Following on our Graduate Scheme Blog series, we're looking at one of the later stages of the application process, the face to face interview. You've found your perfect scheme, you've spent time on the application form, got through and managed to talk your way to the assessment centre in your telephone interview and even intrigued the employers enough to invite you back for a formal one on one interview.
Now, Graduate Scheme interviews don't tend to differ too much from Graduate Job interviews, BUT there are subtle differences that you need to be ready for, because it will be the difference between those who are going to get on the graduate scheme and those who will be returning to the drawing board.
1. Why do you want a career as a...?
This is a question that is almost certainly going to come up in an interview for a Graduate Scheme. And it is no surprise why it does. The very essence of a graduate scheme is a professional apprenticeship, taking mouldable and bright graduates and transforming them into a professional of some kind, whether it is an Accountant, Buyer or Management Consultant.
So they are going to want to know what attracts you to this career. This can be very difficult to start comprehending, and as a graduate once myself, all I wanted was just a job that paid reasonably well - or at least more than minimum wage. But as mentioned before graduate employers have the luxury and volume of applicants to only employ the very best and those who know what they want.
The way to go about deciding whether this is the career for you would be to look at the day-to-day of the job. (Note here not the scheme. Schemes last a few years, careers are a lot longer.) It could be you enjoy working with clients and helping them achieve financial security, you enjoy the seasonal nature of Retail or whatever it may be. You need to show employers that you look forward to the day-to-day routine of the end job, not necessarily the training scheme, where companies can lavish over you to attract the best.
2. What excites you about the scheme?
Employers have spent years moulding and remoulding as well as thousands of pounds, the best training scheme for graduates so they are looking to offer places to the very best and those who are going to commit to the entire length of the scheme. This is the perfect opportunity to get in a bit of flattery too. Employers want to know what excites you about the scheme, but they also want to know how much research you've done and how serious you are about committing to the whole length of the programme.
So it is important to pick out two or three aspects of the scheme that you really want to get your teeth into. It could be the European rotation of the scheme in Berlin, the opportunity to receive training in an area that interests you or even the opportunity to develop your soft skills with a mentor and apply them with clients.
It is vitally important here that you've got something concrete to say. Responding with flimsy answers like " I want to get started on my career" or totally swerving the question and admitting how keen you are to start your career at that company will go nowhere to helping you secure the position.
3. Why did you choose this company?
Many graduate schemes are reasonably similar in content and training with interchangeable outcomes. For everyone on the outside this is extremely obvious and spotting the difference maybe an exercise in splitting hairs. However, for the employers this is far from the case and they believe they are the best option or graduates to pursue a career in that specific sector. So it could be argued that this is an exercise in ego, but you've got to play the game.
What employers are looking for when they ask "Why us?" is for the graduate to respond with why the graduate thinks their company is so better than the others. This is not difficult to do, many employers, especially the big professional services firms try to exaggerate their differences in approach. For example, John Lewis try to emphasise they recruit partners not employees. While M&S are the nation's go to brand for class and quality.More From the Graduate Scheme Blog series: