Considering applying for a grad scheme, but not sure how to stand out?
Graduate schemes are a great next step for anyone in their final year of university, offering on-the-job training, high earning potential, excellent career prospects, and much more. But how do you stand out from the competition, and land the role you want?
We spoke to Randstad, the world’s largest recruitment company, to get their advice on how to secure a grad scheme role. Here are five of their top tips:
Start (really) early
If you want to secure a great graduate scheme – future-proofing is your best friend. Translation: it’s never too early to start searching.
For example, gaining experience with big brands before you graduate (potentially starting from your first year) is a great way to get your foot in the door – as well as learn exactly what they’re looking for in an employee. This could be through a summer internship, work placement, or taster day.
Not only will you get a feel of what it’d be like to take a grad scheme with a specific organisation, you’ll also be building valuable connections that could help boost your chances of being recruited later down the line.
And when it comes to submitting your application, punctuality is equally key.
Most companies will open their grad schemes a year in advance of their start date, making the end of your second year/beginning of your final year the perfect time to apply.
Do your research
OK, so you know timing is key – but what should you actually apply for?
To make sure you’re choosing the scheme that’s right for you, it’s vital to research not only the industries you could work in, but also what the scheme involves when it comes to tasks and responsibilities.
It’s equally important to find out what the organisation offers in terms of career progression, perks, and more. Company websites, review sites, career pages, and social media are all great places to find this information.
Review sites in particular will also give you first-hand advice from previous or current employees, providing you with an insight into everything from their recruitment process and interview, to what it’s like to work there.
And remember: it’s not just about what you want. In addition to using the job description to find out what the employer is looking for in a candidate, it’s also key to research the company values and culture to see if you fit.
Tailor your application
Your application provides the perfect opportunity to stand out, and will be the key deciding factor on whether you’re invited to interview – so don’t take it for granted.
Firstly, make sure you have an up-to-date CV. If this is the first graduate scheme you’re applying for (and potentially, your first full-time role), then chances are, it’ll need some work. After all, what was relevant for a part-time retail role is unlikely to be the same for a graduate scheme in finance, for example.
Then, use the job description and person specification to figure out which of your skills and experience is most relevant, and incorporate it into your CV. And don’t worry if you don’t have much experience in the area you’re applying for just yet. Instead, focus on your transferable skills, and how they make you right for the job.
And remember: listing your skills alone isn’t enough. You also need to back them up with real-life examples, whether it’s from university, work, or your hobbies.
Be more than just a piece of paper
Beating the competition is often about focusing on what makes you unique. In other words, what do you have that the other candidates don’t?
Whether it’s that you blog in your spare time, you do charity work over summer, or you’re head of your university society or sports team, anything that is likely to make you different from everyone else (however small) is the key to standing out.
Once you’ve found your USP, tell recruiters about it. And not just in your application.
You can also ensure you’re painting an authentic picture of yourself by focusing on your personal brand, which includes everything from your attitude and personality, to how others perceive you and what value you can bring to the table.
By paying attention to how you present yourself (both online and offline), you’ll be able to give employers an overarching idea of who you are, and ultimately – what makes you the right candidate.
Don’t give up
Finally, graduate schemes are extremely competitive, which means you might not get the first one you apply for…but that’s OK.
Not only does rejection allow you to learn and grow, it also indicates that the role may not have been right for you in the first place. So send a thank you email after every interview, follow up after every application, and ask for feedback wherever possible.
That way, you’ll be able to improve your technique for next time.
It’s also important to ensure your search is broad. Whilst big brand names might be most prominently on your radar, there could also be a number of other great grad schemes at smaller organisations – with more varied roles and diverse opportunities.
You just need to look harder to find them.
If you’d like to find out more about whether a grad scheme is right for you, get in touch with a Randstad specialist today.
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