The UK graduate market is a competitive one and standing out as an attractive graduate to employers has never been so important. You’ve all got a degree, a decent bunch of A-Levels, or similar, and (hopefully) some work experience. So how can you stand out from the crowd? 

  1. have passion
  2. do research 
  3. take your time 

According to the Patterns and trends report, published annually by Universities UK, more than 400,000 international students came to study in the UK last year, which accounts for 19% of all students. This means there is extra competition from graduates with additional languages and varied experience. 

If you have just graduated, or are graduating next year, what three areas can make your graduate scheme application a success?

Have passion.

Put as much attention to detail into your applications as you do your Instagram account. It doesn’t matter if your CV is printed on the finest Conqueror paper or if the job you are applying for was your childhood dream: if you’re not passionate about the job and the organisation, you don’t stand a chance. Graduate recruiters are experts in identifying motivation and a real desire to hold the job and work for the organisation. 


Whether you spend a week or a year researching for your dissertation, graduate employers expect candidates to be good and research and have spent a significant amount of time researching the organisation (not just reading the website) and the roles available. You need to look at key issues the industry in which you want to work in is facing and what that might mean for the hiring organisation. Who are the competitors? If you don’t know what’s happening in the industry, you’re disadvantaged. The more you read relevant articles, blogs from key industry experts on LinkedIn, and the more you think about your views on these issues, the better you will do among other graduates who may have just glanced at the website. 

Take your time.

Graduate applications can be tiresome especially with an undergraduate social life and plenty of assignment deadlines but do not rush an application. Treat each one like a final year assessment paying attention to spelling and grammar as well as writing the best answers and personal statements you can. Put the time in and you might only be putting together a couple of applications as opposed to dozens. 

What graduate employers want.

Obtaining that all important graduate role which is the envy of classmates and puts a smile on parents faces for the next three months, is not just about your qualifications and how good your class degree is, it is about other skills and characteristics that you will have developed throughout your studies, work experience, voluntary work, or hobbies and interests.  

The application procedures of many major graduate employers will be cover motivation, company fit and competency. It is not uncommon to have a personality profile or aptitude test forming part of the application process. It is good to be prepared with detailed examples of competencies such as ‘teamwork’ or ‘problem solving’ on an application form or during an interview. Whichever sector your graduate recruiter falls under, graduate employers like to see graduates have a level of commercial awareness. This is an insight into how organisations operate, what is happening in the business world and the impact this could have on their business and industry. A second language can also be useful for more global organisation especially if you would like to work internationally in the future. French, Spanish and Chinese languages can be particularly useful.