How and when to apply for a graduate role

Navigating graduate recruitment can be a bit of a minefield but if you’re about to start the final year of your degree then applying for a graduate job is probably on your mind.

Yet how do you find out about them and when should you apply? What should you include in your application that will give you the best chance of success? The experts at Milkround, a graduate recruitment website, have put together their top tips for landing you that dream role. 

When and where to start looking

Graduate jobs are available all year round but tend to peak between May and July and September to November. If you have just started your final year you don’t want to hang around, particularly if you want to apply to one of the larger companies, and should start your search in the autumn as soon as you return to uni.

You may already know which companies you want to apply for but if you’re not sure then sign up to graduate recruitment sites such as Milkround to get all the latest job alerts from top employers both in the UK and abroad. 
Sofie Lundberg from Milkround says: “Be organised about when you start looking. Top graduate recruiters like to advertise up to a year before the job begins and normally fill those roles within a couple of months. Don’t leave it until the New Year to begin your search or you may miss out on your top choices.”

Recruitment Fairs

Employers want to attract the best and brightest talent into their business so often they will come to universities hosting graduate recruitment fairs to actively look for students. Check with your university if they have any events coming up and make sure you pop along.

There are also a number of independent recruitment fairs held in London and other major cities where you’ll discover thousands of top graduate employers. You can meet face-to-face with their recruitment teams as well as find out exactly what you need to do to apply.

Filling out your application

There are certain things you can do to ensure your application is the best it can be:

Read through the application several times - It sounds simple but read through the application form and any instructions. Make sure you are clear on what you have to do and start jotting down some responses to questions for longer answers. 

Research – Recruiters like to see you are knowledgeable about the company and the role you are applying for. 

Write your responses separately – Use a separate computer document to write responses to longer questions so you can edit them until you are happy. 

Take your time – Allow plenty of time to fill out your application. You don’t want to rush it and make careless mistakes. 

Check it. A lot – Read through it several times looking for spelling and grammar errors. Have a family member, friend or better yet, a tutor or careers adviser look through it. 


Preparing for interview

If you make it to interview stage there are plenty of things you can do to maximise the chances of landing the job: 
Dress smartly and appropriately – your appearance matters and employers want to know you will fit in with their organisation. 

Plan your day – Make sure you know how you will get there, buy tickets in advance and leave plenty of time in case of any delays. If you are more relaxed and not stressed because you are rushing, you will come across better in the interview. 

Smile and be polite to everyone – everyone from the receptionist to the janitor could be asked about your performance. 

Practise relaxation techniques – Nerves are normal for everyone but if you know you are particularly badly affected by them then try some meditation and relaxation exercises to calm your mind. 

Research the company – you won’t be expected to know everything but it is important you demonstrate good knowledge of the organisation, the job and latest industry trends and developments. 

Reread your application and CV – make sure you know your responses to the questions in the application. 

Practise your responses – Think about the types of question the interviewers might ask and practise your replies. Try to expand upon your answers, talking about not just what you believe in but what skills and experience you can bring to the company and how you can add value. Self-reflection can be good but avoid negativity. 

Stay professional – Tempting though it might be to run screaming for joy or sobbing with despair from the interview room you need to maintain a professional persona until you leave the building. Save the celebrations/commiserations for the pub later. 

Ask for feedback – don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the job but do ask them to let you know why and any areas you can improve upon.