Writing in a Book

January 12, 2023, by egyjr4

My Advice for Searching for a Placement

By Jason Richards, Aerospace Engineering student blogger

Every year many students try to secure a placement. It is a great opportunity that allows you to gain work experience and develop your knowledge with practical learning. There are many challenges that come with getting a placement and here I want to talk about the steps I have taken thus far into the process and give a review of what I think works best looking back.

Preparation for the hunt

Usually, advertisements for placements open around September when term starts. A common mistake people make is not doing enough preparation over the summer. I have found that doing the preparation in the summer makes the application process a lot easier. The final result is that it allows you to focus more on your studies. In short, you want to have a CV and cover letter ready to go once the term starts. This is not because you want to apply to loads of placement with this one CV and cover letter but because it is a lot easier to tailor a finished application than an unfinished one.

I personally found that it was easier to make an application if there was a job description to work with. Because of this I took placement adverts from previous years, that were still advertised on sites like Gradcracker. This was how I made my first applications to get a feel of what is expected. You may be asking what the point is in writing an application for the previous year if you won’t be able to apply to it. Well, you could always try cold emailing these companies, or further use it for a placement opportunity that is advertised for the following academic year. The placement and Careers team are available over the summer and using them to help finalise a CV and cover letter will really help you get the best chances of success. Usually, it takes a couple of tries before you find a structure that suits you while making your application stand out.

The hunt begins

Now, you have a CV and cover letter. It’s been checked by the placement team, and you have good feedback. When term starts you will find that for the first couple of weeks their may very few placements available. Then suddenly there are loads that come at once. It can be overwhelming on what to choose, but my advice would be to focus on applying for one placement at a time. What I did was take a previous application that I had written and changed the text in some sections to suit what the role was asking for. Therefore, spending time over summer making CVs and cover letters is important, because then you can choose a previous application and quickly change it. If you have multiple applications made, then you can choose the application that is most suitable to work from. By building on your previous work, your applications should be getting better as the process goes through. Most people do find that the first application is hardest, but once you find a style it becomes easier. This is why starting early is key.

Initial responses

Each company is different in how they process students. The process for larger companies will also differ from small medium enterprise (SME). Larger companies tend to get applications in the first term of the year while SMEs tend to start advertising around March. The general process for a larger company after you apply goes like this. You first receive an email saying that your application has been received and is under review. Then usually you are asked to do an online questionnaire or test that looks into your cognitive ability and personality. These tend to take less than an hour and, in general, are given five days to complete this test from when you receive the email. Assuming you get past this stage you may be asked to do a recorded interview where you answer questions. In short you will be shown a question, have some time to think of an answer, and then some time to answer. Most of my experiences, you have not had the opportunity to rerecord your answer, so it is important you get some practice beforehand. If all this goes well, you will then be asked for an online interview. I have only gotten to this stage twice this far but both interviews have lasted about an hour. The placements team can help you prepare at this stage and have a great understanding of what is to come.

It should be stated that sometimes companies will call you up further for an in-person interview. However these days that is quite rare for a placement, and I have not known this to happen. From my experience I have found that the wait periods between these steps can vary. Every company is different just like every placement, and usually a SME will handle things differently. A good piece of advice is to reach out to someone doing a placement at a company you like. You can ask them what their experience is and get an idea of what to expect. This can be very helpful in preparing you for an interview. Sites like LinkedIn make it easy to find students from Nottingham at a company.

My advice

1. Be prepared for it to take time

2. Put some work in before term starts to free up time

3. Be patient and apply for one at a time

4. Set yourself some goals about what you’re looking for and stick to them

5. Be professional and respectful

Finally, make use of the Careers team as they are here to help with all aspects of making applications. If you really want to immerse yourself in a period of work experience to gain a thorough insight in a career area, a specific company or industry, a year-long placement might be right for you. You can chat to the placements team if you have any questions. 

Posted in Applying For JobsCVs and Cover Letters