Let’s be honest, the amount of effort and stress it takes to land a graduate scheme after university nowadays is completely ridiculous. We’ve got to the point where graduates have to send out 200+ applications on average to expect to get a single job offer and this clearly shows that the system is broken. If you’ve been applying to graduate roles and are starting to lose hope, bear in mind that there’s probably nothing wrong with you and that the recruitment process has evolved to be unfair and exhausting.
Applicant Tracking Systems
You’ve probably been thinking that each time you send out an application, some HR worker received your CV and carefully checked each bullet point to make an informed decision on your application. I’m afraid this couldn’t be further from the truth! Most companies nowadays use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which are programs used to parse your CV and decide whether your profile is right for the job. If you’ve received rejection emails late at night or during the weekend, it’s very likely an ATS parsed and rejected your CV before anyone got to read it. The best solution is to write an ATS-friendly CV and test different versions of your CV to see what works best, bear in mind that Docx documents are more easily parsed by ATSs than Pdf files.
We all hate them let’s face it. They call them psychometric reasoning tests or whatever, they’re just there to cut down candidates. At this point, it’s just about chance or if you’re dedicated enough to practice them in your free time. It’s just so much effort just to get rejected by an automated email at the end, also bear in mind that in most cases your CV still hasn’t made it to HR yet at that point. But here you are, at 11:48 pm trying to figure out which shape continues a pattern that makes absolutely no sense. And I haven’t even mentioned personality tests, completely irrelevant and unnecessarily long. I once got the question “Are you lonely?” in the middle of 40 other useless questions.
Automated video interviews
They’re impersonal, awkward, and stressful and I personally despise them. If I’m honest, I’d rather flop an in-person interview. If you’ve been lucky and haven’t had to go through the horror of automated interviews, they’re basically software making you jump through a series of questions while being recorded. You get some time to think about an answer to each question and the number of attempts you get varies between companies but it’s usually one or three attempts. The best part is that they use facial recognition software and keywords to process your video. So even at that point, you still can’t assume a real person is ever going to read your CV. As well as making you feel like a used sponge, these interviews also open doors for gender, race, and age discrimination as the facial recognition software they use is usually trained on data that over-represents white young-middle-aged men. In a nutshell, I don’t even know why these things are legal, and I’m pretty sure they’ll get sued eventually.
If you’ve gone through all the steps, nailed the real interview, made it to the assessment centre, and got rejected, then you know what pain really feels like. It’s just so much unnecessary extra stress just for nothing in the end. The worst part is when it’s a group assessment and your group screws up. Although some assessment centres are fair and give you constructive feedback, a lot of them are just too stressful and come after too many steps. Okay, I know 1000 people applied to this job but it’s not a reason to treat graduates like kitchen towels because you’re just making it harder for everyone.
Remember this, recruiters aren’t your friends. They’re just trying to earn a commission and they couldn’t care less about your life. Although this applies to any stage in your career, I’ve noticed that recruiting agents treat graduates even worse. No James, I’m NOT willing to relocate to Scotland. I once had a recruiter reach out to me about a position, I was interested and they made me go through the selection process which included a few psychometric tests and writing a cover letter. They then told me the company liked my profile and that they’d let me know about the next step (which was supposed to be an interview with them). Then nothing, complete silence, emailed them about 3 times about the job and it wasn’t until I left a bad review on Glassdoor mentioning their name that they got back to me a month later with “Hi, job was taken. Thanks”. So remember that recruiters aren’t your friends, you don’t owe them anything at all, so don’t feel bad about changing your mind or declining a job offer.
Applying to grad jobs after university is time-consuming and can actually take a toll on your mental health. Getting a bunch of rejections might also impact your self-esteem and make you feel like something is wrong with you but let me tell you that it’s mainly because it’s become ridiculously hard. Make sure to optimise your CV as much as possible and get the skills that might make you stand out from the applicant pool, but also remember that it’s pretty a number game and that the more application you send out the more likely you’ll get an offer. My advice would be to try to focus less on graduate schemes and to look for entry-level jobs/junior positions within your field. You can also try to target smaller companies too as those are less likely to use software and terrible tests to cut down applicants. If you’re interested in jobs that require a specific set of skills such as illustrator, designer, or web developer, I encourage you to try to learn some of those skills online and through personal projects, to tailor your CV for the jobs and to apply to smaller companies.