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Find out when to apply to be in with the best chance of getting a place on a graduate scheme that starts in the autumn after you graduate.

As a job hunter, are you an early bird or do you belong to the group of students that leaves it to the very last minute? When it comes to starting to apply for graduate careers, 35% of final-year students in 2018 began in October and 15% in November. This is according to the Graduate Survey 2019, which, with over 74,000 responses, is the largest, most comprehensive survey of student and graduate attitudes towards their job hunts in the UK.

The Graduate Survey asked final-year students: in which month did you start/will you start applying for graduate careers?

In which month did you start/will you start applying for graduate careers statistics graphic

As a final-year student, if you do want a graduate job to start in the following year, you should aim to be in this group – and certainly not in the 7% planning to start applying in June, July and August. This is because of the deadlines employers set.

Graduate job application deadlines… and early internship deadlines

Most large, established graduate employers open their graduate programmes for applications in September/October, with the aim of graduates starting work in the following September. Initial application deadlines are increasingly set to fall in November, although a good number of employers still set December deadlines (many of which fall over the Christmas period).

  • In some sectors, such as investment banking, deadlines are fixed – although an employer might do a bit of top-up recruitment if their job offers aren’t accepted, generally speaking if you miss deadlines in these sectors, you have missed the boat until next year.
  • Some employers, including the Big 4, do not set a deadline but keep their graduate programmes ‘open’ all year or have ‘ongoing recruitment’ – but they still expect to receive most of their applications well before Christmas. By the spring and summer, typically only the less popular schemes in the less popular locations tend to still have vacancies; more popular programmes will have been filled.
  • Some employers are setting early deadlines – particularly in November – and then will extend the deadline or reopen the vacancy if they do not receive sufficient numbers of quality applications.

Deadlines for internships, placements and open weeks/days often open and close at the same time as the employer’s graduate programmes, although a few may open later once the deadlines for graduate applications have passed.

It’s important to check vacancies’ deadlines regularly to ensure you don’t miss out: search for graduate jobs and internships.

Note: the law profession works on its own separate recruitment timetable.

Graduate-level jobs at other times of year

All is not lost if you do leave it later to apply. Some graduate jobs and schemes reopen in the spring and summer, and smaller employers that do not have an annual graduate intake are likely to hire on an as-needed basis whenever they have vacancies (note: these tend to be for an immediate start).

How long does it take to apply for a graduate job?

Some larger employers have moved towards creating relatively short application forms, largely comprising of online tests – particularly situational judgement tests (SJTs). However, this doesn’t mean that you can rush an application or leave it until just before the deadline.

  • You may still need to upload a CV, a covering letter and/or application questions.
  • You will need to find the time to take practice online tests.
  • You will need to research the employer in order to perform well in the SJTs (and to tweak your CV or write a covering letter or application answers).

To be on the safe side, give yourself at least half a day to apply for a job (plus research time).

Not all candidates choose to continue in the recruitment process

The Graduate Survey asked respondents at which stage of a recruitment process they are likely to voluntarily drop out (as opposed to being rejected). The highest percentage were at the recorded video stage (23%) – at which point candidates upload answers to questions popping up on screen – and at the online testing stage (15%).

At which stage of the application process are you most likely to drop out? (before completing it)

At which stage of the application process are you most likely to drop out statistics graphic

The good news is that TARGETjobs can help with all stages of the recruitment process to help you be prepared and reduce the likelihood of you dropping out through fear or nerves. If you are perplexed by video interviews, start with our expert performance tips for video interviews advice feature; if you are worried about online tests and want some example practice tests, head over to our online testing section and take the Graduate Benchmark Test.

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