10 ways to spice up your grad scheme

Isabel Wood, Content Writer · 27 Nov

Your graduate scheme could be the route to finding you the best and brightest students from the UK and internationally.

With over 2 million students choosing the path to Higher Education in the UK alone, there’s a wealth of opportunity and talent waiting to shape your workplace.

Although 2017 saw a drop in graduate recruitment, top employers are set to up their graduate recruitment by 3.6% this year, increasing competition in 2019 to snap up potential star employees. So, if you’re looking to spice up your grad scheme and stand out from the crowd - take note… 

  1. Don’t sugar coat it…

In 2017, 20,000 graduates took time out of their hectic schedules to rate their Top 20 Grad Schemes for The Times, judging their employers on everything from salary to work/life balance. The schemes that consistently won favour with their graduates weren’t a walk in the park, demanding overtime, long-distance travel, and a strong helping of sleepless nights.


Grads are looking for a challenge, so before they even begin looking to fill in your paperwork, set out clearly just what’s expected. Take a leaf out of Aldi’s playbook and warn them exactly what they face, studies have shown that graduate employees rate honesty as their most prized employer attribute.

Not only will you get applicants willing to do the heavy lifting required, you’ll turn away candidates that don’t have what it takes, or, more importantly, don’t want what you’re offering. 

  1. Get the goods…

Your graduate scheme will be made or broken by word-of-mouth, so start campaigning early. With employability and security on every grads’ mind from the minute they start uni, remember that it’s never too early to sell yourself.

You may think that blanket online ads are the way forward, but the 41% uptake in Gen- Z’ers downloading ad-blocking software in the past 12 months alone would suggest otherwise.

With hundreds of university-based graduate Careers Fairs and national expos, there’s a wealth of opportunity to curry favour by making things personal. Take a stand, literally, and make sure your graduate recruiters aren’t there to attempt speaking the obscure language of ‘unay’.

Students want information, not a pub joke, a lanyard, and a USB stick they’ll lose in a library computer without shedding a tear.

If you can spare employees that have been through your scheme, put them to work selling what you have to offer and encouraging the next generation. There’s nothing more inspiring or reassuring than someone who's survived it and lived to tell the tale.

good looking man on phone

  1. Pick your moment…

With many graduate schemes opening in Autumn, and hundreds more being wheeled out over the course of the year, your potential grads will be jaded by the time they’ve sifted through endless applications. Place on top of that mounting deadlines, troughs in student finance piggy banks, and looming dissertations, and you have a recipe for lacklustre personal statements. 

Be aware of key deadline times in your field, target marketing to the Gen-Z favourite social media source, Facebook, and hit key Instagram target groups with sponsored posts for mass appeal.  If you’re truly savvy,  take advantage of a captive audience over university holidays, when the Christmas lull hits hard.

Timed well, your application form will become a welcome distraction and a chance to hide from nagging parents, rather than a barely bearable excuse to put away the textbooks. 

   4. Speaking of paperwork…

Frank Lloyd Wright said: “Form and function should be one”. If ever a man knew design, it was our Frank. Your application is a statement of intent, so make your questions clear, make your questions count, and be concise. Functionality is key, and a shoddy website will make or break your grad scheme.

If it crashes at a key time, or refreshes a form, erasing an entire applicant’s hard work in one fell swoop, you may as well give up before you’ve begun. Take into consideration that Generation Z use their smartphones for an average of 15.4 hours a week, in comparison to laptop hours of just 10.6 hours.

Is your application smart-phone friendly — if not, why not? Although grads undoubtedly love the personality and old-school charm, they need functionality and speed when it comes to an application process.

Don’t let technology be the difference between fending off rivals for your grads affection and having them fall into your beanbag conference chairs come summers’ end.

young woman on sofa with laptop

  1. Let them down easy…

Once you’ve sorted your Y from your N, tread carefully in letting your graduates know if they’ve made the cut. Remember, word-of-mouth is all. A one-size fits all email will suffice if it’s phrased well, but leaving them hanging, no matter how many applications you may have received, doesn’t leave a lasting glow for grads.

