The 7 steps to get a graduate job

The 7 steps to get a graduate job

Entering your final year and starting think about lining up a job after graduation? Perhaps you are looking at an internship or placement? If you need a little guidance on the assessment process, take a look at this step by step guide.

Step 1 – Identify your dream job
Getting clear on your career plan is the first thing you must do so that all your future energy is targeted in the right direction. What would you like from your dream employer? Think about what is important to you – is it location, salary, culture, progression opportunities? There are so many websites out there that can help you with your research and give you an insight into different industries and employers. Great sites include GetaGraduateJob and GradTouch.

Once you have identified prospective employers, carry out your research. Have they been in the news? Do they have graduate profiles on their website that will give you an insight into what it is like to work there?

Don’t forget your University Careers Service. They will have strong links with national and local employers, as well as advertise current vacancies and provide useful guidance.

Rather than apply for lots of jobs (the scattergun approach!), it is far better to select only a small number of roles to apply for and spend time crafting a quality application. 

Step 2 – Create a CV and cover letter
It might sound pretty simple but your CV needs to include all the things that a future employer is looking for. It needs to show off your strengths, qualities and experience and give the reader a feel for the type of person you are.  Get the basics right, ensuring your layout is clear and well structured. Ensure that your content is tailored to the job you are applying for and stick with the following advice:

  • Clearly formatted & presented ​
  • Lay it out in logical order with clear headings​
  • Choose a clear & professional font ​
  • Use positive language​
  • Keep it short and succinct - two pages is perfect
  • Tailor to the role you are applying​
  • Check grammar and spelling thoroughly

Your cover letter is usually sent out to employers along with your CV.  Use your cover letter to emphasise how your skills and experience match with the job vacancy. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stand out from the crowd and brings something extra to the table about you and what you can offer the organisation. ​  ​

Essential things to include:

  • Your personal details (e.g. name, address, email address, telephone number)​
  • The date you send the letter
  • Address of the organisation
  • Hiring Managers name (if you have it)​if not Dear Sir/Madam
  • Outline the job title and reference clearly 

If you are starting from scratch, you might want to use a free CV template and cover letter to get started.

Step 3 –  Make good use of LinkedIn
It can be hard to stand out in the current job market, especially when other graduates are trying to do the same thing.  A LinkedIn profile will raise your personal profile and help you to build your network, providing many opportunities:

  • Create a professional brand that people can see
    It is the perfect opportunity to share your skills, qualities and knowledge to a huge audience including professionals, recruiters and future employers.
  • Generate ideas and take part in discussions
    Joining new discussion groups enables you to meet likeminded people and share experiences.
  • Gain recommendations and endorsements
    Ask for endorsements from lecturers or fellow students. People with recommendations have a greater chance of being noticed by potential employers.
  • Opportunity to explore – research your favourite organisations
    This is a great way to understand more about the organisations you would like to work for, meet other employees who work there, or learn more about the industry and wider network.
  • Set up job alerts and receive notifications
    Once you are set up you can activate email alerts that send you notifications for recommended jobs that match your skill set.
  • Let recruiters and employers find you
    If your profile is professional and detailed, the chances are it will attract more attention – you might even get head hunted!   

Step 4 – Acing application forms and online tests
One of the biggest tips I can give is to make full use of the word count and use work-based examples wherever possible. You will never score full marks if you only use 50 words when the wordcount is 200. Work-based examples tend to be stronger than academic ones and are also more personal to you, where as “working on a group project” at university is seen A LOT and doesn’t stand out!

Ensure that you complete your application form successfully using these pointers:

  • Review the whole application briefly before making a start
  • Ensure you complete the application form fully- don’t rely on your CV to fill in the gaps
  • Make sure your contact details are correct
  • Check your email address is correct andready for professional use
  • Ensure your employment dates are accurate
  • Outline your employment roles and responsibilities clearly, stating clearly your successes or achievements
  • Check your qualifications are correctly detailed
  • Proofread your application fully, checkingfor spelling, grammar and typing errors


Online tests are very common at this stage and are used by employers to reduce the number of application forms they need to screen. It is very frustrating to fail at this stage so spend some time practising before completing a real test. SHL are a leading test provider and have lots of example tests that cover the range used by employers. Remember speed and accuracy are equally important:

Step 5 – Tackling telephone and video interviews
More and more employers are using telephone or video interviewing as part of their application process. This stage allows employers to ensure that the strongest candidates make it through to assessment centre or final interview.

Whether it is by telephone or video, there are a few common mistakes that can be easily avoided:

  • Using slang words or abbreviations as the interviewer may not understand what you’re talking about
  • Taking your call inan unsuitable location, out in public or on the bus.
  • Forgetting your scheduledinterview
  • Swearing
  • Interruptingor getting distracted
  • Eating or chewing gumwhist on a call
  • Your phone or laptop running out of battery and the call dying midway through

You will find more detailed hints and tips to help prepare for this stage on video interview supplier Shine’s blog.

Step 6 – Assessment centre and interview success
Many employers use assessment centres to gain as much information about how a candidate is likely to perform when in the job. They use a number of activities to assess a candidate’s skills, knowledge and behavioural fit for the organisation.

Assessment centres are hosted either over a half day or full day depending on the role and industry, and you will usually be joined by several other candidates, usually between six and twelve people. It is important to balance being a team player with showcasing your own performance.

Assessment centres are either held at an employer’s offices, a local hotel or a training facility, so ensure you check the location and plan your journey accordingly.

You will be required to work both as an individual and as part of a group on a number of activities including:

  • Casestudies
  • Presentations
  • Analyticalexercise
  • 1-2-1 orpanel interview
  • Groupexercises
  • Roleplay exercises
  • Skills/written tests

Step 7 – Transitioning into the world of work
It is important to start as you mean to go on in your new job, there are a few things you can do when you start to make a great impression and impress your new employer.    

Arrive on time
It is always better to be early to start work than it is to be late, ensure you leave plenty of time to get to work, consider your travel arrangements and how long it will take you to get to work in rush hour 

Be Positive
Nothing is going to say you’re pleased to be joining more than having a positive and can-do attitude. Ensure you demonstrate enthusiasm for being part of the team and engage in meeting new people.

Ask questions or ask for help if you need it
No one expects you to know everything on your first day and you may find that it takes weeks or even months until you feel comfortable with everything going on. Enjoy the first few weeks of being new, ask lots of questions, this shows interest and care for doing things right.

Make notes and stay organised
You will probably spend some time completing an induction programme so ensure you make lots of notes. Listen to what is said about the culture, any processes or rules that they may have. Keep a diary or make a To Do list to help you stay organised. You will be surprised how much information you receive in your first few weeks so help your brain out and make some notes.

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