Graduate schemes: your questions answered

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Graduate schemes: your questions answered

From psychometric tests to how to make your application stand out, in this guide we answer all your questions about graduate schemes.

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is a work-based training programme for people who have recently graduated from university. On a graduate scheme you’ll gain practical skills, experience, and expertise while working for a company and earning a salary.

What is a graduate scheme? It's a structured work-based
training programme for graduates

They’re usually pretty structured, so as well as working in your day-to-day job, you’ll get training, mentoring and help building your transferable skills. Some graduate schemes are focused on one specific job role, while others provide placements in different parts of the business. So you could gain an insight into lots of different functions, teams and even locations.

Why should I do a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are a good option after uni because it’s like a fast-track to a great career. You’ll be given support to develop your skills and knowledge in your chosen profession. These schemes also help you figure out if a career is right for you.

Other benefits are that you’ll be able to network during your graduate programme, meeting other people from different parts of the business. This can lead to valuable contacts for the future.

How long does a graduate scheme last?

Typically they last between one and three years – though that really depends on your employer. The schemes normally start in the August or September after your graduation.

Will I get paid?

Yes! All graduate schemes are paid as a full-time job.

Research from 2017 showed that the highest-paying graduate employers are investment banks, law firms, and oil and energy companies.

What can I do a graduate scheme in?

There’s a huge range of different Career Zones to choose from, including:

What companies offer graduate schemes?

Here are just a handful of companies and organisations that run graduate schemes…

  • BBC, Virgin Media.
  • Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, Deloitte.
  • Boots, Next, Marks & Spencer, Amazon, Aldi.
  • Google, Microsoft, BT.
  • Balfour Beatty.

Am I eligible to apply?

Most companies and organisations will require you to have a 2.1 degree or above. Some are more flexible and will consider applicants with a 2.2 – your skills and experience will be even more important in that case. You may be asked about your grade if you’re invited to an interview, so you can emphasis work experience or extra-curricular activities.

You’ll typically need to get your application in about a year in advance of the start date – so think about applying in the first term of your final year at uni. Some employers recruit on a year-round basis.

So how do I apply?

Graduate schemes are very popular and competitive so you need to show off your skills, qualities and experience to make your application stand out.

Some employers run assessment centres and psychometric
testing as part of the application process

The first phase is usually an online application (we’ve got tips here on how to fill out an application form). If you make it to the next stage, you’ll have to attend an interview and assessment centres (or group interviews).

Sone employers (especially the larger ones) will require you to take a psychometric test, which identifies your skills, knowledge and personality.

Thorough preparation is really important for both the interviews and the test. You can sometimes use social media to get information about the selection process – the NHS, for instance, gives applicants tips on how they can prepare for an assessment centre.

When you’re preparing, think about the skills that you learned at uni and come up with concrete examples. It’s not enough to say, “I learned how to make decisions”; you need a specific time when you make a decision, and explain the outcome. Don’t forget to also discuss any work experience you had, including jobs in retail or bar work

Image credits

Main image, two men talking; and presentation via Pexels.


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