A Guide to Graduate Job Hunting

Ellie Wilson By Ellie Wilson, 19th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>Graduates

Finding jobs for graduates in the UK is harder now than it ever has been before, but there are some tips that can help you stand out from the crowd.

Too Many Graduates?

Twenty, or even ten, years ago, having a university degree in any subject was enough to land you a well-paid job when you graduated. Nowadays, unless you have a vocational degree such as engineering, medicine or IT, you will struggle to find job opportunities. You’re too overqualified for bar work or retail, but don’t have the necessary five years experience for the higher paid jobs. In a time of high unemployment everywhere, there are more graduates than ever before and headlines telling potential employees that graduates are unprepared for the world of work don’t help either.

However, there are a few tips which can help you find a job after you leave university.

Careers Service

Every university has a careers service – make use of it! They may be tucked away in some rarely-visited corner of campus, but they are there to help you. It doesn’t look good for universities if they have to report that large numbers of their graduates end up unemployed!

Your University’s careers service will be able to advise you on where best to look for jobs, give you tips on crafting your CV and suggest career paths you may not have considered, especially if you have a non-specialist degree such as Humanities or Social Sciences.

They will also host career fairs, which may seem like a waste of time, but can be incredibly useful. Employers attend these events to recruit graduates and signing up with as many as possible may throw up options you never would have thought of otherwise. Or even land you your dream job!

Where to look for jobs?

After you leave the safe confines of university, it can be bewildering knowing where to start your job search. Search engines return thousands of pages which appear to have no relevance to you or your degree (you’re a language graduate from Newcastle and you’re getting adverts for heart surgeons in Norfolk).

Try instead searching for ‘Graduate jobs (your area)’. Most regions have a graduate job website which you will be able to register with. Once registered, they will email you with jobs that match your profile.

If you have the funds to relocate, you can try registering with national graduate job websites. Many will also have a function for narrowing your search to your own area.

You should also try registering with graduate recruitment agencies. Send them your CV and they will often call you, or ask you to come in, and talk to you about the kind of work you are looking for. Send your CV to as many as possible; after all, they earn their money finding jobs for people like you!

Don’t forget to try other sources – the NHS has a recruitment website, as will your local council. Many large retailers advertise only on their own websites. Check out your local paper’s job pages too (which will almost certainly also have an online service) and the Directgov site.

Most importantly – leave no stone unturned!

Application Tips

Don’t be put off because you haven’t got any experience in a certain area or it’s a job you never would have even considered previously. If you think you can do the job, apply for it! It won’t hurt, and the more jobs you apply for, the more chance you’ll have of getting an interview.

Sell yourself in your application. Don’t just send a CV – always send a covering letter with it. If the advert gives you a contact name, address the letter to them. It is always best if an employer doesn’t think you are sending them a generic cover letter. Take the time to ensure that your covering letter is relevant and specific to the job you are applying for. It’s ok to use a template, but make sure you check it carefully for references to other applications! Take key phrases from the advert and use them in your letter.

Break your covering letter up into easy-to-read paragraphs and keep it to one side only – when employers are reading lots of applications for a job, they won’t be bothered to read your letter thoroughly if it’s too long. (The same applies to your CV – try to keep it to two sides). Use positive language and check the letter carefully spelling and grammar – this first impression counts.

If you are filling in an application form, take time to read the questions carefully and make you sure you have answered them thoroughly.

You may not have much work experience, but you will have skills from your degree course, and from other activities outside of academia, which will attract employers to you. Essays and presentations necessitate written and oral communication skills; meeting deadlines demonstrates your organisational skills. If you were a member of a society and served on a committee, you have evidence of your teamwork skills. Get creative in demonstrating your experience in the areas they are looking for!

IT skills are essential in virtually all jobs now. If you are already computer literate, that will be a bonus – make sure you mention it! If you’ve only ever used a word processor and an internet browser, it may be useful to familiarise yourself with your computer’s other functions.


If you’ve been offered an interview – congratulations! You are one of the lucky few. However, most employers will shortlist up to ten (or more!) people for an interview, and you need to stand out from the crowd.

It is important that you are well prepared. Nothing looks more unprofessional than arriving late, so make sure you know where you are going and leave yourself plenty of time to get there. Take a contact number for the company with you, in case it is hard to find. Find out who you are reporting to and make sure you are sure exactly what role you are being interviewed for. Do some research on the company – you will look proactive and keen, especially if you can mention this during the interview.

Presentation is important – dress appropriately! You may be quaking inside, but confidence is key. This is no time for modesty – you need to make sure that the interviewer knows you are the best person for this job. Don’t wait to be asked about your skills and experience. If the interviewer offers the opportunity to ask any further questions, ask at least one. You’ll appear engaged and enthusiastic. It may be beneficial to have some prepared beforehand, just in case.

Financial Assistance

Of course, you can do all the right things and still struggle to find work. However, there is financial help available from the government.

Everyone, no matter whether you have worked before or not, is entitled to a minimum job seekers allowance, so long as you do not have a large amount in savings. If you are under 25 and single, this will be around £50 a week. You will need to go to the jobseekers website to start your application. Don’t feel embarrassed applying – if you are actively seeking work, it is your entitlement!

If you are living independently, you may also be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. This will be administered by your local council, but you can apply for it at the same time as your jobseekers allowance.

And don’t worry about your student loan – you won’t have to start paying this off until you are earning money!


Careers, Graduate Jobs, Graduates, Jobs, Recruitment, Uk Jobs, Unemployment, University

Meet the author

author avatar Ellie Wilson
I am History graduate, based in Southampton, UK, with many interests including music (playing and listening), film and TV, sport, outdoor pursuits, photography, cookery and gardening.

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author avatar Ed
24th Oct 2011 (#)

A university degree is a waste of time, but contrary to the article, it was a waste of time 20 years ago. I endured the hell of university because I thought I would find a career. But when I graduated in 1990 it took me 4 years to get a low paid job. 20 years later I am in a dead end job on 14k. And I continually ask myself "What was the point?"

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