In this section, find out how to tackle graduate job applications and succeed at each stage of the recruitment process.
Explore different ways of applying and alternative routes into employment.

Graduate Job Applications – Tips for Jobseekers

This outlines the key stages involved in graduate job applications, with quick tips and links to further information:

Preparation – before you start applying for jobs

Applications – cover letters, speculative approaches, online applications and psychometric testing

Interviews and Assessment Centres



There are certain important things you need to do before you even start applying for jobs, which will improve your chances of success:

    • Preparation starts with you.
      Firstly, don’t feel under pressure to find the perfect job! Career paths are long and your first job is unlikely to be your last. If you are unsure about career direction, just think about what you would like to do over the next couple of years and what you want from this stage of your career.


    • Know what you can offer an employer: your skills, achievements, personal attributes and motivations. Think of examples from your work, extra-curricular and life experience that provide evidence. Let them see the real you – in addition to your suitability for the role, these insights into your personality could set you apart as a great fit with the company culture.


    • Don’t let your background stop you from applying.
      Your degree and work experience are of course valuable, but they don’t define you. If you lack experience and stellar grades, but have the aptitude and ability to do a job, then don’t be discouraged from applying; just demonstrate why you are a promising candidate.

Lady with CV

    • In this competitive environment, it is important to create the best impression from the outset. How you present yourself can be a big factor. Recruiters may be scouting for talent before you have even started job hunting. Be prepared by managing your online profile so it helps rather than hinders your chances. And structure a strong CV, which you will need to tailor to each job you apply for. Then make a lasting impression in your job application by following our tips.


    • Networking is all about getting to know people who can help develop your career. Start to grow your network through your existing contacts and social media (particularly LinkedIn), and leverage it effectively to help in your job hunt.


    • Do your research: explore the organisations within your chosen industry/career and draw up a shortlist of those that interest you.


    • Before you apply to any company, make sure you research them thoroughly. Know exactly what employers are looking for (qualifications, general competencies, specific skills) and understand their values and culture; you will need to show how you are an ideal fit, both professionally and personally. Demonstrate an understanding of the key industry issues and what they might mean for the company you are applying to; the more you can show a genuine interest, the better you will do.


  • Structure responses to anticipated questions e.g. give an example of your leadership skills. Explain your achievements using PAR (Problem Action Result).
    Tip: Make a spreadsheet to keep handy for online applications and telephone/video interviews, so you can quickly refer to the relevant questions and adapt your responses.


Find out more:

How to make the best impression, create a standout CV, what to research and where to find the necessary information



Get to grips with the initial stages of applying for a job: writing cover letters, completing online applications and psychometric testing.

    • Check what is involved in the application process, including any deadlines.



    • Job applications are demanding and time-consuming. Tackle them as you would a job: plan well, allow plenty of time and give them your full concentration. But make sure you have plenty of breaks and relaxation, so you stay motivated.


    • Tailor your applications – There is little point in firing off hundreds of generic applications, because that approach will get you nowhere. You need to explain why you are passionate about that particular job and employer – why the opportunity excites you, and how it will help you grow. Demonstrate how you are a good fit for the company, both professionally and personally.


    • Check applications before sending. Don’t let silly mistakes jeopardise your chances.


    • It’s likely you will be required to take psychometric tests e.g. numeracy, logic and verbal reasoning. Find out what type of tests the employer uses and practise them!  Repetition will make you more confident and improve your speed and accuracy.


  • To avoid any confusion, keep track of your applications: what stage you have reached, key dates, contacts and any important notes to remember.


Find out more:

 Cover Letters
How to write & what to include

Application Forms
General tips, example questions with answer guidelines

Psychometric Testing
Why they are used, how to improve performance, sources of practice tests


Interviews and Assessment Centres

The next part of the application process is likely to be an interview, either by telephone, video or face-to-face.
The final stage is often an assessment centre,  which is designed to give the employer a rounded appraisal of candidates’ competencies and ‘fit’; it usually involves a range of individual and group tasks to test required skills e.g. planning, creativity and time management.


Top prep tips

    • Read any information and instructions supplied by the employer well in advance, so you can raise any queries and prepare for the interview/assessment centre.


    • Refresh your memory about the company, job description and your job application.Interview


    • Interviews – think of 3 key points about yourself you want to get across; plan responses to likely questions and prepare some pertinent questions to ask. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a few notes with you, rather than try to memorise too much.


    • Practise interviews so you answer questions in a well-structured manner and you have positive body language; but most importantly, be yourself and don’t be afraid to express your informed opinions and ideas.


  • Assessment centrespractise presentation skills and find out which tasks the employer uses. Click here  to understand the purpose of the tests and exercises and how to handle them.


Find out more:

Tips & typical questions

Assessment Centres
Preparation & general tips


Routes into Employment

Jobs - scientist builder doctor
There are multiple ways to apply for jobs and various routes into employment, whether you want to work for a blue-chip corporate, the public sector, SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) or a start-up. It’s a competitive graduate labour market, so you will need to be proactive and you might have to try several different approaches. But stay positive, keep going, you will get there!

Good Luck! 😀

Click on the links below for more information:

Job application for a specific position e.g. entry level graduate jobs
A general guide & typical questions asked on application forms & interviews

Graduate schemes
Need-to-know info, the selection process, sources of grad schemes & tips for success

Alternatives to grad schemes
If you missed out on the grad scheme route, or it’s just not your thing, there are plenty of other options to explore

SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises)
How to find out about smaller companies and access job openings, which are plentiful but not always easy to find!

Speculative approaches
Why it is worth applying on spec & how to do it

 An increasingly important form of job-hunting! Find out how to network effectively in person & through social media

Internships & Work Experience
Relevant industry work experience will improve your chances of employment & may lead to a permanent role

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