Graduate Probation Periods: What you definitely need to know

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Graduate Probation Periods: What you definitely need to know

It's graduation time again and the job hunt is fiercely on.

You've got 40 versions of your CV and are obsessively refreshing your email to hear news on your applications. You've thought about it all; the perfect role, the perfect salary, the perfect location... But have you given any thought to probation periods? And should you?

First things first, what is a probation period?

You might have had a probation period before, you might vaguely know what it is, and you might think I'm speaking in tongues. Either way, it can't hurt to brush up. A probation period is a trial period of employment. On the satisfactory completion of this trial period, the employee is then taken on permanently.

Why do companies have them?

It might seem unnecessary, but there are loads of reasons why employers have probation periods. It offers a chance to:

  • Get to know you on a deeper level (you might have only had an interview before starting)
  • Find out for real if you have the skills needed for the role
  • Discover if you fit in with the team and can work with your colleagues

It is standard to have a probation period when it comes to graduate jobs (and jobs in general), and they might be as short as a month, or as long as three or six months. If you do have one, then your written terms of employment will clearly state the length and any differences in your terms and conditions that apply during this stage.

So should you bear them in mind on your graduate job hunt?

In short, yes and no. It's not likely to be a deciding factor when it comes to securing a role. But make sure you know the ins and outs of the probation period before you accept a job. It may sound like a pedantic thing to ask questions about when you're leaping for joy at trouncing the graduate job hunt, but it's important. Why, you ask?

All companies are different but it's possible that a company might have a suspiciously short or long probation period. Or perhaps the salary looks great but it doesn't begin until after the probation is passed. Maybe the benefits (e.g. healthcare, annual leave) that attracted you to the role don't apply to those on probation.

You need to find these things out before you accept a job and, not to go all American on you, but you need to know your rights. It's easy as a job-hunting graduate to find a role and hold onto it tightly, like a hungry dormouse with a wedge of cheese. But you need to know what you're getting yourself into.

I will stop preaching now, but hopefully you will heed my advice and ask questions when it comes to getting the dream job. For an inquisitive grad is a knowledgeable grad, and a knowledgeable grad is a happy grad.

Good luck class of 2015!