“Ten things you should know about applying for graduate schemes”

1. Companies will know that you’re applying to more than one graduate scheme

You’re in the last year of university, and you know what you’re looking to do with your career. It’s quite likely therefore that you’re considering a few different companies – there’s no need to hide this from anyone, in fact prospective employers may assume this to be true. You will find that honesty goes a long way.

2. There are thousands of you

It’s not a nice point to make, but it’s an accurate one. It doesn’t bear thinking about in terms of statistics, but you will come across people on assessment days, in interview waiting rooms, who are more qualified than you and ultimately get the role. Very few people succeed at their first attempt to secure a graduate scheme. Don’t be disheartened by this, but do be realistic.

3. A balanced CV

Imagine you’re looking at 500 CV’s and suddenly you come across a five pager, are you going to read all of it? It’s likely that you aren’t. This is a perfect example of why the layout of your CV has just as much sway as the content- the right layout can highlight exactly what you want to draw attention to. It’s also worth remembering that it’s not necessary to provide the troubling details of that C grade you got in GCSE P.E. Take some time to think about what each individual employer would view as the most important aspect of your CV – and highlight it. Not literally of course.

4. Check your online footprint

What will your future employer find when they google your name? If the thought alone makes you wince, maybe it’s time to do some housekeeping. You could update your privacy settings, or you could just make sure that your online profile reflects what you would want potential employers to see. A good guide to follow regarding what you post on social media – would you be happy if your grandparents saw it? If not, your future boss probably doesn’t want to see it either.

5. Bigger is not always better

Missing out of the eighth round of interview at a supremely huge company might feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t, and hope is not lost. Smaller firms offer benefits that larger companies simply can’t, and they won’t seduce you with structure just because that’s what feels so comfortable after three years at university. Smaller firms generally offer more opportunities – for growth, independence and responsibility.

6. Experience counts

So, you haven’t worked in an office for every week of every school holiday you’ve ever had, but you’ve held down a part time job in a pub while studying for your degree? Your future employer will want to know that. They will want to know that you’ve turned up on time, looked the part, and showed some team spirit – whatever industry that might be in.

7. Sell your soft skills

As a recent graduate, you’re very unlikely to have an in-depth knowledge of any accounting systems. That said, if you’ve captained a university sports club then your organisational skills are likely to be better than most, if you’ve chaired a society at university then your communication skills are probably invaluable. These things can’t be classified with a grade, but they are skills that your employer will want to know about.

8. Assessment days are stressful

You’re in a room with ten other people with similar qualifications, and you’re all competing for one job, two if you’re lucky. Chances are that you will have a full day of interviews, tests and presentations. Put your best foot forward and remember to be yourself.

*TOP TIP: The thought may terrify you, but if you’re offered the opportunity to volunteer to present something, grab that chance with a smile.

9. Take your time

An application for a graduate scheme takes a long time. It’s rarely as simple a task as emailing your CV, you can expect psychometric tests, in depth questions about your future aspirations, and much more. Employers know this, and they will also know a “cut and paste” application when they see it. The way to make sure that employers don’t think you’ve said the exact same thing in every application you’ve sent, is to personalise your answer. Bring in things that are specific to either the role, or the company that you are applying to. This takes time and energy, but if you’re looking to apply to a company at which you will begin your career, it will be time well spent.

10. Everyone will tackle this differently

From experience, I can tell you that the time and energy required to gain an accounting qualification is substantial. I worked a part time job throughout my time at University, and I thought I had the time management aspect of life perfected. While it’s true that my time management was a skill, it did not prepare me for the very demanding task of a full time 9-5.30 job, and then heading home to study.

The first time I had to give up my weekend, which included a trip home, because I had an impending exam was a turning point for me. It was the point at which I realised that I was giving up my social life temporarily for a permanent qualification.

I have colleagues who bury themselves in their studies for the entire six weeks before the exam, because that’s what works for them. On the other hand, I need one night a week to myself where I don’t study. If you’re on a scheme with other graduates, bear in mind that you won’t deal with the pressure in the same way. They may prefer to study in the morning, you might prefer a late night online lecture, and that’s perfectly acceptable, don’t be tempted to compare yourself with others.

Jane, Graduate Accountant, Egham