of a workforce. It’s not about chucking them in at the deep end and seeing if they can swim either. It’s about showing them the ropes, helping them build valuable experience and ultimately, learning from them too.

By Wendy Hooper, Commercial Director at Brightsparks.

The future of experiential marketing in Brexit Britain lies in tea and cakes! Wendy Hooper, Brightsparks’ Commercial Directoir, explains what we can learn from The Great British Bake Off.

Tech is all the rage in experiential marketing at the moment. Every event right now seems to involve virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), NFC chips, holograms and digital screens.

But technology is inherently unsettling for many (which explains our fascination with films and TV series about robots taking over the world – think AI, The Terminator, Humans and the upcoming Westworld series), and right now, much of the UK population is unsettled enough.


Lessons from The Great British Bake Off

Causing quite a stir was the news that The Great British Bake Off is jumping ship and moving from the BBC to Channel 4.

Let’s just take a moment to think about that. Many are more shocked and hurt by the fact that a TV show is switching channel than by the fact that we are leaving the European Union. Why?

The answer is simple: force-fed a 24-hour-a-day diet of bad news (terrorism, natural disasters, civil war, schisms within political parties, the economy, robots and AI taking over our jobs…) it should come as no surprise that so many of us take refuge in the kitchen.

At a time when we are confused and lost, The Great British Bake Off’s big tent welcomes us and comforts us with – let’s be honest here – old fashioned, home baked cake spiced with a serving of glorious double entrendres.

But what’s this got to do with experiential marketing? Simple: it’s time to create experiential campaigns that reinforce the human touch rather than replacing it.

VR, AR, holograms, ‘remote presence robots’, proximity marketing and ‘big data’ all have their place in experiential campaigns; but usually that involves leveraging the fascination with new tech to grab consumers’ attention, then intrigue and excite them to the point that real human brand ambassadors can take over, engage them in conversation and get the brand into their hands.

We must never lose sight of the basic fact that experiential marketing is most effective when it’s face-to-face marketing between real human beings. The aim of an experiential campaign or activation should be to engage someone via a physical medium so they experience some of the values related to the brand or service being promoted.

Yes, it’s certainly possible to give someone a VR tour of a holiday destination, a vineyard or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and you can create relevant sounds and smells and deliver them artificially. You can even build a hologram that demonstrates how a gadget works, or a ‘machine’ that gives out free samples (although more than half the time there’s a person inside the box).

In almost every case where technology has been used effectively as a key part of an activation, though, there have been human brand ambassadors on hand to handle the face-to-face interactive element. The explanation is simple: you can’t make a robot that delivers warm hugs and hands out tea, cake, sympathy and understanding, and you can’t make a machine that can handle the complexities of human interaction.

Empathy, the very thing that makes us all human, is our key USP against machines and needs to be embraced in marketing to drive engagement with a product or brand.

There’s a magic to great experiential, a bit like there’s a magic to great cakes – and great television. It’s the people involved the show that make The Great British Bake Off great. Take the people out of the recipe, and you’re likely to end up with something that just won’t rise to the occasion.

The word ‘Event’ invites excitement and high expectation. However, there are many variables that cannot be predicted or completely controlled, which makes the planning process more difficult.

There are five main elements that contribute to the success of many an event:

  • Guests & attendees
  • Catering
  • Entertainment
  • Venue
  • Customer service (last, but certainly not least!)

If any of the first four elements fall down, there is always an opportunity to rescue the integrity of an event by fantastic delivery of the fifth element, customer service.

Great customer service can only be delivered by great staff; staff are the personal link between the event and the guests. An event cannot be planned to allow for an infinite number of scenarios and issues but the choice of staff representing the event can be controlled.

Core attributes of great event staff include:

  • Presentation & communication skills
  • Personality & approachability
  • Ability to use initiative & work calmly under pressure
  • Show discretion & respect
  • Excellent work ethic & flexibility

A great member of staff will relay issues or guest concerns in a swift and efficient manner, keeping guests informed and answering any questions. They will be able to alleviate stress during unpredictable situations and use their initiative to diffuse situations and fix problems in a timely fashion. Staff are an event’s brand ambassador, they communicate the desired look, atmosphere and quality that the event wishes to embody. Engage your staff in your event and their enthusiasm will amplify your message to your guests.

Overall, a great member of staff will have guest satisfaction utmost in their consideration. Excellent customer service will always be remembered.

Employing great staff provides the opportunity for an event to create an initial and lasting impression to its guests.  It is inevitable that an Event will encounter some issues from conception to implementation; the success of an event, however, is only judged by guest experience on the day; with the right staff providing great customer service, guest satisfaction is far closer to being achieved.

Our advice is simple: by hiring the best staff for your event and treating them fairly you stand the best chance of your event being a great success, no matter what unexpected variable occur.

I am not suggesting that you chain your Grads to the coffee machine, but taking on relatively inexperienced new starters does require certain boundaries to be set.

