Graduate schemes

The graduate scheme application process

Familiarise yourself with each stage of the graduate scheme application process.

So, you have decided what you want to do and what kind of companies you want to work for. Now it’s time to get down to the graduate scheme applications.

But when it comes to applying for a grad scheme, it’s wise that you know what you’re letting yourself in for. The market is more competitive than ever before, so every little bit of knowledge is an advantage over your peers.

Whether you are a novice or complete beginner at applying to graduate jobs or any job in general, this guide will give a quick overview of what to expect from each type of application as well as a few tips on how to succeed.

Of course, every company will have a slightly different approach, but this is a good indicator of what you’ll have to do at each stage of your application.

Online application

What to expect

ComputerMost businesses now carry out their graduate recruitment online. The first stage generally involves filling out some information about yourself, including contact details and then the information that is typically included in your CV, such as qualifications and experience.

Some will just ask you to upload your CV as a Word document, while others will require you to cut and paste certain parts into an online form.

At this stage, you’re also likely to be asked to answer some general questions about your competencies, such as ‘What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?’

How to impress

  • Before starting, brainstorm all your experiences so you don’t miss out any great examples that you might have
  • Take your time over the questions and make sure you’re providing specific answers that focus on results
  • However, some online applications may be timed so make sure that you don’t linger for too long
  • Get your application sent off as soon as possible once you’re happy with it to avoid missing out
  • Use your common sense! If you’re given a limit of 200 words for an answer and you’ve only written 5, it’s safe to assume that you haven’t given enough detail

Psychometric & Online Testing

What to expect

Psychometric TestingNext up, it’s the psychometric testing. This is usually a maths and English test that you’ll most likely have to complete online within a restricted time period (although you may have to do it at a first interview too).

Some scheme applications will also include a psychometric test, which asks you about your skills and working style.

How to impress

  • If you haven’t studied maths or English since GCSE, try practicing a few GCSE level quizzes online. It’ll jog your memory about the main areas in which you’ll be questioned. It won’t be really high level stuff, you just need to show a good grasp, but a bit of preparation will prevent you from being rusty
  • Don’t panic! Take your time and work at a steady but not rushed pace. It’s better to answer half the questions correctly than all of them wrongly!
  • In the psychometrics, be honest. They’re fairly advanced and will probably catch you out if you try to bend the truth. There are no right or wrong answers, so just be yourself
  • You can find practice sites online too if you really want to make sure that you are ready.

Telephone or face-to-face interview

What to expect

Phone InterviewIf you’ve made it this far, it’s now time to actually speak to your potential employer.

Some will hold an interview over the phone, and some will invite you down to their offices for a face-to-face meeting.

This is your chance to shine in person and show them what you are really like as opposed to answering questions behind a computer screen.

How to impress

  • If it’s a telephone interview, go somewhere quiet where you have a good signal. If you’re at home, let your housemates know what you’re doing so they don’t disturb you
  • Have your notes in front of you, but don’t rustle papers too much!
  • If it’s face-to-face, dress professionally and don’t wear too much make-up or fragrance. Now’s the time to wear that suit
  • Speak clearly and concisely. It’s often just as important as the answers that you give
  • Prepare some answers to popular interview questions
  • Have your own questions prepared for the end of the interview. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about the scheme and what it involves

Assessment centre

What to expect

Assessment CentreThis is usually the last stage before a job offer is made. Assessment centres will usually last for a full day, and will involve coming together with other candidates and completing a range of tasks throughout the day.

These include group exercises, further tests and interviews, and presentations. You might be asked to prepare certain things in advance, or you may just have to think on your feet.

How to impress

  • Don’t worry too much about the other candidates. Some of them might talk the talk, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better for the job
  • Read the instructions carefully before the day. You don’t want to miss out on anything, such as being told that you need to prepare a presentation
  • In group exercises, be mindful of other candidates and strike a balance between being too pushy and not getting involved. Respect the fact that people could be nervous, and try to draw others into the conversation
  • Some existing employees from the graduate scheme might be there helping out. If they are, introduce yourself and ask questions
  • Just be yourself. Don’t try to be a leader if you aren’t or attempt to second guess what the employer is looking for. Likelihood is that if they don’t choose you then you wouldn’t have fit in anyway.

What to do next

The process is notoriously long and drawn out, so don’t expect to hear back in a hurry. You might be given a date that can expect to know whether you’re successful by, but it’s no guarantee.

Don’t hassle the recruiter, but if you haven’t heard back, feel free to give them a call asking when you’re likely to know the outcome.

If you aren’t successful, it can be disheartening. But treat it as a learning curve and don’t let it put you off trying again in the future. Some companies will give you feedback from the process, so make sure that you take it on board and consider how you’ll address the areas that you perform less well in.


Graduate schemes are arguably one of the best ways to launch a career, but the competition is tough. Make sure that you do your homework and are as prepared as possible for all of the stages.

Comments