Graduating next year? Considering applying to graduate schemes? Here’s what you need to know….

This post discusses graduate schemes in particular, but these schemes are far from the only option open to you.  If you would like some other ideas, check out this blog post, or talk to us.


The term ‘graduate scheme’ generally refers to a structured (usually fixed-term) training programme, typically offered by larger organisations. They are most common in the corporate world, but are also available in other sectors, such as public sector and even in the charity sector.


These opportunities appeal to many students and graduates due to the structured training and often competitive salaries on offer, not to mention the appeal of working for a ‘household name’.


For many organisations, their graduate intake will be based (initially at least) at the organisation’s (UK) Head Office. However, this is definitely changing, with more and more graduate scheme opportunities offered at regional offices throughout the UK.  There may be opportunities to work at other offices abroad on specific projects, but it is rare for there to be an option of being based abroad initially (if applying through the UK intake).

When – important

Application windows

Graduate schemes will typically accept applications over a time period of at least a couple of months.  The vast majority of schemes in the UK will open for applications during autumn term of the preceding year (i.e. this autumn for roles starting summer/autumn 2014).

However, there has been a growing trend over the past few years for some organisations to open their schemes during the summer, particularly among the most popular graduate schemes.

Below are a few examples of just some of the schemes which will open for applications for next year’s intake over this summer

IBM 2014 Graduate intake – opened 3rd June

Teachfirst 2014 Graduate intake –  opened 19th June

Ernst & Young, KPMG & Deloitte – open during July

Legal Training contracts with major firms typically recruit 2 years in advance and the deadlines for 2015 intake are fast approaching.  For example, Allen & Overy’s application window is 1st June – 31st July.

Many other organisations whose application windows open later are already letting you register your interest on their vacancy systems.

The early bird…

Unlike most jobs, where the closing date is all-important, with these schemes it is much better to pay attention to the date when they open for applications. Recruiters will be conducting subsequent stages of the selection process (e.g. psychometric testing, interviews, assessment centres) and making job offers, throughout the application window.  Early applications are therefore most definitely advised.



The most important step: Initially to determine which organisations you are interested in applying to, their opening and closing dates, and what they are seeking from applicants. Thereafter planning your actual application. Start doing this now!


Even if you discover that the schemes in which you are interested do not open until later in the year, you can make this task a lot easier for yourself by using the time you have available now wisely.  As a minimum, aim to do the following;

  • Ensure you are familiar with what will be expected of you during the application process – e.g. is it a CV or online application form (or maybe both)? What are the different stages of the selection process?
  • Considered how you can use your skills, knowledge and experience to demonstrate your suitability for the opportunity
  • Can articulate why you are interested in that specific role and company.

This will save you a lot of time and stress in your final year. One thing graduates always tell us is that these applications take a lot more time than they were expecting.

Things you should be doing now:

  • Researching and deciding upon which organisations and schemes you wish to apply to
  • Identify what they look for in applicants
  • Auditing your skills and experience – can you provide evidence to demonstrate how you meet their criteria?
  • If not, what can you do to develop this?
  • Thinking about your motivations for joining that particular organisation and scheme – this is vital
  • Get opening dates in your diary so you can get your applications in early

We have lots of resources on our website to help you with applications, CVs and interviews. You can also pop in to see us, or contact us via e-guidance if you need help with anything, from deciding what you want to do, to fine-tuning your interview skills.


Filed under Advice, Autumn career essentials, Job Market

2 responses to “Graduating next year? Considering applying to graduate schemes? Here’s what you need to know….

  1. Pingback: Employer Panel at Leeds Student Education Conference 2015 #SEC4 | University of Leeds Careers Centre Blog

  2. Pingback: Finalists: 3 things to do this year | University of Leeds Careers Centre Blog

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