Statistically, it’s been shown that graduates are likely to re-apply to a scheme that they have received a positive rejection from in the past, and are far more likely to encourage younger peers or relatives to try their hand at your application process. 

  1. …or brighten their day

For the chosen ones, decide carefully how you start their path to employment. One in five grads applies for jobs that don’t match their interests, a statistic that doesn’t bode well for a successful grad scheme experience. Many graduates surveyed by CEB pointed to a lack of communication with future employers as a reason for pulling out of schemes during the process.

A ‘Welcome Pack’ shouldn’t just be a loose collection of pamphlets and car window stickers, it should tell your grads exactly who you are, and exactly who they’re about to become. Focus on values, real-life success tales, and ask your current grad schemers their honest opinion on your workplace.

If current employees can create a list of the "Dos and Dont's" of your company, you’ll have your grads walking in confidently, assured of their place in your ranks. Ease their path with workshops, experience days, and training meetings that focus on company ethos and inspire with passion.

Man at cafe

  1. Show them the money…

Budgets. Buzzwords. Your graduates have faced it all and balanced more than their fair share of financial pressures. Offer grads a clear, honest, and comprehensive breakdown of their earnings, and make their financial future clear. Your graduates are more than likely leaving university with an average, (read: minimum) student debt of £32,000.

They want to know how and when they’ll be paid, and whether it’s above or below the average top employer graduate salary of £30,000 a year. Ultimately, they’re looking for a truthful assessment of their likely wage ladder.

Let them know what they can look to earn in five years, what their likely business expenses will be, and what they should be aiming towards.  If you’re looking for an easy route, try collaborating with apps like Wally, that give your grads an easy platform to manage their money with ease.                                                                                   

  1. Perk it up…

Giving your employees delectable discounts like gym memberships, Cafe Nero discounts, Gousto recipe box giveaways, and salary sacrifice schemes is undeniably popular, however, it's important to go a deeper when it comes to your employee offering.

Fit incentives to your grads’ priorities and you’ll find that their productivity will improve. Mental health is at the top of the agenda, so get smart about workshops and tune into your HR department for help finding holistic care in your area. This is where having a provider like Perkbox is vital.

Not only is there the access to discounts and freebies to satisfy your employee's consumer needs but the platform also provides access to a range of mental wellbeing tools that help minimise stress to maximise sleep and wellbeing. It's the whole package, in one platform. 

Woman writing in notebook in cafe

   9. Make it personal… 

According to research undertaken by Robert Half, 45% of Generation Z workers fear their baby boomer colleagues. Afraid of difficulty communicating, of being seen as children, Generation Z graduates are turning away from one-on-one communication in favour of phone calls or emailing.

They may not be as confident writing their views, but studies show that those born after 1990 favour discussing tasks and seeking advice from bosses and managers in person. If you want to keep your graduates happy, make time for meetings, put face-to-face progress reviews in the calendar, and leave your laptop behind.

  1. Give them a voice…

If you really want to spice up your grad scheme, let the grads spice it up for you. Graduates are the future of your workplace, and management analysis of Gen-Z preferences shows that they crave independence.

If you’re honest, give them the time, platform, and incentives that they’re looking for, and make sure that you treat their desire for personalised management seriously, your grad scheme will result in well-rounded new additions to the workforce.

Gone are the days of life-long careers, settled office hours, and endless email chains.  With the civil service, accounting firms, and core engineering companies, all set to recruit over 750 extra graduates by the end of 2018, grad schemes across the employment market are thriving.

Their success or failure at keeping keen graduates happy will depend upon their understanding of how graduates truly tick, and how Generation Z will work for years to come.

Looking to make your workplace exceptional? Why not download our brochure and find out everything there is to know about being an employer of choice: 

Perkbox employer of choice

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