Skills Sessions | The Careers Service Skills Sessions – Oxford University Careers Service
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About the sessions

In the Michaelmas (autumn) and Hilary (winter) terms the Careers Service invites recruiters to volunteer to run Employer Led Skills Sessions for our students, covering areas such as:

  • CVs and cover letters
  • Tackling application forms
  • Preparing for the fairs
  • Improving your interview technique
  • Online test practice
  • Case study practice
  • Assessment centre practice

These sessions provide students with vital support in the application process. They place real value on hearing directly from employers who can use examples to demonstrate what they look for, what makes a candidate stand out, and how students can make a competitive application.

Delivering a skills session is another way to raise brand awareness with Oxford students, particularly with those who may not have considered a particular sector – or  your company within it – but who are keen to gain advice on topics such as CVs and improving interview technique.

We know employers have a wealth of experience constructing and delivering similar skills sessions in a variety of universities. Rather than a definitive guide, this page gives key points relating to Oxford.

Your audience

There are over 22,000 students at Oxford.

  • Your audience may include undergraduates, postgraduates, researchers and (occasionally) alumni. Every session is advertised to all subjects and disciplines, and all year groups.
  • Attendance can be difficult to predict, with an average group session attracting between 10 – 50 students. Busy academic timetables can mean that, even if students sign up for an event, attendance is not guaranteed.
  • Oxford does not offer sandwich courses, placement years, or vocational degrees. Even courses which may appear vocational – such as Law and Engineering – are very academic in nature. There is no undergraduate course in subjects such as ‘Business’ or ‘Marketing’.
  • Students will come from a diverse range of backgrounds: a quarter of undergraduates receive a bursary and over 60% of postgraduates come from outside the UK.
  • Students have diverse career interests. They have chosen to come to your skills session to improve their skills, and may not be intending to enter your industry or apply to your organisation. Feedback suggests that students respond well to employer led sessions when the content is relevant to most sectors and/or when examples of different sectors are highlighted.
  • As you may be aware, Oxford is a collegiate university, which means there isn’t a ‘campus’ as such. This may affect the vocabulary you choose to use when presenting. For further advice about how the University works and for a list of facts and figures about the University you may find it useful to look at the main University website.
  • The date of your skills session may affect the career interests of your audience, as upcoming deadlines for certain sectors may mean you attract students applying to banks or teaching or the Civil Service. Speak to your Careers Adviser contact if you’d like to find out more about typical deadlines outside your own sector.
Style & structure

Feedback from students shows that skills sessions with interactive elements work best – so we recommend avoiding all ‘chalk and talk’. Having said that, there’s no need to devise complex activities. Ask students to work in pairs for a few minutes, or give them a resource – such as an example application form or a badly written cover letter. Students particularly like anecdotes and examples from your own experience of recruitment. These may be useful to emphasise key learning points.

We recognise that you may have delivered sessions at other universities, and so feel free to adapt a pre-existing session, or simply design something that works for you. We do not provide rigid ‘templates’ to follow, but as a rule of thumb try to make sure no more than 5% of the session focuses on promoting your own company. Feedback suggests that too much marketing can put students off – so a minimal number of slides are recommended at the end of the session. Follow up with an opportunity at the end for students to ask you specific questions about your company, programmes and industry knowledge.

Our facilities

Employer led skills sessions generally take place at the Careers Service in our Employer Suite comprising of the Centenary Room (capacity 60 seated) and the Garden Room (capacity 25 seated).

A member of staff will meet you in the reception at the Careers Service 30 minutes before the start time of your session.

How to book

The opportunity to run one our scheduled employer led skills sessions is initially offered to Recruiters’ Group members. If you’re a Recruiters’ Group member you’ll receive, via email, an invitation to book a session. Each recruiter can initially book just one employer led skills session. If sessions remain unbooked by Recruiters’ Group members, the remaining sessions will be offered to all recruiters.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us on 01865 274663 or email

This information was last updated on 01 August 2016.
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Recent blogs about Skills Sessions

OXFO L.E.V8 Accelerator

Posted on behalf of Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Mike Moss on 20/09/2019.

OXFO L.E.V8 (Elevate) at the Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford’s most diverse accelerator. The programme takes in up to 12 high potential ventures a year and is designed to support and nurture early-stage start-up teams affiliated to the university.

Oxford students, staff and alumni can get six months free support to build their venture. This includes mentorship, masterclasses, and access to the Foundry’s global network of investors and partners including Biz Stone, Cofounder of Twitter and Medium, Jenny Tooth OBE, UK Business Angels Association, Professor Bill Aulet, MIT, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Robin Saunders, Managing Partner at Clearbrook Capital.

