How to apply for Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes are a great way to get your foot in the door with some of the world’s biggest companies and set your career on the right path. Here’s our guide on everything you need to know when applying for one of these schemes, including where to look, how to apply and how many you should be applying for.

How to Apply for Graduate Schemes

Applying for a graduate scheme is a little bit different to applying for a job and there’s a little bit more that goes into it.

The first thing is deciding where you’re going to apply to. We’ll go into more detail about some of the specific employers that offer grad schemes a bit later on, but it’s important to be selective and don’t just fire out applications to anyone that’s taking them.

Sending out a generic application to a large number of employers isn’t likely to get you very far and you need to tailor your application to the employer, showing them that you have a genuine desire to work for them.

Once you’ve settled on a couple, it’s time to sell yourself to them with some professional experience.

As with a job application, you’ll obviously need an up to date CV. Thankfully, we’ve prepared the Ultimate CV Guide to ensure that yours is in top shape.

Even if you’ve recently updated your CV, there are always improvements to be made and as we mentioned, it’s important that you’re tailoring it to the company that you’re applying to with relevant skills and experience.

Some will also require a cover letter too, but we’ve got you covered with a guide for writing those too!

It’s also a good idea to keep a list of any smaller achievements that you might think could be relevant too, such as projects that you’ve worked on that you might want to bring up in an interview.

Where to Look for Graduate Schemes

You’re already in the number one place to find the right graduate scheme for you, with hundreds of graduate programmes with top employers across the country here at Debut.

As the capital, London is home to some of the biggest companies not just in the country, but in the world. For that reason, it’s one of the most popular destinations in the country for graduate schemes and you can check out our full listings of London graduate schemes here.

However, if you’re based further afield and don’t fancy relocating to the Big Smoke, don’t worry, as there are great opportunities right around the UK.

For example, in the North, you’ll find schemes with employers such as the BBC and ITV, Google, KPMG and Deloitte in Manchester, while in the Midlands there are openings with Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, RBS and more in Birmingham.

Up in Edinburgh, you can apply at some of the big Scottish banks such as RBS and the Bank of Scotland, as well as insurance companies like Standard Life Aberdeen and Scottish Widows, while in Cardiff, employers include Ford, Admiral and BBC Wales.

We have graduate schemes from hundreds of employers here at Debut, including some of the world’s leaders in their fields.

Here are just some of the top firms and brands that offer are offering graduate schemes:

The Application Process

Applying for a graduate scheme has multiple stages and the specifics will obviously vary from one company to the next, but here’s a look at the average application will play out.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to download our Debut app, where you can browse all of the latest opportunities and receive push notifications from employers who can get in touch with you directly.

Once you’ve settled on some employers to apply to, you’ll need to submit your initial application as we discussed above, including a CV and a covering letter, although sometimes you might have to fill out a specific application form provided by the employer, but you should be able to transfer all the relevant stuff from your CV/covering letter.

Following this, you’ll often be asked to complete some basic maths and English tests which you can complete online in your own time.

If you’re successful, you’ll usually be asked to do an interview via phone or video call which will be a one on one conversation and should be fairly short compared to interviews later on in the process.

If you’re invited to a face to face interview at the head offices, this may be in front of a panel of interviewers and there might be other applicants there too and this is where you’ll start to be asked more job-specific questions.

If you’re panicking about this stage, don’t worry, as we’ve put together an interview cheat sheet to help you get through it and smash your interviews!

For the final stage, you’ll attend an assessment centre with a number of other applicants, where you’ll undertake numerous tasks throughout the day, such as teamwork activities, presentations and of course, more interviews!

Finally, after making your way through all of these stages, it’s time to wait and see if you’ve been successful!

How Many Graduate Schemes Should I Apply For?

As we’ve mentioned, you don’t want to overdo and send out applications en masse, as you won’t be able to properly tailor your applications to the companies.

While you might think that the more places you apply to, the better your chances of success are, the quality of your applications will suffer for it.

The exact number of schemes to apply for will, of course, depend on the individual, but the most important thing is to make sure that how many you apply for, they’re all relevant to your skillset and are things that you are passionate about.

It can be tricky to whittle down all of those great opportunities into a shortlist, but you can use our app to filter down openings to those that interest you and are relevant to you.

This is important because if you get quite far into the process with an employer before realising it’s not really for you, you’ve not only wasted your own time but theirs as well.

If you want to be super organised, you can also create a calendar with all the deadlines of the companies that you want to apply to and keep track of your applications.

What Are Graduate Employers Looking For?

Of course, an employer will want to know things such as your grades and work experience when they look at your CV, but what they’re really interested in are what skills you can bring to the organisation.

The exact skills you need will obviously vary from one sector to the next, but there are still certain things which are valued across the board.

These are vital because they can be transferred across different industries and include skills like literacy and numeracy, good oral and written communication and problem-solving, but also simple things such as showing good time management and organisational skills, good teamwork and the ability to adapt to different situations.

While some of these can easily be displayed through testing (such as literacy and numeracy), you’ll have to try and work others into an interview or CV, so always try to think of real examples of how you’ve displayed these kinds of things in the past that you can display to the recruiter.

Coming back to grades, it’s something of a myth that you need to have acquired a 2:1 degree to get onto a graduate scheme. While this has been the case in the past and still is in some jobs, more and more employers are open to applicants who have achieved a 2:2 grade.

While these are amongst the most important things that an employer will look for, don’t forget about things such as extracurricular activities that you’ve undertaken like voluntary work, work experience and internships, or any relevant societies that you’ve been a part of.

It’s true that these might not be the first things that an employer will turn to, but if they can help to prove your aptitude for the job, then they’ll definitely be keen to hear about them.

Just make sure that they’re relevant, the last thing that an interviewer wants to do is sit and listen to you talk about your time on the uni football team when you’re applying for a role at a bank.

Finally, nobody likes a teacher’s pet, but it is a good idea to do your research on the company to show your attention to detail and that you truly do want to work for the company.

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