Landing a Graduate Job or Scheme - A Complete Guide
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Graduate Tests Preparation

Graduate Recruitment Process

Graduate Jobs and Schemes


How Can JobTestPrep Help You Land a Graduate Job or Scheme?

JobTestPrep’s accredited psychologists have created tailor-made practice solutions to help you prepare for and excel in the various steps of your graduate recruitment process.

These are some of the benefits of practising with a PrepPack™ from JobTestPrep:

  • Resources for nearly every type of graduate assessment you may face—aptitude tests, situational judgement tests, personality tests, interviews and assessment centre activities—all in one place.
  • Over 3500 practice questions, complete with full answer explanations.
  • Comprehensive video tutorials and study guides.
  • Detailed score reports, allowing you to keep track of your progress.
  • Immediate online access; practise anywhere at anytime.

Choose your preferred practice pack from the list above. Start practising today and gain a competitive edge over other applicants.

The Importance of Preparing for the Recruitment Process

It is very important to be well-prepared for the recruitment process of graduate jobs and graduate schemes for the following reasons:

  • Competition for graduate-level positions is usually very high regardless of employer or sector. This is particularly true when it comes to graduate schemes. 
  • Approximately 700,000 people graduate from first-degree university programmes every year, and top employers offer only about 20,000 graduate scheme positions every year, which is why getting into a graduate scheme is so competitive.
  • Securing a spot at a top employer's graduate scheme is a crucial step to jumpstarting your career. If you're offered a place, you will begin your working life in a prestigious company while earning a good starting salary.
  • If you do not get hired for a graduate scheme right out of university, you may have to wait another full year to be considered for one, which is a waste of time when you could be working and earning a good salary.
  • Employers expect you to come prepared for your tests, interviews, and other assessments. You may get a link to review several sample questions or offered a few tips on how to prepare. These materials may offer you a glimpse into what you can expect, but they are not enough to prepare for your tests. They are usually very limited in number and tend not to provide answers and explanations, which does not allow for a proper practice experience or for improvement.
  • The other candidates you will be competing against are likely to prepare for the assessments, so if you do not want to stay behind, you should plan ahead and practice too.

How Should I Prepare for my Assessments?

To do well on your tests, here are some tips to help you:

  • Research the employer –it is imperative to know the company's profile and values, understand what it does, and be familiar with the market so that when you apply and write your cover letter, you know your audience and can use relevant examples. This research is especially critical for the interview because you may be asked about an aspect of the company or its website and you should have that information.
  • Know which assessments to expect and prepare for them –different sectors and professions require taking different tests. It is important that you learn in advance which skills you will be assessed for so that you can practise for relevant tests.
  • Start preparing in advance – allowing enough time for preparation will ensure you arrive in your best shape for the assessments, as well as will give you a competitive edge over the other applicants.

JobTestPrep offers information and preparation materials for many employers from different sectors and professions:

By Sector
Accountancy & Finance Banking & Investment Banking Law & Legal Pharma, Science & Healthcare
Public Service Transport & Logistics Energy Industry & Manufacturing
HR & Consultancy IT, Telecom & Media Retail
By Profession
Accountancy Management Engineering Law
Administrative Assistant Pilot Sales Customer Service

What Is the Recruitment Process for Graduate Jobs and Schemes?

The typical recruitment process for graduate jobs and schemes includes the following stages:

The exact selection process you can expect may vary depending on the employer and position/programme for which you are applying.

The application process for graduate jobs takes less time relative to that of graduate schemes. There is usually no more than a four-to-six-week hiring process beginning at the end of your final academic year. The recruitment process for graduate training schemes can be quite lengthy, and it usually begins at the beginning of your final year at university.

Below we will briefly discuss each of the stages you may face during the recruitment process.


The application stage is where the employer can begin to screen applicants, weeding out those less suitable and noticing those who are more desirable for the positions. As part of your application process, you will be required to submit a CV and a cover letter. In addition, there may be several questions you are asked to answer. The following are the types of questions you can expect at this stage:

  • What is your motivation for working at this company/organization?
  • Why are you the best candidate for the job?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • Give an example of a time you showed leadership.
  • What is your greatest achievement?

Online test prep packs

As a candidate, you will be asked to take one or more of the following graduate tests online. Please note that once you move on to the assessment centre stage, you will likely be asked to retake a version of the same type of test, to ensure that you are the person who completed the original test:

In addition, you may be asked to take other graduate scheme tests designed for the specific role, such as: diagrammatic, mechanicalspatial, Excel, or coding.

