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Broken Down: The Selection Process of Graduate Schemes

Graduate JobsInterviews

The selection process of Graduate Schemes is not always a straight forward process - are you well researched on the topic? Do you know what to expect? It's time to break it down, not have a break down! Anna Pitts discusses...

You're graduating in July, a mere 6 months away, so you're probably thinking about applying for jobs by now which will more than likely this will involve a few graduate schemes. The application process can be intimidating especially if you do not know what to expect from the procedure. Gone are the days of a simple interview- now there are so many activities, stages and unfortunately, tests. So what does the typical 'graduate scheme' application entail and how can you best prepare?

Round 1: The Online Form

The first stage is the online application. This is typically quite a lengthy form including multiple stages. There will be:
+ Numerical reasoning tests
+ Verbal reasoning tests
+ Personality tests
+ Application questions. The application questions will change depending on the company and role you are applying for but more than likely they want details of when you have performed well and what you can bring to the role. There will also be personal questions, perhaps a CRB check, date of birth and contact details. The numerical and verbal reasoning tests are designed to test your speed and competence at answering business related problems. They give you a dataset, for example percentage tables or a paragraph on a hypothetical business or current problem, on which the questions are based. They are multiple choice tests and usually timed, just to add to the fun. The personality test isn't actually a test per se. You are given a selection of statements and you have to rate each one from strongly agree to strongly disagree. There are no 'right' answers, but from it they can gage how well suited it seems you might be for the role.

Advice For 'Round One':

- Do practice test questions. There are loads of websites and even books dedicated to these. The numerical tests are around a high GCSE maths level, so you may need to brush up on your percentages if you haven't done maths in years! Practice the questions to familiarise yourself with them- most use the same format so once you've cracked it you should be fine! Make sure you practice within time constraints too. - Compile all your education and work experience with addresses and dates. This will massively save you time when it comes to filling in these sections on the form! - Make sure you've got strong internet connection when you do the tests. If it cuts out half way you cannot re-do the test without contacting the company and asking them to reset it. - Take your time over application answers and proofread EVERYTHING, making sure all details, dates and spellings are correct before you press 'submit'.

Round 2: The Telephone Interview

If you make it past round one, the next step is phone call with one of their recruiters. This could be labelled as 'an informal chat' or an interview. In any case, you'll be asked: + Questions about the company: why you want to work there; an interesting recent story about them that particularly grabbed your attention; why you like their work/ business approach.
+ Questions about you: what you can bring to the company; where you see yourself in 5 years; why you want this role specifically; a time when you demonstrated x skill, what you'd do in x situation.

Advice For 'Round 2':

- Research the company. Make notes on any news stories about them and offer comments and opinions of appropriate. Familiarise yourself with their values, mission statement and procedures and why these appeal to you. - Prepare answers to these types of questions so you don't have awkward silences on the phone. - Make sure you've got good signal- you don't want to accidentally hang up on them- (it's best to use a landline!) - Have notes with you during the phone call, but try not to sound too rehearsed. Remember you can ask them to repeat or clarify a question if you are unsure what they mean (or need to buy yourself some time).

Round 3: The Graduate Assessment Day

If you get through the phone interview with no major hiccups you might be lucky enough to be invited to one of their graduate assessment days. These days are nerve wracking (but exciting) and often involve you traipsing half way across the country to some fancy venue to be observed by their recruitment team. Typical activities can be: + Ice breaker activities
+ Team challenges
+ Further numerical and verbal reasoning testing
+ Individual interviews

Advice For 'Round 3':

- Practice public speaking. They want to see confidence and charisma. The chances are you will need to give some kind of presentation or speech at some point in the day, so get practising with your hairbrush in front of your mirror! - Think of some 'super cool, fun, interesting things about you' in advance so you're not stuttering, stammering and gasping like a fish for something amusing to say. - Make sure you get involved. You're at this centre with some of the most capable candidates in the country, so you need to stand out. Make sure your points are heard and you contribute to tasks, but don't be bossy or rude - no one likes an egomaniac. - Brush up on your online testing question skills. - Go over some basic interview questions and tactics beforehand. Do you have any application advice or stories to share? We'd love to hear them in the comments!
anna pitts grb author

Anna Pitts studied English Language at the University of Sussex and was a marketing assistant and online researcher at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. She now works in Marketing and Advertising for Hearst Magazines UK.

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