If you’re wondering how to identify the right graduate scheme with the right employer, you’re not alone. Many final-year students find it hard to whittle down their choices to a handful of favourites. That’s why so many end up putting out random applications to multiple employers. The advantage of shortlisting graduate employers, though, is that you put all your effort into trying to get into the ones you most want—so your applications will be as good as they can be. Let’s look at how to pick out your perfect graduate employer.

Identify your preferred sector

Make a list of your dream brands

Explore different divisions and roles

Research company culture

Make a shortlist

Identify your preferred sector

If you’ve already done an internship or a placement, you might have a better idea of this than a graduate who hasn’t yet. If not, don’t worry. Though you’re new to the professional world, it doesn’t have to be hard to work out what kind of company you’d like to work for.

Think about what motivates you and what makes you happy. Here are a few typical motivators and some of the industries that might encourage them, just to get you thinking:

  • Outdoor work—environment, energy, agriculture, leisure and tourism, construction, transport and logistics
  • Innovation—food science, FMCG, creative arts, engineering, manufacturing, environment, IT, media, transport and logistics
  • Sustainability—healthcare, food science, finance, consulting, FMCG, charity and voluntary, energy, environment, agriculture, retail, hospitality, law, marketing, public services, manufacturing, social care, sciences, teaching
  • Community—consulting, charity and voluntary, hospitality, law, media, public services, retail, social care, technology
  • Leadership—consulting, banking, marketing, engineering, law, environment, energy, public services, retail

Here at Nestlé, we tend to mostly attract graduates motivated by the desire to make a significant global impact as part of an inclusive, collaborative culture. Other companies will attract people motivated by different factors.

Write down your motivations in life and think about what kinds of industries might make the most of them.

Make a list of your dream brands

It’s okay to aim high when you’re thinking about where you’d like to start your career. Employers love graduates who have that kind of self-belief and the drive to start out at the top.

So, begin by making a longlist. Think about the people whose jobs seem the coolest and where they work. Think about the companies who make or otherwise enable the things you love in your daily life. Think about those brands you always hear about and say to yourself, “that seems like one of the best places to work”.

We’re very humbled, at Nestlé, whenever we hear that we were at the top of one of those lists from our graduates. It means a lot to us that people value the huge effort we put into developing our graduate programmes.

Explore different divisions and roles

If you’re doing a vocational degree—such as Marketing, Engineering, Product Design or Supply Chain—you’ll already be on a path towards a specific type of job. It’s just a case of seeing which companies are running graduate schemes in those areas and picking your favourite. (Nestlé runs schemes for all those listed, for instance.)

If, on the other hand, you’re doing a more general, academic degree—such as English, Communication Studies, Geography, Mathematics, Chemistry or French—you might still be wide open in terms of the kind of division you’d like to join. So do some research into the typical departments you could consider within a large graduate employer, such as:

  • Research & Development (R&D)
  • Production
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Purchasing
  • Supply Chain
  • Human Resources
  • Finance & Accounting
  • Digital & Analytics
  • IT
  • Engineering

Which of them feels like it would suit your personality and motivations? Which of them would best suit your skill set? Which of them have you never really thought of before and realise you should probably go and look into? Look all of them up online and see what kinds of jobs are available in those areas that spark your interest—and in what kinds of companies. This will help you separate what you might like to do from what you definitely don’t want to do.

Research company culture

Once you’ve learned which kinds of companies offer the type of career you might like to do, it’s essential that you work out what it’s actually like to work from them. What can you expect as a graduate from your potential future employers?

Think about the structure—is it hierarchical or is accountability shared? What would work better for you? Nestlé, for instance, is decentralised—meaning that our people enjoy a high level of independence.

Think about the management style—is it authoritative or collaborative? Which do you prefer? Nestlé is all about collaborative working, for example. We partner with others to enable bigger societal impact.

Think about the way people interact—is it challenging or relaxed? How do you like to communicate? Nestlé has a very community-oriented atmosphere, but at the same time, we challenge each other and encourage a culture of innovation.

Think about working methodologies—do they use the waterfall, agile, scrum or lean methodology (just for instance—there are many other styles)? Nestlé, for instance, uses agile and lean start-up methodologies.

Think about the company’s ethics and integrity—is it committed, like Nestlé for example, to compliance, evolving business principles and improving lives?

Make a shortlist

Once you’ve explored all the different employers out there, seen what they have to offer and how those offerings might relate to you and your career motivations, it’s time to make a shortlist.

Word of advice—don’t just make a slightly shorter longlist, which is an easy mistake to make. Be brutal.

Think about it this way, one of our current graduates told us that they “treated applying to [their Nestlé graduate scheme] like a full-time job, itself.” In other words, they really spent a lot of time on it. That’s how they ended up winning a place on the scheme, too, no doubt. Now, imagine if they’d applied to every single employer on their longlist. Do you think their application would have been as good?

So whittle it down to the ones you really want—that way, you can plough all your energy into crafting the best applications possible. As soon as you have that final list, it should make complete sense to you—you should be able to look at it and think, “I could happily start my career at any of those companies.” Good luck putting it together.

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