It is great to welcome them with open arms and an effusive smile on their first day, but unless you set them to work in a rigid and organised manner, it is likely that they will float through their first month without achieving much in particular. Graduates come into a business to make things happen, but unless the business familiarises them with the rules of play, they will be likely to turn into loose cannons or frustrated drifters, neither of which do existing teams want to deal with. You must lay down the law for them to take their first steps within some “safe” boundaries.

They should, of course, be given challenges, but they will need close mentoring on their way to achieving them. They will want to be given the freedom that they were accustomed to in their studies, but their ambition must be tempered with some common sense. They may not appreciate the hand around the shoulder at the time as they get excited about the challenge at hand and impressing their new boss, but the intelligent ones will soak up all the advice and become all the more proficient for it.

Different businesses approach managing their graduates and emerging talent in different ways, but I like the approach of letting them dip their toes into the business before they are fully immersed. With every new learning, they will believe that they are capable of more, and there is nothing like a gradual journey to keep motivation levels high. Grads who are thrown into a sink or swim deep end won’t all last the distance – this may be part of the selection process in certain companies, but without sufficient supervision, it sometimes turns into a car crash.

The key to getting the most of talented graduates is creating a safe to fail, learning environment, rather than a fail-safe environment. They will learn from their experiences, both successes and failures, if they are provided with the necessary direction and an environment in which it is safe to do so.

We keep tracks of all our graduate and emerging talent placements; we stay in touch with them in the early stages and even eventually end up hiring for the ones who take the next step and need to recruit teams of their own. In our view, it is an indisputable fact that treating Grads “meanly” by clipping their wings a little initially pays off handsomely in the medium and long term. If you are not flying by the seat of your pants in the first six months, you have a little more time to stand back and soak up some of the crucial minutiae of how things (and other people) work. Providing the right environment from the start, one where they are pushed to learn and develop, where they are encouraged to think for themselves but given the tools and direction to do so, will produce graduates who are performing strongly in 12-18 months’ time.

A career is very much a marathon, not a sprint. Every employer should take a responsible attitude towards nurturing their graduate talent. Work them hard on meaningful projects and roles (otherwise they will never learn), but ensure that they are learning the lessons slowly enough to provide a solid foundation for future success. They might think that not being given the sexy projects is a little mean, but when they are experienced enough to take them on, you can be sure that they will be keen to impress and thank you for the support and direction in their early days. Hell, they will probably provide a similar environment for their own graduate hires further down their career.

The job of a mentor is to enable change in their charges by getting them to think and act in a more effective way. They help them to see the light and give them the tools and the belief to move towards it.

Due to the very fact that graduates have little experience in their careers, although may have relevant transferable experiences, mentoring will almost certainly form a crucial part of their development as they establish themselves in their careers.

When it comes to questions of motivation and personal development, there is never “a right approach” to individual challenges, but to simplify things, you could maybe identify two key but diverging strategies. You can either push them towards their goal, or you can pull them. Either way, they will learn about themselves along the way, but the two experiences are very different.

Pulling people towards an achievement is the role of a cheerleader mentor. They encourage people to build on their strengths and give them the courage of their convictions. This should not be confused with a physical dragging to the end point – it is more of a magnetic “come on, you know you can do it” approach. When someone possesses the basic tools for success, the cheerleading approach gives them the mental fortitude to get over the line.

Cheerleading works well when the basics are in place.

On the other hand, if the task is so new that the mentee doesn’t have a clue how to accomplish it, a different approach is required. A taskmaster mentor helps to direct their people in the right direction, with smaller steps and a more prescriptive approach. They use their experience to foresee difficulties and adopt a hand-holding approach until the end is in sight. This practical assistance is vital, and while making mistakes is valuable, sometimes you simply need to rely on the experience of someone who has been there before.

Taskmasters pass on their knowledge in a constructive way.

So, to come to the question in the title. Well, it should be fairly obvious that mentors should be both cheerleaders and taskmasters (even with the same mentee). It may be that in uncertain situations their charge requires a step-by-step approach, and at other more familiar but nonetheless challenging times, they require more of a confidence boost. The best mentors have a whole range of subtle behaviours like this to draw upon as the situation demands, and the act of mentoring someone else requires a whole new approach.

It is the case, however that most mentors lean towards one approach or the other. As a graduate in the early stages of your career, you may well be looking for a mentor and know that you need some detailed guidance towards your goal; in which case you should look out for more task-oriented members of the senior team. If you have a rough idea of how to do things, but need someone to give you the confidence to spread your wings and make the best of it, you will need a more inspirational figure by your side. It might seem difficult to guess who is going to be the best fit as your mentor, but this isn’t the worst aspect to consider first.

Although a mentor can indeed be both, would you prefer a taskmaster or a cheerleader?

“We, as a team, have been bowled over today by the professionalism, the experience and the talent Brightsparks have found for us.

