You might have heard of a graduate scheme through other graduates or your university careers service, and you might realise that it’s something you’re really interested in! However, the next challenge to overcome is actually applying for one. How do you know which field to apply for a graduate scheme in, or which employer to choose – most importantly, how do you actually apply for a graduate scheme in the first place?
To apply for a graduate scheme, you will have to complete a (typically online) application form for your employer. After that, you might have to take online psychometric tests, in-person assessments, and complete online or in-person interviews with workers from the employer company. In some cases, your employer may ask you to complete a presentation. All of these exercises are used to filter graduates and select the best applicants for the scheme.
Although this process sounds daunting, I promise you it’s not! Keep reading for all you’ll need to know about the process of applying to a graduate scheme.
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What are the requirements for a graduate scheme?
In order to be eligible for a graduate scheme, you have to meet certain criteria.
Most importantly, you have to be a university graduate by the time the graduate scheme begins. This means you must have received a BSc or a BA in a specific subject (such as Computer Science) from a recognised university.
For most graduate schemes, you must have at least an upper second-class honours to be considered. However, you might still be considered if you have a lower second-class honours depending on the strength of your CV.
This Think Student article has more information about degree classifications in the UK.
As well as this, employers might specify that they’re only looking for recent graduates (i.e., students that graduated the same year that the graduate scheme begins).
Generally, employers will be very transparent about the kind of graduates they’re looking for. Therefore, if you’re unsure, there’s no harm in contacting the employer before the application deadline.
If you’d like to look at an example of entry requirements for a graduate scheme, you can check out the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, linked here.
What are the steps in a graduate scheme application?
Below, I’ll be taking you through each step of applying to a graduate scheme. However, if you’d like a little more information about what a graduate scheme involves before you apply, this Think Student article has you covered!
The government website also has a general list of the steps in an application process. However, I’ll be taking you through each major step in detail, so keep reading!
1. Fill out your application form
To start, graduate scheme employers will require you to fill out an application form. This is a document similar to your CV (but not your actual CV unless it is requested). This tells employers about your key skills and why you’d be great for the job.
Many institutions, including Oxford University’s career service, recommend only applying for graduate schemes that are best suited to your field and skills.
You don’t have to apply to graduate schemes in just your field, but it means your chances of getting rejected are significantly decreased.
Make sure in your application form to really sell yourself! Remember, graduate scheme employers want to hire people, so you need them to know why you’d be perfect for the job!
TargetJobs has a detailed guide that I’d recommend checking out if you need advice on how to fill out your application form, linked here.
It’s important to check application deadlines. These will usually be specified by your employer, but if you want to learn more about the graduate scheme deadlines, check out this Think Student article.
2. Complete online assessments
Now that you’ve gotten past the application stage, your potential employer needs to know that you’ve really got what it takes. Online assessments, often called psychometric or aptitude tests, are another way of filtering graduates so employers can find the most capable candidates.
If you have to take an assessment, your employer will usually send you a link to an online test, or in rarer cases, may call you in to take an in-person assessment. All employers will have anti-cheating measures in place, whether you’re sitting a psychometric test in-person or online, so don’t think about trying to cheat!
However, practice definitely makes perfect. Lots of websites have free, or at least free trials of, online aptitude tests for you to have a go at.
Some of the most popular websites are AssessmentDay, Graduates First, and Practice Aptitude Tests. It is definitely recommended that you take at least one practice assessment before your actual aptitude test!
There are 3 main types of online assessments for graduate schemes: ability, aptitude, and personality. These test your basic skills like verbal and numerical reasoning, problem solving skills, and the way you work respectively.
You can find a breakdown of all the different types of psychometric tests in an article by TargetJobs, linked here.
3. Participate in an online or in-person interview
If you’ve made it past the application and assessments, congratulations! Your graduate scheme employer definitely sees you as somebody they’d like to hire. However, they still need to know a little bit more.
The next filtering stage will be an interview. This could be online or in-person, and you’ll be interviewed by members of the team of your employer company.
In some cases, it may be an online interview followed by an in-person interview.
Although you can’t prepare that much for an interview because you don’t know what you’ll be asked, it’s still good to brush up on your public speaking skills. Bright Network has a list of 10 common graduate interview questions, linked here.
As practice, ask your friends or family to hold a mock interview with some common questions and see how you do. Alternatively, you can also ask your university’s career service for advice on how to approach a graduate interview.
4. Hold a presentation for your graduate scheme employer
Not every employer will ask their applicants to complete a presentation, but some do, so you need to be prepared just in case!
This is generally the last step of the application process, so you won’t have much competition with other graduates. That’s why it’s important to really set yourself apart from the rest and make your employer choose you!
Your employer will choose your presentation topic, and they should supply you with the general criteria, e.g., how much time you should present for. Make sure you really show off your personality as well as being concise and professional. Good luck!
Do graduate schemes guarantee you a job?
The short answer is no, there is no way of “guaranteeing” a graduate job. That being said, a graduate scheme is a great way to set yourself apart from other graduates.
Through a graduate scheme, you’ll have learnt key skills that are highly desirable for your employers and that other graduates may not have. Even if you’ve been rejected for a few graduate schemes in the past, you’ll know what employers are looking for in the application process, so you can ace your CV and interviews!
For some more information about graduate jobs and graduate employability, you’ll find this Think Student article really useful.