Tips for Grads: Graduate Advice from ThoughtWorks with Will Phillips

Graduating is exciting. You’ve reached the end of years’ worth of study, all-nighters, and exams. At long last you can take all the skills you’ve learned and put them to use in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the change from the classroom to the office isn’t quite as easy as the university brochure might have you believe. Intense application processes and fierce competition means that many graduates will be looking for a while before they find a job they love.

To help you in your search, JobGetter has approached some of the best Graduate Employers in Australia. These Tips for Grads can help you nail your resume, impress in an interview, and find out exactly what these recruiters are looking for. This week, Will PhillipsTalent Scout and Graduate Experience Lead at ThoughtWorks offers his wisdom and advice to graduate job seekers.

In such a competitive industry, getting an inside advantage – someone who knows how the system works – could be all the edge you need to start your career with your dream employer. 

That is the whole idea behind Tips for Grads. To give graduates like you a chance to see what some of the best graduate employers in Australia are doing and how you can impress them.

Read on to get Will’s insight and advice…


ThoughtWorks is an international software company that has 5000 employees based in 40 offices spread over 14 countries. They are committed to making the world a better place through the software they develop and through the social and economic justice they advocate for. 

ThoughtWorks practices what they preach and work hard to make their workplace a better environment for their employees. They boast a well-regarded Graduate Recruitment procedure consistently ranking among the best graduate employers in Australia. ThoughtWorks has also won awards for being a top company for Women Technologists. They don’t just talk about revolutionising the tech world – they make real changes to society.

If you are interested in tech, problem solving, and helping out people in need then ThoughtWorks might be the place for you. 

Will’s Tips for Grads

What was your first job?

I worked as a waiter at the age of 15 every Sunday in a local restaurant back in the UK. 

How long have you worked in HR?

I’ve dipped in and out of Recruitment / HR for a total of almost 13 years now.

What do you look for in graduates?

For me it’s all about potential, enthusiasm and a passion to learn. At ThoughtWorks in particular we like to look for attitude, aptitude and integrity in all of our candidates.

What advice would you give to graduates looking to stand out?

Be yourself, think about what makes you unique and what makes you the best person for the job.

If you’re attending an event like a careers fair, then do your research first. Find out which companies are going to be present, read up on them, decide who you want to talk to in advance and think of some questions that aren’t just “What does your company do?” The people that stand out to us are the ones who have done their homework.

I also can’t recommend highly enough the importance of an easy to read, well-formatted, mistake-free ONE PAGE resume!

What’s something people might not know about working at ThoughtWorks?

We are passionate advocates for diversity and inclusion at ThoughtWorks. Here in Australia, we are very proud that 48% of our employees are female and from underrepresented gender minority groups. This is a far cry from the tech industry average of 20% females. We are proud to be a place where you can come to work and be yourself everyday.

What thing makes a graduate’s application stand out to you?

I’m always stopped in my tracks when a graduate shares something about themselves in a cover letter that is heartfelt, honest and sincere. I must confess that I’ve shed a tear or two in the past over some of the stories applicants have shared. I’ve also seen some quirky applications over the years that make me want to pick up the phone and speak to that applicant immediately to find out more. Think about you as an individual and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

What’s the number one mistake to avoid when applying for a graduate position?

Not paying attention to detail. The amount of applications I receive that have been cut and pasted, with cover letters referring to the graduate programs of other companies, is always something that astounds me. Make sure you double check, even triple check, for spelling and grammar errors. 

What do you look for during the interview?

Putting technical ability aside, it’s very much about a cultural fit for us at ThoughtWorks. We want graduates who aren’t afraid to question things, who truly want to understand how something works. We hire based on attributes, so we want to test your learning ability, understand how you collaborate with others and see how resilient you are as an individual.

What questions should graduates never ask?

In interviews it isn’t a good idea to discuss salaries, leave that for your recruiter to discuss with you. Also try not ask negative questions, you should paint yourself in a positive and enthusiastic light. 

What do you wish more candidates would do or say?

I wish more candidates would be inquisitive and eager to learn. We love hearing candidates ask questions such as “How do I find out more about that?” and  “Can you show me?”

We want our interviews to be two-sided and not just the candidate answering questions. It makes it a far more enjoyable experience for both interviewer and interviewee!

What should graduates know about ThoughtWorks before applying?

We have an award-winning graduate program which really stands out from the crowd. Your first five weeks with us will be spent training with graduates from 10 other countries around the world at TWU (ThoughtWorks University) in either India or China.

TWU is an intensive training program that prepares our graduates to work in an agile software delivery team when they return home. The program consists of technical classes, workshops, a project simulation as well as teaching them about the importance of social and economic justice to us an organisation. There really is nothing else quite like it out there!

What advice would you give to someone who was unsuccessful in applying?

Don’t give up, competition is tough and we receive a huge volume of applications. If you are serious about working as a software developer get yourself involved in the tech community by attending meet-ups and user groups. Once you start building your network and getting to know people you will be surprised at the opportunities that present themselves up to you.

Final thought: Widen Your Horizons

Finding a job after graduation can be tricky and it might take a while before you find a job that you’re happy with. If you’re feeling stuck it can be a good idea to shake things up a bit. Do something that will get you out of your comfort zone and put you in contact with people who could help you. Volunteering and sports can be great for building skills and growing your network

The important thing is to remember that you have skills and abilities that are unique to you. Make sure you let a hiring manager know the real you and what makes you amazing. Like Will says, “Don’t Give Up!

Want to join ThoughtWorks?

If you want to learn more about what makes ThoughtWorks such a fantastic graduate employer or if you are ready to take Will’s Tips and put them to practice – make sure to check out the ThoughtWorks Graduate page.

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