If you are interested in applying for a graduate scheme then you need to be aware that the deadlines are getting earlier and earlier and the sooner you can get your application in the better. Remember, there’s a graduate scheme out there for pretty much any discipline you can think of. It’s just a case of finding it…
Think about where you want to apply!
The key to success with graduate schemes is picking out a carefully considered few that really appeal to you, and spending your time getting your application just right.
Employers are not receptive at all to generic applications: like all of us, they want to feel special and that’s one of the secrets to getting a job.
Also, it’s worth having a plan B too, to give you a fall-back if you really need a job upon graduating. You might even consider applying for positions abroad.
Graduate recruitment websites
There are a host of websites and companies out there listing the latest graduate career opportunities.
A few specialist graduate job sites are Milkround Save the Graduate, Targetjobs and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. There’s a serious risk of data overload including hundreds of ‘job alerts’ in your inbox each week if you’re not really selective about what you’re looking for.
If you’ve got a particular employer in mind, make sure that you’re regularly checking their website for any announcements and sign up to receive their newsletter. You can also show interest by following them on Twitter, LinkedIn, and by liking them on Facebook.
If you have an idea about the kind of career you want to forge, make sure that you check dedicated websites and trade magazines in that sector. The CIPD site might be handy if you’re looking at HR jobs, for example. To get a feel for the industry and what’s going on behind the scenes, keep an eye on the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which will often make useful announcements you can use to your advantage.
Graddiary have a very full list of all the main application deadlines.However, it has been known for recruiters to close the application window early if they happen to get inundated with responses. So play it safe and get your applications in as soon as possible.
As a general rule, the application window for most graduate schemes is open from early October to February. Some employers are open all-year-round and you can see the list of those on the Graddiary site.
The 3 Ps: Prepare, prepare, prepare
Have an up-to-date CV. Some recruiters and employers will ask you to fill in their own application form rather than submit a CV but it’s always wise to have one ready. If you need a few tips and templates to get the perfect CV read the CV info on MyCareerCentral or make an appointment to see a Careers Adviser to get some feedback.
What to expect from the application process
The recruitment process is likely to involve several stages.
It’ll obviously differ from employer to employer, but there are a few things you can expect to be asked to do as you progress through the stages.
- Submit your initial application (long before the deadline). This may include a CV and covering letter, plus general questions about your skills and experience. Make sure you tailor your documents and responses for the specific role.
- Complete psychometric testing. This will usually be in the form of maths and english tests which you complete online in your own time.
- Take part in a phone interview. This will generally be a one-to-one conversation with a recruiter, typically lasting around half an hour. Have notes at the ready!
- Attend a face-to-face interview. You’ll usually have to travel to the recruiter’s offices, and meet with a panel of interviewers. Competency based and job specific questions are common at this stage.
- Attend an assessment centre. This stage of the process tends to involve several exercises throughout a day, including a group discussion, teamwork and leadership activities, a presentation, and further interviews. You’re likely to meet and work with other candidates, but don’t be put off by any of them. Graduates currently taking part in the scheme may be involved in organising the exercises, so take the opportunity to ask lots of questions. They’ll know first hand what it’s like to be on the programme, and may even be able to offer a few tips.
When will you hear back from the employer?
With the most popular graduate schemes, there are so many applicants competing for each place that it could be several weeks or even months until you find out whether you’ve progressed to the next stage or been successful. So you’ll need to be patient! Having said that, don’t rest on your laurels! Keep up with your applications to maximise your chances of being placed.
Graduate schemes with the big employers will always be extremely competitive. By carefully choosing the ones you want to apply for, and preparing for all stages, you’ll be best placed for securing the job you’ve been hoping for.
If you do experience some set-backs along the way though, don’t be too disheartened. Learn from your experiences and improve on what you’re doing for the next time – and don’t forget CareerCentral can help guide you through the process.
Lastly, securing a place can be a fabulous way to start your career, but remember there are plenty of alternatives to graduate schemes out there too including starting your own business, working with an SME, doing an internship and working abroad.
NB: If you are a 1st or 2nd year or even a prospective student reading this then it’s still worth being familiar with graduate recruiters as they offer summer and winter internships and insight days – experience which can all help in securing a place on a graduate scheme when you get to third year!