November 20, 2015, by Laura Estrop

What is a graduate scheme?

By Suzanne McGregor, Careers and Employability Consultant

Are you a final year student searching for graduate roles? Are you also beginning to wonder- what on earth is the difference between a graduate job and a graduate scheme? Fear not, Suzanne is here to explain what it actually means to work on, and apply for, a graduate scheme.

Is a graduate scheme a graduate job?

Graduate schemes tend to be offered by large organisations and are typically a paid, structured period of training and development which could last between one and three years. Many companies offer a variety of roles/streams you apply for, with the majority open to graduates from any discipline. When looking at organisations as diverse as BT, Sky and P&G, don’t forget that they can have streams in a variety of sectors. Sky, for example are offering 10 schemes, from accountancy to engineering for 2016. You may also get the opportunity to rotate around different departments and locations. This movement and exploration can be helpful in exploring your strengths and interests within the business. Moreover, it is likely that you will receive off-the-job training and, if relevant to the role, study towards a professional qualification.

There are many graduate jobs that are not graduate schemes. This could be because they are in smaller niche companies (think creative industries: for example marketing, public relations) or that the way into the role is different (such as medicine and teaching).

Quality over quantity

It can be tempting to apply for multiple schemes but a carefully chosen, smaller number of well-structured and researched applications are likely to have a higher success rate. Employers can tell the difference and a rushed application could demonstrate that you don’t really know what you want to do!

As previously mentioned, it’s likely that one company will offer a wide range of schemes. Therefore, if you are keen on applying for one you should be able to explain why that role at that company. Graduate schemes often advertise up to a year in advance of the start date, so you need to be preparing early in your final year or even before.

What’s the application process like?

There are typically several stages to the application process. These can range from:

  • Psychometric tests – online, timed tests covering areas such as numerical and verbal reasoning, logic and situational judgement
  • Video/phone interviews – increasingly common as a way of filtering applications
  • Assessment centres – a range of tasks such as a group exercise, a presentation, an e-tray exercise
  • Final face-to-face interviews

The application process is usually formal and well-structured; don’t be surprised if it takes you weeks or even months to progress through these different stages as these schemes attract a lot of applicants. Many companies have set closing dates, others have year-round recruitment so you will need to check each one.

In most cases, you don’t progress to the next stage without successful completion of the first one, and the first one is often the psychometric tests so make sure you get some practice!

Preparation is king

Like any job you apply for, preparation is essential to getting you a job offer. My top tip here would be: research, research, research!

If you want to apply to one of the more well-known companies then you need to be finding out as much as you can about them. Ways of doing this include:

  • visiting the company website
  • attending events/fairs where they are present
  • following them on social media
  • talking to people who work there

Some schemes close as early as October, or may close earlier than advertised if they hit a certain number of applications. Be organised, don’t leave applying to the last minute, you have to find the balance between applying for roles and your studies.

If you are thinking of applying to a graduate scheme but are unsure where to start your search, visit our website or pick up one of the free directories from outside our office! Do you have any questions about graduate schemes? Send us your questions and we will ask Suzanne for her advice!  

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers Advice