Third years: How to apply and prep for Graduate Schemes
It’s the time of year where those in their final year start thinking about what they’re going to do with the rest of their life. One option is grad schemes, which are a great way to kick-start your career. You get to keep learning and explore an industry while being paid for your time, just like a job. Unfortunately, competition for places can be very high, and the applications for positions can be long and difficult, so here are my top tips for how to apply and prep for Graduate Schemes:
Choose an industry
It can be tempting to play the numbers game and apply for every single grad scheme going. But there are hundreds out there, and applications can often take more than an hour and include various forms and tests. Try to focus on an industry or area that you’re interested in and apply for roles which suit that.
Although no two applications are the same, one thing they will all want sooner or later is your CV. You don’t want to use the same CV you used to apply for your part-time bar or retail job. Make sure it is tailored to the industry you want to go into, and don’t be afraid to tweak it to suit different applications. Your university may have a careers service who will help you craft and polish your CV so that it helps you to stand out.
Another thing you can expect to find in the majority of graduate scheme applications is psychometric and reasoning tests. These are usually timed tests that measure your ability to think and act under pressure. They’re often used to trim down the huge number of applicants, as they don’t require any human interaction and they can simply compare scores or have a minimum threshold for progression. You can practice similar tests online: just search for psychometric or reasoning practice and have a go. You will be much calmer and better prepared once you have tried a couple online.
Another aspect of the graduate scheme application usually involves competency questions like “Tell us about a time you worked in a team” or “Explain a time you had to deal with a lot of pressure”. It’s important to work on answers that demonstrate your experience and make you look good. If you have some work experience or placements that are relevant, try to work these into your answers to demonstrate your suitability. You also want to make sure your answers reflect well on you, don’t tell them about any terrible mistakes or bad decisions you’ve made!
If you make it past the application stage, you will often be invited to take part in a telephone or video interview. Video interviews are often not with a real person but give you a chance to record your answers to questions on a webcam so they can be reviewed by someone at the company later. You will have a set amount of time to think and answer, and usually, you cannot re-record your answers. Because of this, it is important to prepare just like you would for a normal interview. Research the company, the industry, and plan your answers to common interview questions. Make sure you dress smartly and have a neutral background behind you, no one wants to see your dirty socks!