Brightsparks attracted several hundred CV’s and expressions of interest, telephone interviewed almost 100 of them and invited 36 to attend the day. 27 showed up and we have invited 11 of those 27 for a formal interview this Thursday. In all honesty, we could probably take all 11 if we had 11 roles, as they are all very strong candidates. The difference here for us though, was that our request was to have people with Sales experience rather than raw grads, given the nature of what we are trying to achieve with our DBAM team and that is exactly what we got.

These guys have literally saved us a fortune on time and costs internally.”

Mark Petty, Sales Director

Dimension Data are the official technology partner to le Tour de France and generate $8bn revenue a year. Their core values, which are shared by their team around the world, are a fundamental element to their global success.

Our conversation about supporting their Talent Acquisition requirements began in July with the Commercial Sales Director who soon involved HR in our discussions. After spending the necessary time to fully understand their needs and values, a bespoke campaign with incredibly tight deadlines was signed off on 16 September.

The attraction and screening began without delay and on 27 September, just 9 working days after sign-off, Brightsparks delivered a bespoke assessment centre containing 27 candidates who had been carefully screened for Dimension Data’s specific needs and values. These included both fresh graduates and those with a few years of relevant experience.

From these, 11 candidates were invited to the final round in the following days, with offers extended and accepted for their four immediate vacancies the following week and start dates in October; just one month from the launch of the campaign.


Click here for a printable version of this case study.

To find out more how we may be able to support your talent acquisition needs, please get in touch with us on talent@brightsparks.co or call +44 20 3627 9719.

The undergraduate existence is an interesting one – they spend their days striving for academic excellence (as well as enjoying the social side of university life!), while their weekends and holidays are often spent in a somewhat mundane introduction to working life, in jobs such as shelf-stacking and data-entry. Yes, they can be more interesting too, such as the event work we offer at Brightsparks; working with high-end clients in the hospitality and events industry. They will definitely gain valuable experience doing student jobs, but this is rarely their end game. Rather, they go to university to get a great job, a “proper job”, the job to kick off what they hope will be a stellar career.

On their first day at their first “proper” job, they naturally want to smash it.

This over-exuberance can sometimes derail a promising graduate. They have been hired for their potential, and no one expects them to deliver this on day one, month one or even year one. We tell our grads about the importance of mastering their jobs first, much as it is tempting to try to master the job of their boss.

In conversations with our clients, many of them liken it to keeping an energetic puppy on a leash…. It is true that enthusiasm can be contagious, but if channelled in the wrong direction it can equally be destructive, and it is these setbacks that cause a graduate to go into their shells. Within a corporate environment, the best course to middle management is oft a steady one – and consistent performance will most likely guarantee it.

There are of course exceptions, and they grab the headlines; but the reason they do so is due to the very fact they are the exceptions.

The most experienced managers of new grads, as well as HR professionals, know that there is a fine line between extinguishing the fire and keeping their feet on the ground. They should be given projects to stretch them, they should be encouraged to try things with the understanding they will make mistakes, which is fine provided they learn from them. Everything should come from a solid place of “I can build on my previous experience to make this next step.” Some grads get thrown into the deep end and swim, but far too many jump in too early themselves and sink slowly to the bottom, with all their colleagues watching and saying “I told you so”. Shooting for the stars is fine every now and again, but if you fail too often, your judgment will definitely be called into question.

We get a great sense of satisfaction when the Brightsparks we have employed or placed get back in touch a few years later to make hires of their own. They tell us the stories of their success, and it is rare that they shoot to prominence overnight. They worked hard within their teams, they networked and added value to the wider business, they saw contributing to others as a vital part of their own growth, and they learned to motivate themselves by taking small (but consistently successful) steps. They took calculated risks rather than unnecessary ones.

Most graduates want to boast to their friends about how they are “killing it”, but it is often the more modest, solid performers who stay the course to boast about a promotion a couple of years later. Simply doing your job well is good enough in the first year or so.

Grads should focus on being solid to start with – spectacular can come a little later on.

Getting a Student Job – Why It Matters

(Guest blog by Emma Mahdavi, staff member at Brightsparks)

Paying your way through university and building your CV at the same time, without it encroaching on your studies, can be challenging. Here’s why bagging yourself a student job is can help you.

The cost of University and all its expenses, whether these are academic, travel or personal, all start to add up. Student loans and overdrafts often don’t cover these, and it’s always good to have some spare cash. The best way to get this spare cash is taking up a student job and getting yourself into some part-time work. Less debt! I haven’t even neared my overdraft and money isn’t as scary a concept as it is for many of my friends who hide at the sight of their bank accounts. As university seems to have an ever growing social life which can be hard to keep up with at times – just a few hours paid each week can make a huge difference to your weekly budget.

