Careers Service

Understand the recruitment process

Understanding the structure of the typical graduate recruitment process will give you an idea of timescales and help you feel more confident about what to expect.

When you think of graduate jobs you might automatically think of graduate training schemes - but these structured programmes with major employers represent only a small proportion of the jobs suitable for graduates. Many more of our graduates gain graduate jobs in large, medium and smaller organisations that recruit as and when they need graduate level talent. These are sometimes called direct entry roles.  

The recruitment processes for graduate schemes and graduate jobs are similar in many ways – we look at this in more detail below. Many organisations were moving more of their recruitment processes online even before the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and online recruitment will continue to be the norm for most, certainly in the early stages. 

How has Covid-19 changed the recruitment process: what to expect and how to prepare

The recruitment process for a graduate scheme can take several months from start to finish. Many schemes have closing dates before Christmas of your final year; others recruit on a rolling basis all year round until they are full. The process will include several of the following stages. The order of the early stages can vary, and some of the early elements, such as the online tests, may be repeated at the assessment centre.   

  • Online application form or CV and cover letter (sometimes application form and CV together) 

        How to write your CV 

        How to write your cover letter 

        How to complete an application form 

  • Games-based assessment - may be used even before you apply as a way of attracting you and gauging skills and personality 

       Gamification in recruitment 

  • Online selection tests, also called aptitude tests or psychometric tests; typically verbal reasoning and numerical reasoning but this will vary 

       Selection tests

  • Telephone interview 

  • Automated interview (also known as video interview) – these are recorded and assessed later by recruiter 

  • Face to face interview, or online interview on a platform such as Skype, MS Teams or Zoom 

       How to prepare for interview 

  • Assessment centre, with a variety of activities  

       Assessment centres 

Selection stages and recruitment processes for graduate jobs can be similar to graduate scheme recruitment; however medium and smaller companies are: 

  • more likely to recruit far closer to the time they need you 

  • more likely to rely on CV, cover letter and interview 

  • less likely to use selection tests and assessment centres 

  • less likely to specify 2.1/ 2.2 

  • more likely to be open to direct, well-researched speculative approaches, where you contact them proactively without waiting to see an advertised opportunity. To find out more about how to make speculative applications see:

       Create your own opportunity