All Your Questions About Graduate Schemes, Answered!

Graduate jobs

February 28, 2020

One of the most prominent modes of securing a full-time job in the UK as an international student is through a graduate scheme. 


As an international student, when you first arrive in the UK, the recruitment process can seem confusing. In most countries, the recruitment process involves an application with a CV and a cover letter, followed by rounds of interviews. In fact, in many countries, campus placements ensure that employers visit the campus with the sole purpose of hiring graduates. However, in the UK, international students have to make sure that the prospective employer will sponsor their Tier 2 Visa. This is why graduate schemes that sponsor the work permit are very popular among UK graduates. 


Since it can be hard and intimidating to understand how graduate schemes work, we have answered all your questions below:


What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is a training-cum-employment programme wherein the company places you in different departments and projects so that you can learn the functions. Such schemes are normally intended for a period of 1-3 years. 


How is a graduate scheme different from a graduate job?

A graduate job is a full-time job that continues indefinitely and where you dive into your role directly. A graduate scheme is different from a conventional job in two ways. One, there is an element of training and experiential learning on-the-job in a graduate scheme. You are likely given exposure to the different departments in the company to hone your skills and knowledge. Secondly, graduate schemes usually last for a period of 1-3 years. If your performance is impeccable, you might be considered for a graduate job at the end of the scheme period.  


When should I start applying to graduate schemes?

The key is to start applying as soon as possible. The arena is very competitive and you would not want to miss out on any crucial leads. But don’t let this be a reason for panic - you can create a strategy in tandem with the timeline when applications are rolled out.

Most of the grad roles that begin next year open applications in August and September. Investment banks and large professional services, for example, accept applications on a rolling basis meaning employers assess candidates as and when they apply, rather than waiting for the deadline date. Consulting firms, FMCG sector and energy and utilities open applications in September and October and deadline dates are often around November/December/January. Assessments such as online testing and case study interviews, assessment centres and usually take place, at the most, till March.


What does the graduate scheme application process look like?

The exact application process may vary from one company to another, but the initial application will require you to furnish your details and a CV. This is followed by online tests like Situational Judgement and Logical Reasoning tests, qualifying which shortlists you for an assessment centre or interview. Some recruiters may have additional steps like a video interview or an audio test as well. 

Here is a career prep schedule to help you out!


How many graduate schemes should I apply for?

There are a plethora of graduate schemes open at any point in time. You might be tempted to apply for all, but that could be practically impossible. There is no exact or even ballpark figure that can answer this question. So what’s the mantra? 

• The more graduate schemes you apply for, the greater your chances of getting accepted. You also learn from the flaws and mistakes of the first few applications and can avoid making those mistakes in the applications that follow. 

• While it is a good policy to apply for as many jobs as possible, it is imperative to uphold your applications to a high quality. A large number of applications should not translate into half-hearted responses to the questions.


Hack: Keep a record of all the companies you intend to apply for with deadlines and track your progress. 


What skills and qualifications are needed for graduate schemes?

Graduate schemes are very competitive and you need to check an array of skills needed. 
• Many grad schemes don’t insist on a specific degree

• Provide evidence for socio-emotional and interpersonal skills like communication, problem-solving, leadership, research.


Can I get on a graduate scheme with a 2:2?

Yes. Even though you will come across a few grad schemes that demand a 2:1 degree, many don’t put any specific demands - most employers just ask for a degree of any grade. 


Why should I apply to a graduate scheme?

Grad schemes help you enter the industry of your choice and gain experience there for a couple of years, with the potential for full-time employment. It is a solid opportunity that not only pays your decently lets you learn various skills on the job that can be helpful even in other jobs in the future. The duration of the grad scheme will also be crucial for you to engage in networking with the professionals in your industry and build contacts. Having said that, be clear about your career goals - grad schemes require a commitment for a specific period of time and the commitment to put in long hours to impart as much learning and training. 


How long are graduate schemes?

Usually, a grad scheme will stretch across a period of 12 to 18 months. But some grad schemes can even go on for 3-4 years. It is your time to learn as much as you can and potentially convert it into a full-time opportunity with the company. 


How much does a graduate scheme pay?

While there is no hard-and-fast rule as to the salary under a graduate scheme, but in alignment with the living costs, graduate schemes can offer £23,000 on an average. As an international student, be careful as a Tier 2 Visa requires a minimum salary of £20,800 (or industry equivalent).


What are my options if I don’t get selected in a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are extremely competitive so don’t worry if you don’t get into one. Keep applying to as many grad schemes as possible - track your applications and learn from your mistakes of the previous applications. There are other options you can consider for life after graduating from University.

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