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What is a Graduate Scheme?

22 May 2023

Introduction to Graduate Schemes

Graduate Schemes are a great way to kick-start your career. Schemes can vary a lot from organisation to organisation but all will have a period of training and development which will often (but not always) lead to a full time role.

This Development can last anything from 12 to 36 months and can involve a number of placements within the company. These placements will expose a graduate to all aspects of the organisation they’re working within, making it possible to create an informed decision on where exactly is the best place in the organisation for you.

This is an excellent way to ascertain the direction that you would like to pursue within a particular company. Being given opportunities to try different job roles for size should help you to firm up your areas of interest and begin to think more clearly about your expectations for the future. 

Graduate Opportunities

One of the best aspects of a Post-Graduate Scheme is that it opens up a floodgate of opportunities for someone looking to start off their career. Larger organisations can offer roles in HR, Finance, Sales, Marketing, IT and Business Management. There are also more specific schemes for sectors that focus on one career path from start to finish such as; Engineering, IT, Healthcare, Retail and many more.

Graduate schemes are mostly offered by some of the larger companies, making these schemes the easiest to find and the most readily available. This does not mean however that there are not smaller schemes for more specific roles, it simply makes them harder to find. It may be that a smaller and more specific scheme is a better fit, depending on what the area of interest for the individual graduate happens to be.

Graduate Jobs vs Graduate Schemes

People often ask what the differences between a graduate job and a graduate scheme are. For the most part they are the same, however the level of training will normally differ from a job to a scheme.

Graduate jobs offer a great opportunity to start a career, where you will be able to make an impact on the business. It is normally smaller organisations that offer graduate jobs rather than schemes because they cannot afford or do not have the resources to offer training which is as structured or substantial as that of a larger organisation.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid a graduate job, it simply means that you might be working in a more specific sector or that the training you do receive will transfer into a job much sooner than a graduate scheme.

Application Process

More often than not, when applying for a graduate scheme you will encounter an application process which requires you to complete a competency based application form. This is becoming a more and more common way of sifting applicants and finding out which of the applicants has the relevant skills for the job

This application process might ask you to think of examples where you demonstrated the use of various core skills important to the employer, such as teamwork, leadership, problem solving or decision making.

Be sure to think of pertinent examples that paint your contribution in a good light and that you can remember clearly, as anything that you put down on the application form will most likely be brought up in the interview, should you reach that stage of the process.

This is the recruiter’s way of asking for information to help them decide if you are the right person for the job. For example, a management role will almost always ask for an example of Leadership. This is perfectly natural, they want to see whether you have the skills that they are looking for and this is sometimes a better way of doing things as most aspects of the job are easy to pick up but skills like leadership are far more difficult to teach people who lack them.

Don’t forget that employers also put an emphasis on any extracurricular activities that you have taken part in, so if a competency relates to it, be sure to include it. If you were captain of your local amateur football team, that would be a way of demonstrating leadership in a very real way. Being given that level of responsibility at a sports club can help to show that you are fit for other leadership roles in a work context.

There is one shared factor with every Graduate Scheme: they all ask for a degree. Unless it is a specific role such as engineering, a large number of schemes are open to a degree of any discipline.

There are often a number of stages to the selection process. If you make it past the competency stage, the next stage is often some sort of interview, perhaps even a video Interview. There can often be two or three interviews before a final decision is made.

Another very common process is an assessment day. These assessment days squeeze everything needed to select an employee into one day, and can include an interview, group activity, case study or psychometric test and even role play activities.

Activity days can be a great way to network with others who are also breaking through into the same field as you and to turn rivals for the job into friends that you can keep up with throughout your respective careers.

Finally, graduate schemes can be incredibly competitive so it is essential that you do all the preparation you can, be it researching into the company, role or even going through interview techniques with a friend or relative.

Any preparation will help greatly but do not be disheartened if you do not make it on to the graduate scheme you hoped for as they are in very high demand and very few people will be successful. Having said this, there is no reason you should not apply to a graduate scheme, they are very competitive for good reason, they are a great way to kick-start your career and are of great benefit to those who are fortunate enough to be selected.