Here are some of the top reasons to get a student job whilst studying:

  • Being able to show a future employer that you can balance work life and studies successfully will give off such a good impression and show responsibility. Time management and organisation are so important for any kind of work and this will be one of the best ways to gain these soft skills.
  • Whether it’s bar work, in a restaurant or retail, it’s all an experience! You probably don’t want to do whatever it is you’re doing part-time for the rest of your life but there are so many transferable skills and it does give you a taste of working life. Customer service, teamwork, work ethic, integrity and communication are all skills that you can transfer to any job role, and showing a potential employer that you have these, you’ll be onto a winner.
  • Being able to bulk up your CV with these small, part-time jobs or temp work is a real benefit. If you manage to work on a couple of contracts with respected companies, you’ll find it immediately makes your CV more impressive and could mean the difference between ending up on the Yes or No pile.
  • Getting your foot in the door and being able to network with different businesses and the people who work there; it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know. Whether it’s for references or meeting like-minded people who may be able to help you further down the line, you never know who you’re going to meet whilst at work.
  • Being able to afford to do so many lovely things during university. I took several day trips and weekends away to places like Budapest, Copenhagen, Milan, Venice and Amsterdam over the years when I could fit them between by studies and work life. There’s no way I could have done that without my wages, making all the hard work worth it… treat yourself!
  • Meeting new people from all over the world. I met so many amazing people who I would never have come across had I not worked. It’s comforting to know people who live in London that don’t just study here; people outside of the University bubble we tend to get ourselves into. It can also help improve confidence and social skills.
  • It gives you a break from everything else which is going on. I find work is the best way to keep my mind off things. Whether stressing over a grade or my flatmates annoying me, work was a getaway.
  • It’s such an accomplishment to come home at the end of the day and know you’ve made money, been productive and gained valuable experience that you wouldn’t have been able to do without work.

If you find an employer who understands your university commitments and is flexible enough to accommodate to your needs then you’re set, go for it… for me, Brightsparks fits that bill!

Find a student job today with Brightsparks.

Graduate Roles – Will They Stay On-board?

Graduate recruitment is one of the most important parts of any business. From foodie start-ups to major financial institutions, everyone needs a pipeline of fresh talent. It is easier, cheaper, and much more rewarding to promote from inside than out, and having an established team that you know and trust allows for more productivity and a better workplace environment in general: no one wants to work somewhere where half of your team has one foot out the door.

It is proving ever more challenging to retain staff in graduate roles. The stigma surrounding job-hopping with aim of finding your true calling is growing less each year, and there is no doubt that this group has a much higher turnover rate than others. It is important for employers to know what attracts a grad to certain jobs or graduate roles, what keeps them in a role, and also why they might start looking for other opportunities.

Over 50% of UK graduates leave university unsure of their future career. Almost 40% are still job-hunting after 6 months, and 25% are still unemployed after a year. Nearly 50% of grads end up working in roles that don’t require a degree. What do these facts tell us? For one, that lots of grads don’t know what to look for, or where to look for it. Also, that many grads favour jobs like bar work or temping rather than committing to a career they’re not even sure they want to pursue. In addition, once grads do finally begin a career-style position, they don’t have to hate their job to leave. They will be tempted by something only marginally better, or something that fits better into what they are looking for in the long term.

There are four main reasons why graduates would stay in graduate roles or leave for a better one. Here are three of them:

  • Opportunities for advancement. Grads apply for roles where they can see a long-term future and the real prospect of development. You wouldn’t hire someone who couldn’t see themselves progressing internally in the future, so why wouldn’t you provide them with that opportunity? Many companies advertise any new roles internally to add another string to this particular bow, allowing people to potentially change the focus of their career whilst remaining in the same company.
  • Organisational culture. Every organisation thinks that it has a great culture. Catch phrases like ‘work hard play hard’ and ‘relaxed and sociable’ are thrown around like candy on job adverts, but if you nail your colours to this particular mast you have to make sure that you deliver. The modern interview process is a two-way street, and grads will be checking everything out when they come in for a meeting. If they begin a new role and the environment is not at all what was advertised, things can go south very quickly.
  • Relationship with direct manager. This is one of the most important factors in people staying or leaving. If an employee has a manager they enjoy working for, and, more importantly, working with, they are much more likely to stay. Data collected by Graduate Career Australia showed that almost 9 out of 10 grads felt that their relationship with their manager was pivotal to their position. If people of a certain team are dropping like flies, but others are going steady, odds are the specific culture of that team that is an issue.

So, as an employer, how do you combat these issues? The most important thing that any company should do is maintain and manage open lines of communication for its workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you are a 3-person start-up or a multinational conglomerate, if you want to retain your staff, you need to show them that you care about what they have to say. Whether it’s an HR department, a weekly roundtable, or the knowledge that they can ask for 5 minutes with their manager, something needs to be in place. But take note: it’s all very well listening, but you’d better be prepared to put your money where your mouth is and act.

