Top Tips For Securing A Graduate Scheme Placement

For many undergraduates at Uni, the notion of securing a graduate scheme is by all means a concept considered ‘easier said than done’. This thought is heavily shaped with top employers facing hundreds of applications per role, whilst having stringent recruitment processes, designed to identify the cream of the crop. In this respect, the thought of solely getting a good degree just isn’t enough, to land one of the most prized opportunities for students; graduate schemes. Moreover, due to the immense competition for these schemes, it can leave many to wonder… Is it actually possible to secure one? After all, the process seems as if it’s designed to produce rejection emails. Despite this familiar sentiment, I believe it’s most definitely possible… Why? I’ll explain on two fronts. Firstly, according to the UK’s Top 100 Employees- as chosen by students- the number of graduate vacancies is expected to increase by 7.5% this year, taking it to its highest ever level. Thus it’s imperative to remember, there’s great demand for graduates by employers, which is useful to remember when maintaining the high self-confidence needed during the process. Secondly, provided there’s an understanding of the process being similar to a game of; ‘The Most Prepared Wins!’ Which I’ll explore from two angles: The Application Process & The Company. In this sense, it’s imperative to remember, the more you know of these two angles, the better placed you’ll be in differentiating yourself. The Application Process, for instance, make sure you have a precise understanding of how many, & what type of stages are within it. This give you an idea of how to align your strengths to the process, & whether you would need to opt for a different scheme with a process more tailored towards your strengths. In my circumstance, I wasn’t the greatest with numerical tests, however, I knew the numerical tests I was the most comfortable with, were produced by SHL. In this regard, I narrowed my focus on companies who only used SHL as test providers, whilst sourcing out practice sites which replicated their format (research is key!). This strategy worked in my favour, as it helped to sharpen my numerical ability at the psychometric stage (numerical tests differ between providers).  Similarly, regarding the interview stages, make sure you do as much research in respect to past questions, they do actually come up! Forums such as Wikijobs & Student Room are useful resources, but also look out if you could find any more! Preparation regarding The Company, is vitally important. The significance of this was highlighted in my feedback, at my first ever Assessment Centre. The Director said to me “the truth is.. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, as a result, it’s difficult for us to develop rapport and get along with each other.. as we lack common grounding or mutual interests. The primary bridge to building rapport with an employer, is to tell us about ourselves, what we are known for and what awards we have won? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re shooting yourself in the foot”. Do you think I got offered the job after that conversation? Of course I did… not. However, one thing I’m grateful for, I’ve never been under prepared since! Moreover, as opposed to just researching information from company websites, I learnt to use two resources to differentiate my knowledge of the company; Annual reports & Networking. Annual reports, are a great resource to learn about a company’s business model, their drivers and their focus for the future (assuming it’s a public company). Hence, it gives a great summary of the company and how it’s operating in its current commercial environment. Whilst networking, gives you a more micro understanding of the firm, resources like Linkedin are great for this! In this respect, try to source out an individual who’s doing your role, and could give you a better comprehension of their daily routines, challenges and experiences. One of my tactics was ensuring I had at least one contact at the company I was applying to (don’t be intimidated to reach out, people are generally helpful). In summary, is it possible for you to get a graduate scheme? Most definitely yes. Why? There’s an increase in vacancies this year. Which works to your advantage. Secondly, provided you’re thoroughly prepared to go through the process.. it’s solely a matter of time! Written by Shafik Walusimbi, graduate at Lloyd’s Bank