Everything you need to know about graduate schemes

by | Dec 28, 2020 | News

If you are in your final year of university, or are a recent graduate, you might be wondering how to start your career.

A great first step would be to land a graduate scheme. This post will help explain everything you need to know about graduate schemes, including what a graduate scheme is, what the benefits are and other details.

What is a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are basically training programmes. Companies hire graduates and train them, usually rotating them around the business so they can experience different roles and get a deeper understanding of how it all works. You may also have to complete some assessments.

The schemes will last a set amount of time, normally between one and three years. Graduate schemes are usually run by large businesses that can afford to spend a lot on recruitment. After completion, it is likely you will be offered a full-time job with the company, however this is not a guarantee.

Graduate schemes differ from graduate jobs. A graduate job is where you will start straight away in the role. A scheme will be more structured than a graduate job and will probably give you more training. You may get to move around several departments before deciding which role is best for you.

Graduate schemes are a great way to kickstart your career after university. You will get your foot in the door with a company and receive lots of training and support. These programmes are competitive though and you need to put effort into your application.

What is the usual application process for graduate schemes?

Most graduate schemes follow a simple step-by-step recruitment process.

1.  Application

There will be an online application where you will have to fill out your personal information and upload your CV and cover letter. Many schemes will also have some questions for you to follow out, perhaps asking about your motivations.

2.  Online tests

Sometimes they will ask you to take online tests. These could be psychometric tests, which are designed to test your cognitive abilities. Here you can read more about psychometric testing.

3.  Video interview

Many graduate schemes will have a video interview stage as part of the process. The two main types are live video interviews and recorded video interviews. In a recorded video interview, you will be asked to record your answers so that the interview can be shared easily to key staff members in the company.

4.  Assessment centre

At the final stage of the process there will usually be an assessment centre. Here you will likely have a series of interviews and group exercises with other candidates. If you are successful here, you will be offered a place.

When should I start applying for graduate schemes?

If you want to apply for graduate schemes, businesses usually start accepting applications in September, with the recruitment season over around January. Apply for all the ones that appeal to you during this period to give yourself the best chance. Make sure to start applying as early as you can.

This does not mean you should apply for everything and anything and rush your applications though. You need to put effort into each application and tailor your CV and cover letter to each role. Sometimes the application deadline for schemes can close early, if they have chosen all the candidates they want.

Whilst many schemes will write that their applications are “ongoing”, this does not mean that they will wait until the deadline to review all the applications. They will be reviewing applications as they come in and if they find a great candidate, they will give them the place. This is why you need to apply as early as possible. Here you can read more about applying for graduate schemes and graduate jobs.

What are graduate employers looking for?

Graduate schemes are competitive. They are looking for the best candidates who can demonstrate that they have a strong skill set and are eager to learn.

Make sure your CV and cover letters are tailored and optimised for the particular company.

Generally, the recruiters want candidates with a 2:1 or a first degree, but you can get accepted with any grade if you have experience and can demonstrate skills.

Some of the main skills that they look for include:

  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Digital skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Research skills

How many graduate schemes should I apply for?

When it comes to applying for graduate schemes, quality is more important than quantity. It may seem like the more you apply for, the higher your chances, but this is not necessarily true if you have not put the effort into your applications.

Also, there is no point in applying for a role that you are not interested in. It will come across in your application if you are not keen and if you are accepted on a scheme that you’re not interested in, then you will be spending a long time working on something that you don’t like. It is crucial that you are enthusiastic about it or you will regret it. 

You should find a selection of roles that grip you and note down their deadlines to avoid having to rush them at the last minute. Set aside a chunk of time to properly work on the applications. The more work you put in, the better your chance. 

What are the benefits of a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes provide great benefits, depending on the company. It will get your foot in the door with a company and potentially set you up for a career with them.

They will provide you with training that will benefit you for the rest of your career. You will get loads of experience, which will build your confidence. Also, the starting salaries are usually competitive. You can read this post for more information on the pros and cons of graduate schemes.

You should also bear in mind that they can be very competitive and if you get accepted, they can be quite rigorous, with long hours.

Are graduate schemes just for recent graduates? 

Some graduate recruiters specifically state that their schemes are designed for candidates who have graduated within the past year for example. 

Some schemes are explicit in wanting candidates that have graduated in the last year. There are many others though that are open to anyone with a degree. Do not think that you have missed your chance if you did not get a graduate scheme right after university.

If you have any queries regarding your suitability for a graduate scheme, you can email the company’s recruitment team.

How long do graduate schemes last?

Graduate schemes usually last between a year or two. Some can last up to three years. Because of the duration and the option to work in different departments, graduate schemes are good for building a future career.

If you work hard, a graduate scheme can be a strong foundation for a future with your respective company.

How much are the salaries on graduate schemes?

The salary for a graduate scheme will vary depending on the business and the industry. The average salary is about £23,000. 

Make sure to check the salary on offer, so you can factor it in when thinking about rent and other costs wherever you are based. This is particularly important if it is based in London.

Which companies have graduate schemes?

There is a wide variety of schemes in different job sectors:

Finance – All major banks, including Barclays, the Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC.

Information technology – Google, Microsoft, BT and EE.

Marketing/media – BBC, Sky, and Virgin Media.

Retail – Some of the UK’s biggest retailers, including Boots, Next, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

Transport – Many airlines, including British Airways and easyJet want graduates for their commercial, finance and IT-related graduate schemes.

Here is a list of the top 50 graduate employers.

What happens if I don’t get accepted on a graduate scheme?

You might not be able to land a graduate scheme straight after graduating. You will be able to try again next year, just be sure to keep yourself busy with something productive, like work experience or volunteering.

There are alternatives to graduate schemes. You can try applying for regular jobs, many are advertised for graduates and can be just as rewarding as graduate schemes. Another way to break into an industry is internships.

If you want help landing a place on a graduate scheme or getting your first job, you can come to Graduate Coach. They offer assistance with every part of the job search process, including one to one coaching.

Graduate coach has helped hundreds of final year students and graduates get places on graduate schemes at companies such as Deloitte, Facebook, Google, JP Morgan, Network Rail, and more. Find out more about our successes here.

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