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Finding a graduate job, what to expect and when to start applying

If you are anything like me, then one of the first things you were thinking about when entering 3rd year was finding a graduate job, for others this may be the last thing on your mind and something you would rather put off. As someone who is now finishing 3rd year, I really advise you to be applying early in the year rather than putting even more stress on yourself during the busier periods.

The first steps I would take would be to ensure you have an up to date CV, and also a LinkedIn page. Although LinkedIn is not essential (I actually managed to get graduate job offers without one), it seems more and more commonplace, and not having one meant that I had to type out every detail on my CV by hand for a lot of applications. If you need help with this, then the Careers and Employability team run a number of workshops throughout the year on a number of different topics and they also have a great website which covers every step of your application and is also suitable for all years. ( You may also find it useful to mock up a covering letter, however, I would definitely ensure to tailor both this and your CV slightly for each employer.

Once this has been done, you can start applying for graduate jobs, I found many of the graduate schemes that I applied for had application deadlines in November or December, so there really is no point hanging around. Each employer has a different way of doing things, and will likely depend on the kind of job you are applying for, below I have listed some of the generic steps that I had to do when applying for these schemes:

  • Applying on the website: Use your CV (It helps to have this as up to date as possible), upload a Covering Letter and answer general questions about why you applied for the role/company, making sure you use examples for any skills or experience you have.
  • Online Assessments: (In my experience these were often sent out automatically after the first step had been completed) These can include Numeric Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Psychometric/Situational Judgment Tests – So be prepared!
  • Although not a step, I felt the need to include here that there may be gaps between these steps. This does not necessarily mean a rejection, but some employers don’t seem to start looking at applications until the deadline has passed while others view them continuously.
  • Video Interview: (I believe every application I completed asked me to do one of these) These require you to get smartly dressed and talk into your webcam, answering questions within a specific time limit. Typically you were given ~30 seconds to prepare and think about the question without being recorded, and then 2-3 minutes to answer, although you can move on to the next question at any time.
  • Telephone / Skype Interview: (In my case only a couple of employers required this, and many moved straight on to the next step), this time you are talking to a member of staff who works for the company, this could be someone in the department you could work, or someone in the HR department.
  • Assessment Centre: (I attended 4 assessment centres before receiving a couple of graduate job offers, and each one was completely different in how it was structured and what we had to do, so I will try and be as generic as possible here) Typically lasting the entire day, there are one-on-one interviews, or sometimes two members of staff interviewing you, individual and group tasks.
  • Then one you make it through the gauntlet of graduate job applications – Job Offer!

There are a number of websites which advertise graduate schemes, I particularly liked Target Jobs, however, you will also find certain employers do not advertise on these sites. So, if there is a company you really want to work for, search out their website specifically for roles being advertised there. Don’t be scared to email their recruitment team directly either, enclosing your CV and Covering Letter and asking if anything would be suit you – the worst they can do is not reply or say no!

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Before every stage of an application ensure you have looked into the company, what they are currently working on or have been seen in the news to do, or any volunteering or other schemes they offer that you like the sound of. Just ensure you know the company and the role as well as you possibly can. In one particular Skype interview, I was asked to name the CEO and his vision – this is how much research some of the companies expect you to do. I would also recommend using as many other interviewees/ employees will write reviews explaining what questions they were asked in each stage of their interview process – sometimes these can even be from the current year. You can also read up reviews from employees of the company to see if they actually like working there and if they have any complaints. Also, don’t worry too much if you don’t fulfil all the criteria they ask for, if you fill most of it, it is still definitely worth applying for if it’s a company you could see yourself working for.

I wish you the best of luck and don’t worry about rejections they happen to everyone.