Preparing for upcoming graduate schemes


graduates throwing mortarboardsThe time is approaching to start applying for graduate programmes, so if you are coming up to Graduation or you are a recent graduate, start to take control of your career to ensure you are keeping on top of graduate scheme deadlines. Being successful on a graduate scheme is a great way to kick start your career in a renowned business after university.

What is a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are work based training programmes offered by many large employers. They typically last for two or three years and are often available in a number of specialisms ranging from finance, retail, HR and marketing, to management and law.

What are the pros and cons?

Before you begin the application process it’s important you weigh up the pros and cons. Dependent on your career aspirations and learning style there are some downfalls, such as being stereotyped into a certain type of role/title or restricted to a certain department. There also may be a lack of hands-on work and lots of work shadowing. It’s also important to recognise that some industries don’t suit the typical graduate scheme structure, and there isn't always a guarantee of a job at the end of the placement. However, positives include the opportunity for a better earning potential, job security and access to well-structured training and development as well as the chance to work for prestigious names with the opportunity of international placements.

Graduate schemes aren’t for everybody, so it’s good to think about whether the work environments would suit you, if it’s a good option for your learning style, and if it’s in line with your long term career goals. Don’t rule out the smaller businesses - although corporate key players may offer a clear structure, defined roles and better perks, you may find you are more suited to an SME in which your role may be more hands-on and you are more likely to have flexibility to develop a varied skillset.

Preparing for upcoming graduate schemes

Graduate schemes have a set application window, however, within some organisations the application process is ongoing. Typically, you need to be applying for graduate schemes from the September of your final year at University, which will then mean you’re ready for the following year intake - usually in July or September. Armed with this information, you can plan your applications and keep track of how much time you have to apply for your target graduate schemes.

How to make successful applications

Due to generous salaries and learning and development opportunities, graduate schemes are extremely popular and notoriously competitive. For this reason, you need to make sure you are putting a lot of effort and time into your applications.

Graduate schemes typically look at applicants who have achieved a 2:1 or above when recruiting, however, some companies will consider applications with a 2:2.


Although the application varies dependent on the business, the process can be quite rigorous and may include telephone interviews, group assessments, face to face interviews, presentations and/or Psychometric tests. If you need to attend an assessment centre, preparation is key to success. Try to find out what exercises you will be doing on the day so that you can prepare for them in advance. Make sure you research the company thoroughly by looking at the company website and searching the internet for news items about the company and make sure you research the competitors and know how the company sits within the marketplace.

Carry out mock interviews and practice using the STAR technique and make sure you know your CV inside out and so you can talk through everything on it.

Further Reading

Graduate Deadlines 2018 -

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