The Good Schools Guide Blog
Graduate schemes are selective, comprehensive, professional, training programs run by many of the major organisations in the UK. Places on these desirable schemes are highly contested with around 1000 applicants for each place.
The process for applying to the most highly contested graduate jobs is colloquially known as the Milk Round. The moniker is derived from the tradition of British milkmen and early morning home delivery and refers to the time in the 1960s, when some of the UKs largest organisations started visiting students at universities in order to get the cream of the crop to commit to their graduate scheme before leaving university.
Careers usually associated with the Milk Round are: Accountancy, Banking, Insurance, Legal, and organisations such as Unilever, Marks & Spencer and Rolls Royce.
Applications usually open in the September of the year before the job commences although this is not a fixed date. For example, Direct Line have decided they prefer to run their Milk Round in the Spring. Whenever, you need to get ready and think about this, not just a few weeks before the online submission date but, from year one at university. Many of these large companies will regularly visit universities for open days, meet and greets and occasionally dinners. If you have not attended any of these and created any connectivity with the organisation you are planning on applying to you may well find your name does not even make it to the short list. Go to these events, chat to the team there, ask questions and show interest early on. Some of these schemes also encourage you to register your interest online and in return will notify you of when applications are open.
Create a Linkedin profile and use it to start finding others that you may know from school or university who have been through the same process. Ask their advice: question them about the interview process, ask about what working for the organisation of your choice is really like. Are they receiving the type of training they wanted and expected? Can they introduce you to anyone internally who can help you?
Prepare your CV. Most applications today are online. Your will need to have a CV that is formatted in such a way that it can be downloaded easily. Don't leave it until a few hours before the deadline to realise that you have to re-write it and an appropriate covering letter.
The application process is relatively standard process regardless of industry. The most focused and organised individuals can end up having their job in the bag by Christmas which if applying whilst still at university will lead to a stress-free final couple of months, finals aside!
Most large companies now run a formal application process which is designed to find the most appropriate graduates based on personality and fit. This is a very structured approach in which candidates don't even get a chance to meet a human being until step 5!
Step 1. You are invited to enter your university, degree and your previous year's results into the online system. Employers do have favourite universities, a list of applicable degrees and a grading score. This is out of your control but don't panic, stay calm you could have other desirable assets.
Step 2. Should you get through the screen in step one you will be invited to submit your CV and covering letter or in some circumstances answer a set of competency-based questions such as tell us about a time that you had to deliver a difficult message, or when you have had to deal with a difficult customer. There are not right or wrong answers to these questions they are designed to see how you are likely to cope under pressure, how you think and process situations.
Step 3. At this stage, you will be asked to do psychometric testing, numeracy, literacy, verbal reasoning and often a personality test. If you have never completed a psychometric test find some online and do a couple of trials in your spare time just to get the hang of them in advance.
Step 4. At last some human contact and the dreaded telephone interview! Hopefully, you will have already done a lot of research into the company you want to work for and know it intimately. By that, we mean don't sit on the phone frantically searching for answers scribbled on bits of paper.
Step 5. Assessment Day and final interviews. A series of group-based tasks and presentations and one to one or panel interviews after which the lucky candidates will be offered jobs! Work out how long the journey to your interview will take, leave some extra time just in case for disasters turning up late or flustered is not going to help you.