Recruiting and retaining Early talent is vital for employers, even during a pandemic and in tough economic climates. Employers are eager to attract the best talent to breathe fresh ideas and innovation into their organisations, and the latest cycle in graduate recruitment is in full swing and its peak time for graduate employers to open (and for some, to close) their vacancies. So, if you’re thinking of applying, you need to be starting now during late summer / early Autumn (August-September) – but how do you know if Graduate Schemes are right for you, who is recruiting and when to apply

We’ve put together a user’s guide to help.

So what is a Graduate Scheme?

A Graduate Scheme is an entry-level job that doubles up as a training programme, lasting anything from 1 to 4 years, offered by highly regarded employers from a vast range of industries and sectors.  Depending on the scheme and the organisation, you may work on multiple projects, undertake placements in different areas of the organisation or be put through a professional qualification if you are on a specialised route. A fast track into management level positions with robust training and mentoring, it will give you a fantastic start in your professional career.

Is a Graduate Scheme for you?

The Graduate scheme is often portrayed as the pinnacle of Graduate Recruitment – the ultimate goal for many students – but as with everything else, there are pros and cons.

Graduate Schemes are highly sought after because they offer:

  • High quality training
  • Competitive salaries
  • Possibility of travel
  • Opportunities to network with senior colleagues and/or clients
  • Chances to develop important life and career skills
  • Time to build workplace confidence
  • A social aspect – you will be one of a cohort, all starting at the same time and there will be plenty of chances for team building and peer support.

For all of these reasons and especially now, they are highly competitive:

  • The recruitment process is long and rigorous, with multiple stages including psychometric testing, video interviews and assessment centres. Many employers have moved to virtual assessment centres since the 2020 pandemic.
  • Many schemes will ask for at least a 2:1 and some even specify a certain number of UCAS points
  • You may be expected to relocate, with many employers expecting their recruits to be geographically mobile
  • You will be expected to put in the hours as these are rarely 9-5 roles

However, for many graduates, the financial and career benefits are well worth the effort required to apply.

When to apply

September – November is peak time for applications, although some open even earlier. Make sure you never miss a deadline by checking out Bright Network’s comprehensive timetable of Graduate Scheme deadlines.

Decided to apply?

Applying for Graduate Schemes requires a huge amount of resilience, knock-backs are to be expected. If you are going to succeed, you need to put in the hours and make full use of the resources and support available to you to ensure that your application stands out.

Make the most of your Student Development Team – book yourself in for a 1 to 1 application appointment to get your application checked or for help with interview and assessment centre preparation. Also explore our online resources on Careerhub+ and find informative posts on our careers blog.

Connect with other students in a similar position, establish a peer group, supporting each other through the process, sharing experiences both positive and negative so that you can learn from each other.

Not for you?

Graduate Schemes are not for everyone and are certainly not the only option. In fact, the majority of graduates will not end up on a Graduate Scheme, and for many this is by choice. You might decide to work within the fastest growing sector of the UK economy – SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises), take up a KTP role, continue with further study or even start your own business. There are many great alternatives to consider and we have information and support available for these choices too.