Top Tips for Applying to Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes

Written by Caroline Thomas, Geography and Environmental Science student 

Taking the next step on from life as a graduate at university can sometimes feel daunting nowadays with many pathways open to students leading in different directions. The opportunities are endless – with many students going on to do further study, some taking time out, some exploring the possibilities of self-employment, alongside those who decide to apply for graduate schemes.

Now, having completed my final year as an undergraduate at Reading I am looking to complete a master’s course to further my study for the coming academic year. However, this makes the present day the perfect time to gain all relevant knowledge on graduate schemes, in order to feel adequately prepared for the application process, starting this summer ready for the year following my master’s. Attending the webinar held by the Career’s Team opened my eyes to the realities of applying to graduate schemes, along with how I can prepare, what to expect and where to look to find relevant schemes for me.

Despite many companies offering different graduate schemes to students from many disciplines, the majority of schemes follow similar specifications:

  • Opening: From August
  • Closing: From October
  • Lasting: 1-2 years
  • Offered by: Larger Organisations

This isn’t set in stone – many companies will vary slightly, but the majority of companies will open their applications from August onwards. This means that it is critical to begin the search for schemes throughout the summer, and in many cases before your final academic year begins. Similarly, the application process for schemes will typically close as early as October, giving graduates a few months to express their interest before the deadline. It is common for graduate schemes to typically be offered by larger organisations, who have the capacity and capability to offer graduate positions within their company, along with these programmes lasting anywhere between 1 to 2 years, with very few ranging outside this timeframe.

Nowadays, graduate schemes make up approximately 15% of the job market, with 85% of these larger recruiters hiring graduates from any discipline and background! This makes applying to graduate schemes more appealing, giving graduates the opportunity to apply for schemes differing from their degree subject, and rather, focusing on the transferable skills gained throughout their degree and extra-curricular activities. This often means that schemes will focus their entry requirements on strengths and values, instead of the success being entirely dependent on the criteria outlined in a job description. Many companies will also allow graduates to move through rotations within the company, experiencing different roles and working within different teams, however, whether you are guaranteed a job at the end of the scheme will vary from organisation to organisation.

Some of the best places to start looking at graduate schemes are online, including:

Each website has its own filtering features available to explore, including viewing by the application deadline, ranking, industry, and location. When it comes to the recruitment process for graduate schemes found through the websites above, applicants will often have multiple stages to pass before being offered the job, this might look a bit different from the application process for many part-time jobs and internships. These stages include:

  • Online application (including completing an online form, uploading a CV, a Personal Statement, Covering Letter, answering open-ended questions)
  • Online Psychometric Tests (Logical, numerical and verbal reasoning, situational judgment)
  • Gamification (This is relatively new and often app-based)
  • Video or telephone interviews
  • Assessment Centres (Recently have been taking place online, and could also include a further set of interview questions)

All these stages can seem incredibly overwhelming, but practice makes perfect! Booking a Careers Appointment with an experienced Careers Consultant at Reading via My Jobs Online can help you improve your CV, covering letter or personal statement. You can also arrange a mock interview for the appointment, along with advice on how to prepare on a more individual basis.

The key to perfecting the psychometric tests relies on practice – and heading over to Graduates First which gives students from the University of Reading unlimited and free practice at a range of these online tests. Taking a look at Reading’s Career Smart website can also help all aspects of the recruitment process, through an online course designed to support students graduating in 2022.

All in all, I now feel more confident about applying for graduate schemes, along with knowing where to find the majority of opportunities, and how the recruitment process works. Whether you’re thinking about applying for the coming year, or whether a graduate scheme is something you look to do at some point in the future, best of luck with the applications, and well done for completing another year at university throughout these unusual and uncertain times!