Finding jobs, applications and the recruitment process

Understanding your options, identifying suitable opportunities and negotiating the recruitment process in the graduate job market

Your degree will open up a huge range of job opportunities for you. Knowing your options in the graduate labour market is the first step to your dream job.

Graduate opportunities exist across all sectors and with employers of all sizes, but there are significant differences in the recruitment process and focus of the roles. Much depends on the size of the company. For example, most large private sector companies and multinationals recruit and train a number of graduates via a graduate scheme every year (which often involvex assessment centres and psychometric tests), whereas many public sector employers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) advertise graduate roles on a more ad-hoc basis.

Faq Items

Where to look for opportunities

Many websites will advertise placement, work experience and graduate opportunities and you should always check out individual company websites for organisations you have an interest in working at. However, here are some websites to get you started:

Check out the job board available via Careers Zone 24/7, which allows you to search for opportunities and track preferred employers so you are alerted when they advertise a role. The Labour Market Information tool helps you to identify the role that is perfect for you based on your location, skills and programme of study.

CVs and covering letters

Employers typically spend under 10 seconds initially reviewing a CV. It is important to spend time putting together your CV before you apply for a job or a place on a postgraduate course. Each time you apply for a different position you need to modify the document so that it is tailored for the role.

Employers often highlight what they are looking for in a ‘person specification’ or ‘entry requirements’ section; you should pay close attention to this and research the role and organisation so you can match yourself to the organisation’s requirements. Always ensure that you address any skills and attributes required for the position in your application using clear examples.

CV Builder allows you to create a CV from scratch and includes tips and advice from employers on each section of your CV. This tool is ideal for students looking to write their first CV.

CV360 scores your CV against more than 50 checks that students commonly trip up on. You get instant, detailed feedback so you can optimise your CV and significantly boost your chances of getting to interview.

Cover letter builder enables you to quickly and easily produce an engaging cover letter.

Application forms

Instead of a CV, many employers use application forms as the first stage of recruitment.

A standard application form usually requires you to complete sections on your personal details, education and qualifications, work history, supporting information and references. Tailor the details in your work history section to each role, clearly highlighting any overlap between the vacancy and previous work or voluntary experience as well as any achievements or extra responsibilities.

The supporting information/personal statement section is hugely important and should be tailored to the individual role, because this is where you need to convince the employer that you are the right candidate for the job and discuss why you would like to work for their organisation. You should address the job requirements outlined on the person specification one by one and in the same order, providing convincing evidence for your suitability and including key words from the job advert.

Use the STAR technique

STAR is a simple strategy that will help you provide concise, focused answers on application forms and at interview.

  • Situation - briefly describe the context for your example. When was this? Where was this?
  • Task - describe what you had to do. What were you hoping to achieve?
  • Action - describe what you did to achieve the task, how you did it and what skills you used
  • Result - briefly describe the outcome. What did you learn? Would you do anything differently in hindsight?

Check out the range of resources available in Careers Zone 24/7 to help with application forms.


Being invited to an interview means an employer thinks you could be the right person for the job. While it is always great to reach this stage, you will be one of several candidates vying for the position, so you need to ensure you make the most of the opportunity and sell yourself effectively. There are different types of interviews you could face including telephone, video, face-to-face, panel, group or multiple mini interviews.

Interviews can be nerve wracking and stressful situations but with a few simple techniques, good preparation and some positive thinking you will give yourself the best opportunity to shine regardless of the style of interview you are asked to attend.

Try Interview 360, our interactive interview tool, to practise your interview technique and get instant feedback, or browse the questions employers most commonly use. Access other tools and assessments to help with interviews.

You can also book a mock interview with one of our experienced Careers and Employability Advisers. Details of how to book a mock interview can be found online.

Psychometric tests

Larger organisation typically use psychometric tests to screen applicants as part of their recruitment process. They will often be used for graduate schemes but are now also commonly used in the recruitment process for the NHS and civil service jobs too. Psychometric tests allow employers to filter students who are successful and put them through to the next stage of their process.

Types of tests

Ability tests are formal tests designed to indicate how well you are able to carry out various aspects of a job i.e. to show employers your potential to do a task well. The tests are typically completed online and are usually a series of multiple choice questions taken under strict time limits. The most common tests used by graduate recruiters are verbal tests, numerical tests, diagrammatic/abstract/logical/spatial reasoning tests, industry-specific tests and situational judgement tests.

Personality tests look at behavioural preferences. They are not concerned with your abilities, but how you see yourself in terms of your personality; for example, the way you relate to others, and how you deal with feelings and emotions. There are no rights or wrongs in behavioural style, so the best advice is to be honest in the way you answer the questions.

Practice a wide variety of commonly used assessments to improve your chances of performing well in the real thing in your own time, at your own pace, and check out these other handy resources.

Assessment centres

If you are successful with your initial application for a graduate scheme and pass the psychometric tests, the next stage in the graduate recruitment process is usually an invitation to attend an assessment centre or selection centre event. Assessment centres are costly both in terms of financial outlay and staff resources so tend to be used mainly by larger organisations offering structured graduate training programmes.

Assessment centres are usually designed to include exercises that measure you against key aspects of the job. By using a range of methods the selectors will have a chance to examine your potential as an employee in their organisation more closely. An assessment centre usually involves:

  • interviews
  • in-tray exercises
  • presentations
  • tests
  • group exercises
  • social events such as dinner or lunch with prospective colleagues

Try our assessment centre tool in Careers Zone 24/7 or take a look at a range of e-learning courses and tools.

Book a one-to-one careers meeting

For individual advice on exploring your career options, identifying opportunities and for help with any stage of the recruitment process, you can book a one-to-one meeting with one of our Careers and Employability Advisers. To arrange an appointment, call into a Careers Zone (Byrom Street or Student Life Building), email or telephone us on 0151 231 2048/3719.

You can also attend of our careers and employability events, access resources in Careers Zone 24/7 or download our handy guides on a range of careers and employability topics.