How I got my job: Business and Sales Support (Retail) Placement

imagePaul Levy has just completed the second year of his Management degree and will be spending the next year on an industrial placement with IBM. In this post, he shares his experiences and reflections of the process of securing a placement with one of the top 100 graduate recruiters.

I have recently been lucky enough to start working for IBM for a placement year. Gaining a placement year with a multi national company makes your CV look amazing and gives you first hand experience of what it is like in the corporate world. On top of this, you get a break from your degree, a job and money.

Getting this job has been one of my greatest achievements and has enabled me to hit the ground running for my future career after university. Applying for a placement year was hard work, but it is totally worth it.

In this post I shall provide some valuable advice on how to higher your chances of getting a placement year.

Get at least a 2:1 in your first year

Some people may read this and think, “Hurrr hurr, you don’t have to get a 2:1, because it doesn’t count towards your overall degree.” If you want to work for a good company where you are treated with respect and is actually worth while putting on your CV then you are going to struggle without a 2:1 as it is one of the first things employers look at when a CV is submitted. Why would someone hire a candidate with a 2:2, when they can hire someone with a 2:1? Every single company I applied for, in the application form asked me whether or not I specifically had a 2:1 in my degree.

These are Paul’s experiences of applying to some of the larger companies (such companies will specify the requirement for a 2:1). However there are also a lot of other organisations for which this is not a requirement.

Apply Early

If you apply late you could end up rushing your application. There is no point in sending off a rushed application as you will not be giving yourself an optimal reflection of your workplace skills. Also most companies have strict deadlines which you need to keep on top of. Some act on a first come first serve basis. Also it’s best to get some applications sent off before the exams. I made sure I applied early. Some others suffered and could not apply to “the big names” as they could not spare a couple of hours to create a decent application.

Make quality applications

There is no point in sending off 20 mediocre applications as you will just end up receiving 20 “I am sorry you did not get the job” responses. Five quality applications are better than 20 poor ones. I sent off a handful of quality applications and received positive responses for every single one. Some people duplicate their applications and send them to multiple companies. This does not work, the people in HR can see right through duplicated applications as they usually don’t meet the job criteria specified on the company website.

Work hard in EVERY stage of the application process

There are numerous stages in each application process. These can be processes such as, interviews, assessment centres, online tests…etc.. These require effort and practice. If you’re going to send off a quality application and then not do a practice test or some research before online testing THEN YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME. I had a telephone interview with a large company and a few days before it, I went to the Careers Centre to have a practice interview which really helped. I learned how to use my competencies to market myself more efficiently and I learned more about the company I was applying for.

Sell yourself

You need to be confident and sell yourself on your CV or in an interview or in any other opportunity where this is possible. Some students worry about sounding cocky on their application forms. You have to sell yourself. You want to make this company hire you. If you don’t sell yourself as much as you can then you are lowering your opportunity of being considered for a valuable job. You would be giving other candidates a higher chance of getting the job over you.


This is one of the most important factors. In every single stage of the application process the Careers Centre has appropriate resources to help you. The Careers Centre is filled with books/magazines (to help you research companies), computers (to help you make applications) and staff (to ensure that your applications are the best quality they can possibly be). You can literally walk into the Careers Centre and within ten minutes, you can be sat down with a professional who will help transform your CV into a quality application. The Careers Centre does not cost a thing and can give you so much help and advice. If you are struggling to find a company to work for they can help point you in the right direction to set you off with a successful career. Also you can go in there as many times as you want. Every single application I sent off that I got checked by the Careers Centre got to the next stage of the application process. The Careers Centre is a valuable asset and has assisted me greatly with my career.

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