Some companies have in-house graduate assessments, but most use the services of external assessment companies, such as:

CEB's SHL Kenexa Saville Talent Q Pearson TalentLens
Cubiks cut-e Revelian PLI Criterion Partnership

Telephone/Video Interview

If you successfully passed the previous stages of the recruitment process, you will probably have a screening interview next. This initial graduate interview usually takes place over the phone or through Skype, rather than face-to-face. An increasing number of graduate employers have replaced the traditional telephone interview with a digital or video interview. A digital interview is a way for employers to send questions to potential candidates who then answer them in front of a webcam and send the recordings back to the employer for review.

The interview is usually held by your prospective manager or a member of the HR team. It serves as another way to sift many of the candidates; only a few make it to the final stages.

You can expect questions about yourself, your motivation for applying for the job, what your goals are, why you are the best candidate for the job, and if you have any questions for the interviewer about the position or the employer in general.

Assessment Centre

If you did well on your tests and first interview, you will likely be required to attend up to one, or as many as two, graduate assessment days. These take place either at an assessment centre or on-site at the employer's headquarters or local office. The following are the types of activities you can expect at a graduate assessment centre:

  • Case study – an exercise assessing your analytical, strategic, or creative abilities. Case studies typically include an introduction to a series of fictional documents that relate to hypothetical or real-life situations which you will analyse either individually or in a group setting
  • Group exercise – participating in a group activity to help evaluate your ability to work in a team
  • Presentation – giving a 10–20-minute presentation based on a previous case study assessment or another topic you will receive
  • Verification tests – retaking the application test to verify that it was actually you who took the test
  • In-tray – prioritising tasks and managing your workload, usually in the form of an inbox
  • Written exercise – writing in a concise and persuasive manner while expressing yourself clearly

Face-to-Face Interview

During the assessment centre, or once you have completed it and been moved up to the final stage, you will be interviewed. The graduate interview is either a standard one-on-one interview, a panel interview, or a group interview with other applicants. Your interview will likely be conducted by an HR representative or a senior manager.

The interview might be a technical interview (usually for engineering and IT) or just a relatively informal chat to check your communication skills. A favourite amongst employers is competency interviews. Your interview may include questions like why you are interested in the job, what you know about the employer, or what you know about the industry. Occasionally, there are also brain teaser questions.


At every point in the process, you must be on top of your game to continue to the next stage. If you don't do well in one of the stages, you will probably not be considered for the job at all. However, by working hard to be well-prepared for each stage of the recruitment process, you will improve your chances of getting an offer.

What Are Graduate Jobs?

Graduate jobs are entry-level positions that require a university degree. Unlike graduate schemes, they tend to include ‘on-the-job’ learning experience rather than structured training. In addition, they usually consist of a relatively fast application process. Entry-level graduate jobs are offered by companies, such as some small to medium employers, that do not offer graduate training schemes. Examples of industries in which one may find a graduate entry-level job are architecture, IT, journalism, management, logistics, and marketing and sales.

Many recent graduates, as well as final-year students, look for graduate entry jobs because they provide a great opportunity to learn and develop new skills as well as gain valuable experience that both looks good on your CV and helps jumpstart your career. Graduate jobs also tend to have fewer people competing for the same position than graduate schemes, which makes it easier to find one among the wide choice of employers. In addition, graduate jobs are a great way to use the specific skills you acquired in your degree courses, giving you a clearly defined role. The most beneficial advantage of starting your career with a graduate job may be the high level of 'on the job' training and professional development you receive as you earn your employer's trust for early responsibility.

Unfortunately, the flow of new graduates entering the job market every year makes it hard to get into a graduate position. Statistics shows that approximately 30% of graduates do not find graduate-level jobs after university. They are employed in non-graduate jobs, which are often not relevant to their degree and do not utilise their abilities and skills or promote their progress.

What Are Graduate Schemes?

Graduate schemes, also known as graduate programmes or graduate training schemes, are structured programmes that combine earning a salary with an employee training program. The schemes usually consist of a set period of time, during which training and on-the-job practice take place. This will help you to gain a good understanding of different areas of the business, with the aim of progression. Graduate programmes usually last for about a year, including the training period, but they can extend to two years and often lead to permanent positions. They are common in large companies in sectors such as finance, retail management, and surveying. Graduate job schemes are less common in areas such as the charity, journalism, and NGO fields.

Graduate schemes' salaries tend to be relatively high for graduate roles, and the jobs can frequently turn into more permanent positions, which is why graduates often try to get a graduate trainee job. If you want to continue on to another company or organisation, starting your career with a graduate training scheme will provide an impressive line on your CV, not to mention a stellar reference. Graduate schemes are usually structured and afford the graduate a well-planned entry into working life, as the training is of the highest standard. In addition, they are tailor-made for graduates right out of university, affording you an easier transition into your career. Graduate schemes are one of the most highly sought-after graduate opportunities and places are limited. Only 12–15% of students get a place on a graduate scheme, and, therefore, these graduate training programmes are very competitive.