Ventures also get support to build a team – many ventures have met their cofounders through the Foundry, along with leadership and resilience skills support, financial, business, pitching, product-market fit, customer development and legal advice.

To date, the Foundry has supported 19 start-ups who have raised £7m, created 70 jobs and are having a global impact across sectors including retail, medtech, energy, publishing, fintech and more.

The accelerator is based in our Oxford Foundry building on Hythe Bridge street and runs from 18 November 2019 to May 2020.

“The Foundry has accelerated our growth by providing a space devoted to entrepreneurship, giving us access to people with diverse talents and expertise, and to its network of investors. It has been incredible. Such growth wouldn’t have been possible without the Foundry. We are now focused on raising capital and sales and marketing. We want to sign ten new clients by the end of the year.” Jason Lacombe, CEO, Veratrak.

We welcome solo founders and teams and it’s a fantastic chance to be part of a supportive and expert community.  The programme is equity-free.

Apply online on the Oxford Foundry website. Deadline: 30 September 2019.

AstraZeneca and BBSTEM Collaboration Event in Cambridge

Posted on behalf of AstraZeneca and BBSTEM . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

AstraZeneca have joined forces with BBSTEM to provide an opportunity for university students and recent graduates of an African or Caribbean heritage to visit AstraZeneca and learn about their Early Talent opportunities.

BBSTEM is a non-profit organisation campaigning for balance and representation of Black individuals in science, technology, engineering and maths. They are offering this event specifically for University students from 2nd year Bachelors/Masters to Post-Doc, who are currently studying a STEM subject on track to receive a 2.1 or equivalent.

The event will be taking place in Granta Park, Cambridge on Wednesday, 16 October. Apply through the Eventbrite form.

Spaces at this event are limited to 40, first come first served. When you apply you will need to submit a 100 word paragraph about your interest in the pharmaceutical industry and the benefit this day will bring for you.

Mewburn Ellis – Patent Open Day in Bristol

Posted on behalf of Mewburn Ellis . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

Mewburn Ellis are running an open day at their Bristol office on 1 November for students who are interested in finding out more about life as a Patent Attorney. The day will include talks from their current trainees and attorneys, as well as practical exercises.

Primarily these days are aimed at those studying STEM subjects at any level, intending to join us as a trainee patent attorney in 2020.

Book your place now by going to their online registration page.

Places fill up quickly so sign up soon to avoid disappointment.

Inns of Court BPTC Scholarships open on 20 September and close on 1 November 2019

Blogged by Julia Sadler on 18/09/2019.

Qualifying as a Barrister can be a very expensive business; barristers’ chambers don’t offer the same sponsorship opportunities as law firms. However, the four Inns of Court (Middle, Inner, Gray’s and Lincoln’s Inn) offer over £5 million in awards, scholarships and bursaries to aspiring barristers.

Applications for scholarships designed to support your BPTC (the Bar Professional Training Course) year, from all four Inns, open on Friday 20 September and close on 1 November. Previous stats show that roughly one in three applicants are awarded a scholarship on average. Find out more at the the individual Inns’ websites:

Civil Service Fast Stream: 4-week application window opens soon!

Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 17/09/2019.

The Fast Stream application window will open for 4 weeks only, from 26 September to 12:00 (noon) on 24 October for:

  • Full-time positions starting September 2020
  • Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) for penultimate year students, July-August 2020

The Fast Stream offers the opportunity to contribute to fast-paced work that touches the lives of everyone in the UK. See the Fast Stream career pages and FAQs for comprehensive details of all 15 ‘streams’, check eligibility criteria and learn about the application process. Keep up to speed and hear daily from current fast streamers via social media – this year all brought under one umbrella via the Fast Stream Social Wall.

Oxford’s recently updated Government and Public Admin briefing provides our latest insights and advice about preparing for Fast Stream applications – and offers ideas on other routes into the UK civil service and public sector careers in general.

Check details on CareerConnect for events throughout Michaelmas Term, including:

Week 1:

  • Monday 14 October – 14:15-15:30 Insight into the Civil Service Fast Stream: Hear from a current Fast Stream Generalist, and one of this summer’s SDIP participants
  • Saturday 19 October – 11:30-12:15 Graduate Schemes and Careers With Social Impact Panel discussion at the Oxford Careers Fair, Exam Schools

Week 3: 

  • Monday 21 October – 14:15-15:30 Career lounge on Fast Stream Applications  Careers Adviser-led chat and questions from the audience on application process.
  • Thursday 24 October – 12:00 (noon) Application Deadline

Week 6: 

  • Thursday 21 November – 13:45-17:00 Civil Service Policy Game: Interactive role-play to provide policy advice for Minister’s decision. Booking essential

Week 7: 

  • Friday 27 November –  Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.

Week 8:

  • Friday 3 December – Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.
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