Faryal Fatima - Global Demand Analyst at Castrol
Featured Success Stories
January 02, 2020
Faryal, from Pakistan
I come from a very small town in Pakistan - I did my A levels from a boarding school. My experience there infused a drive to study abroad - and funnily enough, UK was never on my list. I always wanted to go to the States. But one thing led to another. We went through a consultant who helped me with the applications.
‘The rejections that follow the applications can be really heartbreaking’
Did you know how the UK job market works?
I did have an idea of the UK education system, but to be honest, I had no idea about the job market. My broad perception was handed to me, 'it is not easy to land a job being an international student'. One, I realise now that not every company sponsors you. Two, even if they do sponsor you, you have to compete with people from top-notch universities. It is not easy on any account. It was only when I started studying here and attended certain university events, presentations, etc. At one of the career events, I went in with the goal of securing an internship. It turned out to be a very stressful process.
It has the potential to become really demotivating - the rejections that follow the applications can be really heartbreaking.
‘I referred to Student Circus a lot about my questions related to VISAs. How we convert the Study VISA to the work VISA’
How is it different from your home country?
It was quite daunting. The University of Manchester would connect you to top employers and students will begin to land internships and offers, but it wasn't as smooth for the international students.
It isn't as simple as it is back in our home countries- that we drop in our CVs and get called for an interview and show that you are confident and equipped for the work. A large part of the application process is just sitting in front of the computer and filling lengthy applications. That is where most of the people get intimidated.
Beginning your job hunt, you have zero ideas about anything. I referred to a handful of websites and Student Circus was one of them. When I started I had no idea how to navigate interviews and actually land jobs - so that's when I started reading the insights, inside stories and got into the groove. I referred to Student Circus a lot about my questions related to VISAs. How we convert the Study VISA to the work VISA, etc.
‘I was now better equipped to apply to other companies than I was the first time’
What was your experience of the job application process?
The first-ever application I made for was Barclays. There were a few online tests, the psychometric tests and numerical ability tests and verbal reasoning tests, and I passed them all. At this stage, if you are good with math, you can crack these easily. Even if you aren't, practice can make you perfect. I was always fond of maths, but my friends who weren't would go to events and do maths quizzes and tests, to get better at it with practice.
For me, this stage wasn't a big problem. I passed the tests easily. Then I went to the next round of video interview. The video interview was a very novel concept. It was like talking to a computer. You have to act like you are talking to a person, so you exude emotions. That is a tricky bit.
Then I moved on to the next round. I went to the Assessment Centre. Out of the 10 people who attended the Assessment Centre that day, they were all rejected. And I was devastated. Because I'd thought I did a great application and that I would get in. But at the last stage, I didn't. And so many other people like me didn't. We all got fairly demotivated. But the good part was that I had now understood the application process enough or at least better than before. I was now better equipped to apply to other companies than I was the first time.
‘I was stressing out too much but I think when you are trying too hard it is palpable and the recruiters can tell’
How did you land a job at British Petroleum?
I actually mentioned to them what the truth was - because my dad asked me to. He works in the petrol retail segment in Pakistan, so he was keen to see me in the same industry. Up until then, I was applying to the likes of consultancies like Barclays, RBS etc. But there was no harm in applying. My dad was very persistent so I applied.
The application process at BP was much longer - it took ages. There were three or four online tests. There were extra interview stages, there was a telephonic competency interview from the HR side. it had nothing to do with the discipline.
By this time I had done so many personality interviews online, that I wasn't fazed by this interview.
I think, cracking such kind of interviews is all about telling a compelling story and being authentic. It is good to be prepared for these interviews but do not over-prepare. There are no right or wrong answers to be prepared for. It may seem like it is a clinical and linear mode of assessment but it is important to let your true self reflect in your answers and conduct. I was stressing out too much but I think when you are trying too hard it is palpable and the recruiters can tell.
‘You need to choose the company as much as the company needs to choose you’
One thing I learnt from this process is that you need to choose the company as much as the company needs to choose you. It is true that they can reject you, but the reason for that may not be that you are good enough - it could actually just mean that you do not match the company. It is not a personal or professional flaw or gap.
If there's a rejection, chances are it is just because you are not on the same wavelength as the company's culture, values etc.
After the competency interview, they emailed me intimating that I had passed. The next stage was a technical interview - which was an additional step before the assessment centre. And then there was also a face-to-face interview.
it was this bit of the technical interview that scared me a little bit. I knew nothing about procurement - I had applied to this department because, by the time I had applied to BP, it was already too late to apply for other departments.
It was the most interesting interview I have ever done for any company. I was sitting across from these two interviewers who presented me with two case studies and I had to prove my problem-solving abilities. I was asked hypothetical questions like, 'If you have to send medical supplies to a country in Africa, which departments would you involve in the process?'
Here's the deal: you do not need to have prior technical knowledge of the department; you just need to have a sound problem-solving competence and common sense.
I am always asked this one question: how did you crack the technical interview? And I have just this answer: the technical interview is not as technical or jargon-ridden as it is made to sound. The recruiters obviously understand that you have no prior experience. It is just about having a good grasp and understanding of basic organisational hiccups.
I think 'technical interview' makes it sound so much more intimidating. Besides, it is easy to get demotivated when there are so many steps in the interview process. I know people who were so good but didn't apply to the likes of Newton, which is another great consultancy, just because they had an overwhelming process.
‘My role is being a membrane between the finance and business side of things and the supply chain’
How is a day at the office like?
The BP commercials graduate scheme is where I finally got placed. It is actually very broad. It is a three-year-long grad scheme as against the norm of 2 years. They rotate you one year each in different departments, which span from finance to demand to marketing to supply chain. My role currently is as the Global Demand analyst for Castrol, one of their products, where I plan and forecast the demand. It is a heavily data-oriented job and requires meticulous number-crunching. My role is being a membrane between the finance and business side of things and the supply chain.
Any advice for the incoming cohort of international students?
- The important part of the process is to never give up. It can be an exhausting process but if you give up on the 99th you will never know if it would have worked out for the 100th.
- During the interview, always remember to replace the thought that people on the other side hold power over you with the idea that you also have as much say and power in this situation because they also need you. You choose the company as much as they choose you. You need them, they need you.
- Finally, also understand that if they don't accept it it is probably because you won't be a good fit for that company and not because you lack in skills. Be real, be creative, be a good communicator.
- As an international student, you have to go the extra mile to convince the recruiter to take the extra efforts of hiring you over the other domestic candidates, so there's a need to stand out. You can only stand out by being true to your identity. Diversity and inclusion are also big buzzwords in the sector, so if you can stand apart through your experience of being an international student, you can really make an impression.