When do graduate job applications open? When do they close?

Recruitment for graduate jobs occurs all year round and peaks between May and July and between September and November. Vacancies are filled quickly, usually within about a month, so it is vital to apply as early as possible.

When do graduate schemes applications open? When do they close?

Applications for graduate schemes usually start in September of your final year at university and close between November and January. It is best to apply as soon as possible even though some employers do not have a fixed deadline and accept ongoing applications. To help you keep track of updated deadlines, check out these websites for the following:

When is the best time to apply for a graduate scheme?

It is best to apply as early as possible—even as early as September—in your final year of university, as companies may shut down the process once they have filled all the vacancies. Consider this: once you complete the application, you may be asked to take an online test on the spot, so you should prepare in advance of applying.

When do graduate schemes start?

Most employers prefer their candidates to start in August/September, right after graduation from university.

How can I find a graduate job?

A great way to find a graduate job is to get an internship, industrial placement, or vacation work with an employer. In fact, employers report that more than 30% of this year's entry-level graduate jobs are expected be filled by graduates who have already been employed by their company. So, if you still have time to get a vacation position at an interesting company, it is recommended. If you have already worked for such a company, apply there for a graduate opportunity first.

Here are some ideas of where to look for graduate jobs:

  • On-campus events – Many universities offer job fairs throughout the year where companies recruit soon-to-be graduates for their graduate jobs and schemes. This is a great place to meet potential employers in an informal setting and network before you apply.
  • University graduate careers service – Your university likely has a graduate career service on campus where you can make an appointment to get information about various employers and help with your CV. Your career adviser can help you figure out which types of jobs best suit your chosen field.
  • Job boards – You can set your preferences in various job boards and they will send you job opening alerts that are relevant to your chosen field. This helps you streamline your job search so you view only the appropriate positions and do not waste time.
  • Graduate recruitment agencies – Head-hunters have access to many more job opportunities than you can find on your own, so it recommended to seek them out.
  • LinkedIn – Update your LinkedIn profile to make yourself more visible to relevant potential employers, and look for jobs using their search tool.
  • Social media – Networking through social media such as Facebook gets your job search exposed to more possible contacts.
  • Company’s website – Many employers have a 'career opportunities' button on their websites. Here you can view different opportunities available.
  • Friends and family – Use your personal connections to help you find a graduate job. You may find it quite surprising, but, in fact, many graduate jobs are found this way.

What are the best graduate schemes in the UK?

Some employers are more popular with graduates because of their high starting salaries, the employee benefits they offer, and their quality job conditions. The following are The Guardian and The Times list of the top graduate employers:

The Guardian's Top Graduate Employers

  1. Google (London) and (Dublin)
  2. Cancer Research UK
  3. GlaxoSmithKline
  4. MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service)
  5. Channel 4
  6. British Airways
  7. Microsoft
  8. Ltd
  9. MI5 – The Security Service
  10. Jaguar Land Rover

For the full list, check out our UK top employers page. 

 The Times' Top Graduate Employers

  1. PwC
  2. Aldi
  3. Teach First
  4. Civil Service
  5. Google (London) and (Dublin)
  6. KPMG
  7. Deloitte
  8. NHS
  9. EY
  10. BBC

Where is it best to start your graduate career—an SME (small to medium enterprise) or a big company?

What is an SME? An SME is a company whose staff is comprised of no more than 250 employees. Their fields are usually advertising, architecture, or marketing, but such companies can be found in any sector. Of course, there are pros and cons of working at both an SME and a larger company, and you should choose the one with the right fit for you.

What are the pros of working at an SME?

  • Your contributions will be noticeable and you will get credit for them.
  • You can make a big impact because everyone in a small company is important.
  • You will probably have different roles to play, broadening your experience and skill set.
  • You will form bonds with your co-workers, making your first job setting a friendly atmosphere.

What are the cons of working at an SME?

  • Positions are limited at smaller companies, so it may be harder to find a job there.
  • Opportunities for advancement are not as clear as within larger companies.
  • There is lower job stability with smaller companies because of budgetary issues.

What are the pros of working at a big company?

  • There is usually a clear structure in place and your role will be defined.
  • There are many resources for benefits that smaller companies don't have.
  • Working at a well-known large company will look good on your CV.

What are the cons of working at a big company?

  • You will be a new employee who doesn't know the company well.
  • You might not get to know everyone and understand everyone's role.
  • You will not be able to make a big impact right away, if ever.
  • You might not get credit where it is due because credit will go to your manager.


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