Preparing for Success

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Get Ready for Graduate Schemes

Entering the job market as a recent graduate can be a daunting experience. One avenue that can provide you with structured career development and valuable experience is a graduate scheme. Graduate schemes, also known as graduate programmes or entry-level programs, are offered by a wide range of organisations, from large corporations to government agencies and nonprofit organisations. They typically provide graduates with a combination of on-the-job training, professional development, and mentorship opportunities.

With graduate schemes now starting to open, we'll guide you through the steps to prepare for applying. 

1. Self-Assessment

The first step in preparing for graduate schemes is to conduct a thorough self-assessment. This involves identifying your skills, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and career goals. Consider what type of work environment, industry, and role you are most passionate about. Make a list of your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and any work experience you've gained during your undergraduate studies. This self-assessment will help you determine which graduate schemes align best with your aspirations.

2. Research Potential Employers

Once you have a clear understanding of your career goals and interests, research potential employers offering graduate schemes in your desired field. Look for companies that resonate with your values and goals. Read about their company culture, mission, and vision, and consider how well they align with your own values. You might be surprised to hear that the south west is home to a number of graduate schemes, some of which are advertised on Gradsouthwest, so keep your eyes peeled, or, even better, set up your job alerts. 

3. Tailor Your CV and Cover Letter

Crafting a compelling CV (curriculum vitae) and cover letter is crucial when applying for graduate schemes. Some companies use application forms, but if you have an up to date CV, you can use it as the basis to answer the application questions. Now's the time to tailor your CV to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and academic achievements that align with the specific graduate scheme and organisation you're applying to. Your cover letter should express your enthusiasm for the position and the company and explain why you're a strong fit. Your university careers service will usually review your CV for you. 

4. Prepare for Assessment Tests and Interviews

Many graduate schemes include assessment tests and interviews as part of their selection process. These assessments may involve numerical and verbal reasoning tests, situational judgment tests, and personality assessments. Practice these tests to improve your performance - you can find examples online. Additionally, prepare for competency-based interviews by reviewing common interview questions and crafting compelling answers that showcase your skills and experiences.

5. Networking

Networking is a valuable tool in the job search process. Attend career fairs, industry events, and virtual networking sessions to connect with professionals in your desired field. Consider joining LinkedIn and creating a professional online presence. Engage in discussions, follow relevant organizations, and reach out to alumni who have participated in graduate schemes to gain insights and advice.

6. Gain Relevant Experience

While graduate schemes are designed for recent graduates, having some relevant work experience can set you apart from other candidates. Consider internships, part-time jobs, or volunteer opportunities in your chosen field to gain hands-on experience and demonstrate your commitment to the industry.

7. Build Transferable Skills

In addition to industry-specific skills, graduate schemes often look for transferable skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability. Participate in group projects, leadership roles, or extracurricular activities that allow you to develop and showcase these skills.

8. Application Deadlines and Timelines

Keep a close eye on application deadlines and timelines for the graduate schemes you're interested in. Some organisations have specific recruitment cycles, so plan ahead and make sure you submit your applications on time.

9. Seek Guidance and Feedback

Don't hesitate to seek guidance and feedback from careers advisers, lecturers, or mentors. They can provide good insights, review your application materials, and help you prepare for interviews and assessment tests.


Applying for graduate schemes is a competitive and often time consuming process. By taking the time now to assess your goals, research potential employers, tailor your application materials, and prepare for assessments and interviews, you can increase your chances of securing a position in a graduate scheme that aligns with your career aspirations. Remember that perseverance and continuous self-improvement are key to standing out in the competitive job market and launching a successful career.