However, despite all this, there is a hard truth to face. No matter the effort you put in, grads are still likely to leave their graduate roles. The numbers will be lower and it won’t be every 3 months, but every now and then someone will move on, or a new hire won’t take quite as well as you’d hoped. But rather than hoping vainly for this not to apply to your company, there are things you can do to help minimise the pain:

  • Make sure you ask why they are leaving. If a grad is leaving after more than 18 months, you can assume the culture or their manager wasn’t the primary reason. But if someone is leaving after 3 months, it is even more important to know why. Sometimes the fit just isn’t there, and the fault is no one’s. If the issue is the culture or the manager, and this isn’t the first time it’s come up, that is a red flag for you as an employer to do something about it.
  • Make sure you use a recruiter that works well with you. Unless you have an amazing organic candidate flow, odds are you will be using recruiters. Consider which ones have provided good candidates and have been respectful and responsive, as well as those that have made a real effort to understand your business and its culture. Whittle down your PSL and even consider giving a recruiter exclusivity for your roles. This enables a better ad campaign and a more streamlined HR process as a whole, as well as the possibility of assessment centres, which generally increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. The odds of the candidates sticking increases as well.

There is of course, an elephant in the room, the fourth reason the graduates leave a role: More money. It is arguably the most common reason grads move on from a role. If this is the case, it is important that you handle it correctly. If someone offers a figure you can’t match, there isn’t a huge amount you can do. At the very least, you have provided that employee with a good working environment and enabled them to secure other graduate roles. In today’s increasingly networked age, word will spread of the positive environment you provide. The main thing to do is avoid getting a reputation for being a ‘stepping stone’. Make sure that you make every effort to help good grads make the decision to stay. Whether that is a small pay rise every now and then or tracking them for a promotion and an increase in responsibility, give them a reason to not want to go.

In the case of what graduates want in a job, it is the same as with most issues: the simplest answers are the most effective. If you as an employer make a real effort to listen to your employees, help them develop, and manage them well, people will want to come and work for you and, more importantly, will want to keep it that way.


Find the ideal graduate roles today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Graduate Recruitment Jobs – Don’t Listen to the Bad Reviews

Are you considering applying for graduate recruitment jobs? Here’s my story – and here’s why you should go for it.

As a young guy, I graduated from Loughborough University with a 2:1 in French and Politics having always wanted to be a professional sportsman; I had the opportunity to play a lot of sport (including a year of rugby in Paris) and become VP of my Hall’s infamous drinking club, but I graduated without a clue of what is next! Like most graduates.

I knew that I was hungry, competitive, social, and that I wanted to succeed. Next thing I knew I was attracted to a recruitment business, where I started as a Graduate Trainee. I was attracted not by recruitment per se, but the possible benefits and company culture, which was young, motivated and entrepreneurial. I wanted goals and the best environment possible get trained and succeed.

I quickly progressed as I enjoyed the daily targets, the fun and hungry culture, the competitive element, the socials and company trips, but also the world-class structure and training… and most of all working with people.

Working in graduate recruitment jobs gets bad reputation. Like in most industries, you get bad examples – and at Brightsparks we won’t work with those high-volume, low fee, high-attrition recruitment businesses. We work with companies like the first company I joined; professional and ethical – the best companies in the market. The entrepreneurial nature of the industry, and its meritocratic structure means you can progress quickly and be rewarded handsomely for your hard work.

After falling into recruitment by accident I am now in my thirties, the Managing Director of a fast growing business, have a number of properties, a portfolio of investments in different ventures, enjoy holidays around the world and I’ve learnt more about business and people than most do across their whole career. Most importantly, I love what I do and enjoy every day – I firmly believe I would not have had these opportunities in another industry.

For me, a career in recruitment has been a “happy accident”. Do not listen to bad reviews; join the best and a career in recruitment is, in my opinion, extremely rewarding.

By Sam Field, Managing Director at Brightsparks (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/samfieldhomepage).


Find graduate recruitment jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Providing Events and Hospitality Work
Rugby World Cup 2015

The largest sporting event of 2015, staged at 13 stadiums across the United Kingdom. As quality providers of events and hospitality work, Brightsparks were asked to lend their expertise.

The Tournament was seen live by 2.4m people attending matches, with a further 1.5m fans entering zones across the country and over 10m TV viewers for opening game alone. In order to deliver best in class experience to visitors from around the globe, Brightsparks were asked by tournament organisers to provide events & hospitality staff to all 19 RWC matches hosted at London venues:

  • Twickenham Stadium
  • Wembley Stadium
  • The Olympic Stadium
  • Official RWC Fanzones

From the opening ceremony, Brightsparks were proud to be part of every game.  From Royalty to sporting Hero’s, Heads of State to Heads of Industry, we provided the highest level of hospitality throughout; the pinnacle for our team including serving members of the Royal family their boxes.

Alongside the Royal and Exec boxes across the stadium, Brightsparks staff were the main suppliers of retail staff in outlets across all venues.

At all Fanzones we provided experiential staff and Brand Ambassadors with core sampling activity which would include sampling, brand engagement and competitions driving consumers online including some VR activation.

For RWC 2015, we supplied:

  • 870 accredited staff
  • Working 4,472 shifts
  • Totalling 34,969 hours

We continue to provide VIP hospitality staff to all major stadiums in and around London.

Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Discover more events and hospitality work today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Working at Events
Brightsparks & Goodwood

The spectacular estate of Goodwood is the home to the world famous Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival & Qatar Goodwood Festival. Helping to get people working at events and venues is not uncommon for Brightsparks. With over 400,000 visitors attending the venue each year, Brightsparks routinely supply accredited events & hospitality staff some of the most exclusive areas and to represent some of the biggest global brands from Bentley to McLaren.

Brightsparks staff can be found working in restaurants, boxes & bars across the venue, enabling guests to enjoy the full VIP experience in luxury surroundings.

In 2015, Brightsparks supplied:

  • 150+ accredited staff
  • Over 15 key event days
  • Working 6,400+ hours


Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Interested in working at events? Discover jobs today or find the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Startup Graduate Jobs – Is It for You?

There are currently over 5 million businesses in the UK. 99% of these are classed as small or micro-businesses, employing less than 10 people. According to the CIPD Labour Market Outlook, over 60% of employers in the UK are actively looking to hire, and as the economy continues to strengthen, the number of businesses will surely grow, and with it, the number of available roles, particularly at graduate level. What does this mean? Simply put, there are a huge amount of startup graduate jobs – both graduate and entry-level roles in the market. Working at a start-up is very different to a large corporate or a more established business, for a variety of reasons. The purpose of this article is to try and highlight these differences to prospective candidates, so that they may make decisions about where they wish to work in the future on a more informed basis.

The media likes to sensationalise the start-up environment: you’ll ride an alpaca to your meetings and learn to play the kazoo while you’re brainstorming. Everyone sits on ethnically produced beanbags and send their messages via carrier pigeon. It is certainly true that startup graduate jobs can offer certain perks and a different office environment, this shouldn’t disguise the nature of actually working at a start-up company. Start-ups require a level of commitment that you do not often see at larger companies. This is a business that lives and dies on the basis of the work of a few people. If you aren’t pulling your weight, people will know about it, and it will have direct and immediate connotations. Work/life balance is consistently highlighted as an issue working in a start-up environment: there are a lot of late nights, difficult days, and general pressures upon you to get the most out of yourself as possible. This highlights one of the biggest things to recognise about the start-up environment: to be successful there, you need to be fully committed to the cause. For starters, the pay at start-ups is generally markedly lower than the same job at a larger company.  You need to really believe in the product or service that the company offers, as well as your future co-workers’ capacity to deliver it. You have to have a real passion for the mission your company has committed to, whether that be creating a new piece of software to help people do their taxes or brewing beer made from potato peel. Without that passion and willpower, you would struggle to succeed in such an environment.

This links to an important issue for most young graduates. We leave university having only a vague idea of what we want to do going forwards in our lives. A huge part of your early working career is working out what you want to do, and also, equally importantly, what you DON’T want. Your first few jobs can be acid tests for this, isolating responsibilities and companies that you feel that passion for. Therefore, the start-up environment can very quickly be a ‘sink or swim’ sort of deal. If you’re lucky, you’ll click with the brand and the people and have an absolute blast. If not, you’ll know about it pretty quickly. This is why a lot of people join a larger company upon graduation for at least a few years: they gain experience in a stable and more structured environment, working out their passions and strengths, before joining a start-up style company where they can get stuck in from day one.

But don’t despair. While startup graduate jobs can be difficult and hard places to work that place a large demand on their employees, working in such an environment can be a hugely educational experience. As most small companies have a flatter structure, you will be in much more direct contact with more senior people, both internally and externally, and you will have the opportunity not only to learn about the business’ key strategies, but also to influence them and express your opinion on them. As well, it is well-documented that people wear many different hats in a start-up environment. We have touched on the expectation of a strong work ethic, which this obviously links to, but what it also does is give you exposure to many different elements of a company. Not sure what you want to do? In a start-up, it is much easier to have more immediate access to different facets of working life, which would be much rarer in a larger, more established company, where you would have a set role from day one.

The reality of start-ups is that they aren’t for everyone: one person’s pro may be another’s cons. Even if ultimately it isn’t for you, you’ll get a unique experience and hopefully loads of skills to put on your CV.


Find startup graduate jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Graduate Work Tips – Phone Interviews Done Right

The graduate work environment and the world of job applications is an ever-changing landscape. Whereas 10 or 20 years ago face-to-face interviews were the norm, in today’s increasingly digitised and connected world it is increasingly common to companies to use webcam or telephone-based interviews, saving them time and inconvenience. This change in medium inevitably brings about changes in the way we communicate. A phone interview and to an extent a webcam or Skype interview is a much more difficult medium than a face-to-face scenario.

In a phone interview situation, you are relying on two main factors: what you say and how you are saying it. Both need an equal amount of thought and preparation if you want to get top marks. Too little planning and you will give rambling, incoherent answers. Too little thought into your tone and manner, and you can give the best answers in the world, but it won’t save you from sounding like a monotonous robot, again a turn-off.

