Do well as an intern for a big-name employer that also runs a graduate scheme and you could significantly increase your chances of turning your internship into a job there when you finish uni. On average, 47% of summer interns and 44% of placement students got graduate jobs with their internship employer, according to the Institute of Student Employers' annual student recruitment Survey 2019 (and the Institute's membership is made up of the largest employers).
Even if you don’t end up working there permanently, you will still have a prestigious name to add to your CV and it is likely that you would have been paid for your time. It is rare for large, established graduate employers to offer unpaid formal internship schemes; in fact, according to the ISE, the average annual salary for interns and placement students at their member employers is £19,000.
You will probably also have benefited from the training provided by your internship employer and the various perks and benefits it offers its employees. Take a look at our graduate and intern Insider Reviews to find out what others really think of these benefits.
How to find an internship or placement at a big employer
You can find internship vacancies advertised on TARGETjobs. Or if you know that a company runs a graduate scheme, chances are it will have an internship programme too – most employers have a careers website where you can find out.
The TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards is a competition that allows you to win an internship and other prizes; there are numerous awards for different students across a variety of sectors.
When to apply for an internship or placement
Most big employers open their internship applications in the autumn, with deadlines falling towards the end of the year. However, it's still worth looking for internship vacancies well into the spring because some of the larger employers will extend their deadlines if they don’t gain sufficient quality applications – and a few employers don’t open their internships until January.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by deadlines that seem ages away. If an employer gets enough good internship applications before the set deadline, it may cut the application period short. To be on the safe side, as soon as you see an internship advertised, start work on your application so you can submit it in good time.
How to apply for internships at big companies
The application and selection process at high-profile employers is often similar to the process for graduates. It often involves an online application form and taking part in online ability tests, situational judgement tests and/or game-based assessments. If you pass these, you will then usually have to take part in a video interview (although some recruiters still run phone interviews instead) and then attend either an assessment centre or a face-to-face interview.
- Read our advice on online applications and student CVs.
- Find out more about online ability tests and game-based assessments. You can also practise numerical, verbal and inductive reasoning tests by taking the Graduate Benchmark, which also allows you to assess your strengths in these areas.
- Gain our advice on how to shine in interviews and how to handle video interviews
- Take a look at our tips on succeeding at assessment days.
At each stage of the recruitment process, you will be assessed against specific skills that the employer seeks in employees; they may also be interested in whether you share and act in accordance with their corporate values. The skills and values sought should be listed in the job description or on the employer’s corporate website. Don’t worry, employers don’t expect intern candidates to be the finished article. Instead they look for potential. Find out more about the most common skills sought by our employers in our workplace skills and competencies section.
Sector-specific advice for finding an internship at a big graduate employer
Make the most of our advice available that is tailored to specific industries by following the links below. There are more industries on the ‘Job sectors’ drop-down list on our main navigation.
Accountancy and financial management: some employers require you to have work experience before you apply to their graduate schemes – find out about this and more.
Charity and not-for-profit: the charity section of our public service and charity careers advice page includes a list of charity and not-for-profit organisations offering internships and tips on how you can volunteer your way to a graduate job.
Construction, civil and structural engineering, and quantity surveying: large construction, surveying and engineering employers take on students for summer internships and placement years. Find out what you need and how to get it.
Consulting: the majority of consultancies advertising on targetjobs.co.uk offer work experience. Get the basics.
Engineering: discover more about placement years – the most advantageous kind of work experience for engineering students – as well as the other options available.
Investment banking: the most determined students take part in first-year insight programmes. Find out about these and the other types of work experience in the sector (not just for first years).
IT and technology: there are loads of summer internships and year-long placements on offer, from IT employers and from other employers with IT functions. Read the sector overview.
Law barristers: work experience offered by barristers’ chambers is called a ‘mini-pupillage’. Find out more, including how to choose where to apply and how many mini-pupillages you should do.
Law solicitors: law firms offer work experience called ‘vacation schemes’. Get tips on applying and find out about other types of work experience that look good on a law CV.
Management and business: leadership-, management- and business-focused placement years and internships are available in a variety of sectors. Find out how and when to apply.
Media and publishing: work experience in the media and publishing industries is all but essential; however, you may have to do some hunting around to find opportunities. Read our tips.
Journalism: making speculative applications is often the way that aspiring journalists find work experience; some big-name media outlets do offer official schemes, too. Find out more about this and, crucially, how to make the most of your work experience when you get it.
Property: completing an internship or placement year at a property firm proves that you are serious about surveying. Find out what’s available.
Public service, charity and social work: find out which public sector organisations run internship schemes.
Retail, buying and merchandising: work experience opportunities are many and varied; they also cross over with other sectors, such as logistics. Get advice on where to look and what the application process for an official scheme could involve.
Internships with smaller employers: are they worth it?
‘Yes’ is the answer. While formal, paid internships are harder to find at small businesses and organisations, they can still give you skills and experience that will help you get a graduate job.