1. Tone of voice.

  • Speak in a clear, confident and enthusiastic voice. Really try to transmit in your speech (to a reasonable level) that you are excited about this particular opportunity. Another way to improve your tone of voice is to stand up while you’re speaking. It does seem a bit daft, but if you can pretend the person is in the same room as you. Smile and gesture as you would normally: all of this gets transmitted through your voice, which will sound a mile better than it would if you’re lying in bed balancing your phone on your face (we’ve all done it, don’t lie).

2. The length and style of your answers.

  • Think you know your CV? Can you go through each role in a minute, tops? Can you explain clearly and concisely why you joined places, why you left, what you liked about some places, what you didn’t? Can you summarise your time at university, what you did your dissertation on, what clubs you were in, what extra achievements you had? Can you go through what you are looking for in your next challenge, salary, size of company, culture, product, sector, environment? Just because you lived it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily any good at remembering it. Confidence can come due to proper preparation of answers, not learning a script, but matching your experience to the job requirements and practising basic answers to competency questions helps as well. Do an hour of prep beforehand, and not only will your answers be better, your tone of voice and manner will also improve. Go through your own experiences, or at least what you are going to be asked on. Practice your answers, not to a rigid script, but to the point where you can elaborate comfortably and you’re on your way to bagging that graduate work.


  • Laugh all you want at this being obvious, but I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve asked a candidate a basic question and they’ve taken that as leave to give a 5-minute speech about how amazing they are and how much they want the job. How can you give a graduate work to do that is potential challenging if they can’t nail the basics? Seriously though, few things torpedo your chances of a job offer more than a candidate avoiding a question or not giving a straight answer. It looks at best shady, and at worst like you’re not actually listening. Give a concise, honest answer to what you are asked.

4. Build Rapport.

  • You can have the best experience and education in the world, but if you come across as prickly or disinterested, it will turn people off you. You have to appear enthusiastic and show that you A) want to work in that specific industry and B) want THIS SPECIFIC JOB. If you can, research the person you will be talking to beforehand, and ALWAYS have questions ready about the job and the company. Interviewers almost always find this impressive, provided the questions are well-thought out and demonstrate that you have actually put some time into them. Show that you have put thought into the process, how you could be a part of it, and what your experience has taught you. Ask what the scope for progression is, or what the possibility is of taking on additional projects. Show hunger and drive. Graduate roles are in my opinion probably around 25% based your CV, and 75% personality, core values and attributes. A grad from an ‘average’ university who blows the interview away on the phone, answers their questions without hesitation, and who leaves an impression of eagerness and willingness to work, will always beat a grad from a top 10 university who hasn’t prepared their answers and is giving an impression that they don’t want to be there.


The number of graduates is increasing every year, and we are bombarded with stats telling us how slim the odds are of an individual applicant to get a job. However, despite this, an increase in grads does not necessarily correlate to an increase in good applicants. Make yourself stand out by doing the easy things well and leaving a positive impression, and things can start going right very quickly.


Find graduate work today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Brightsparks – Providers of sport event jobs

Here at Brightsparks, we help to successfully provide people with sport event jobs and more. Here’s how we were asked to help Volvic and Tough Mudder:


  • As part of a three year brand activation activity plan between Volvic & Tough Mudder.
  • Brightsparks were asked to bring the partnership to life before, during & after Tough Mudder events throughout the UK.


Planning & insights

  • Stimulated intrigue in Volvic via key POS material
  • Utilised key brand messages on Sampling Teams uniform
  • Strategically positioned Brand Ambassadors throughout the course



  • Distributed 130,000 highly targeted samples
  • 1.3m participants interactions with brand
  • Demand out striped supply on 80% of event days


Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Find sport event jobs today or discover the right talent here
with Brightsparks.

Brightsparks & Velocity

Brightsparks, providers of jobs in hospitality and more, teamed up with Velocity to address their staffing problems.

Here are the details:

The Brand

  • Velocity provides insider access to the best dining & hospitality experiences globally, including over 1000 restaurants in New York, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Toronto & more.
  • Having secured $16m of Series A funding in Summer 2015, Velocity is one of the fastest growing technology companies in the world, featuring in Forbes, GQ, Wired, CNBC, & winning Apple’s Best of 2015 award.


Planning & insights

  • Being a new product in the restaurant payment space, Velocity were keen to help raise awareness of their app, amongst its key target audience; regular restaurant goers, dinning in small to medium groups with a high level of disposable income.


Brightsparks – Providers of jobs in Hospitality


Creative solution 

  • Brightsparks recruited & trained a dedicated team of brand & customer success ambassadors to liaise & interact with Velocity’s target consumers at the point of sale; in leading restaurants & bars across London.



  • 286% increase in downloads with the team signing up new customers & supporting them through their first transaction to ensure successful onboarding, thus considerably increasing the likelihood of continued use of the app.


Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Discover jobs in hospitality today or find the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Brightsparks & KIND

Brightsparks, providers of promo staffing jobs and more, teamed up with KIND to amplify their snack bars in the UK. Here are the details:


  • Raise awareness of KIND snack bars in the UK
  • Enable as many people to try the bars as possible
  • Educate consumers about the KIND brand & bars


Planning & insights

  • Target Audience predominately health conscious
  • Educate consumers on ingredients/nutrition and heritage
  • Spread the KIND message to trade ensuring core distribution


Creative solution 

  • Highly targeted diverse national sampling campaign
  • Branded stand and outdoor display attracting customers whilst offering product sampling



  • 100,000 samples handed out during launch across key sites
  • 328% uplift in sales post activity
  • Secured national coverage across the Tesco Estate
  • Roll out across Wholefoods


Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Find promo staffing jobs today or discover the right talent here
with Brightsparks.

Brightsparks – Evian & TFL

Brightsparks were asked to amplify the brand awareness of the Evian & TFL partnership over the summer…


  • Raise brand awareness of the Evian & TFL partnership
  • Keeping passengers hydrated on their journeys with Evian

Planning & insights

  • Logistically difficult due to the nature of both Underground sites & time constraints
  • Staff selection & bespoke uniform design in line with brand guidelines

Creative solution 

  • Distribute free Evian water on the underground
  • Amplifying our message via social media #beattheheat


  • 175,000 free bottles of Evian handed out over 10 days
  • Sales in the UK rose by 12% post activity


Click here for the downloadable, printable version.


Find promotional event jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Good News for Graduate Event Jobs

Ten years ago, some people were forecasting the end of face-to-face events. In response to this prediction, all sorts of online platforms sprung up with the purpose of recreating physical events using digital means. Guess what? Many of those platforms are gone. The naysayers were wrong.

Face-to-face events are alive and kicking – and they’re stronger than ever.

Let’s take most exhibitions that happen over a number of consecutive days.  Most will consist of attendees participate in panel discussions, breakout sessions, getting their hands dirty in interactive labs, attend innovation keynotes to learn from top technology experts and finally but by no means least, network with peers from around the world.

Getting people together in person is still an extraordinary experience — especially today, when so many of our conversations happen online. This is great news for people considering graduate event jobs. The lines of the offline and online experience are increasingly becoming blurred. It is about building a fully integrated customer experience, before, during, and after the in-person event, online and offline. In the digital age, nearly 60% of the buying process takes place online before consumers involve a sales person.  However, at some point they are ready for face-to-face engagement, and then events are critical to their decision-making process.

Long live the live event!!  As part of the overall marketing mix and integrated campaigns they are an engaging and powerful experience.


Find graduate event jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.

Experiential Jobs – The Thought Process

It’s important to fit into your audience’s daily routine…

It’s 7am on a Friday morning. David, a twenty-something Londoner hears his alarm go off. The first thing he does is reach for his phone to check all of his notifications: another DJ Khaled Story on Snapchat -#KeysToSuccess; 26 new followers after that Kygo clip was re-posted by @Kygomusic last night, – awesome; 11 Tinder matches? Good swiping game. Then, as he prepares for work, he opens Citymapper to see what time the bus arrives. Six minutes to grab breakfast?! With Apple Pay enabled that’s no bother as he’ll be less than a minute at Pret.

At lunch, David gets another notification. A French couple want to rent his room through Airbnb when he goes home this weekend. “That’ll pay for the train fare” he muses and accepts. He goes out for a bite and decides to take the stairs as he hasn’t done too much walking today. He knows this because of his Fitbit which monitors his activity.

As the end of the work day approaches, he knows he wants to do something, but isn’t 100% sure what that ‘something’ is. He’s looking for experiences in-line with his lifestyle, and finds a great gig in Camden, he invites his friends through the app, books in a snap, and then makes his way over to North London with his paperless ticket.

Indeed, David isn’t alone. He’s a millennial – a generation that is embracing technology unlike any generation before. It’s hard to catch David’s attention, as he installs all kinds of ad-blocking programs and isn’t looking at traditional advertisements. What David wants is something real and authentic; he wants brands to engage him on his level.

On the flip side, brands are left wondering: how do I connect with this audience? How do I make sure my experiential campaign cuts through the noise and reaches the right person at the right time? You’ve been working tirelessly planning that awesome cocktail masterclass to appeal to that trendsetter, urbanite audience. You know this event is different – even special – but after all the hard work the PR team has spent exhausting traditional channels you’re left wondering who will show up? How do I make sure it’s full at all times? Experiential jobs aren’t easy.

The simple answer is: figure out where your audience is. Fit into their daily routine and you’ll get through. Go niche if you need to. What disruptive technology are they using? Who holds an authority in their life? Who do they trust when making decisions on where to go, what to wear and where to stay? Armed with that information, you’ll fit into their lifestyle on their terms, naturally targeting as you go. You’ll change the course of your audience by tapping into their way of doing things. It’s discovery, not advertising. And it’s that easy. Now back to that cocktail masterclass, when is it again?


Find experiential jobs today or discover the right talent here with Brightsparks.