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9 things to look for in a company as a graduate

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Whether you’re applying for graduate placements, graduate jobs or more senior roles, it’s important to consider all different aspects of the company and the opportunity – not just the starting salary.

From working environment to corporate social responsibility; here are 9 things that graduates should look for when they search for a company.

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1. Scope for learning & development

Especially in the early stages of your graduate career, opportunities to learn new skills and develop your career are hugely important.

Building upon your skill set as a graduate will only help make you more employable as you progress through your career and take on more responsibility.

Before you start hunting for graduate roles, consider learning & development on your list of things to look for in a company.

Graduate employers will often list learning & development opportunities on their job spec, under the ‘Benefits’ section.

This might include things like structured internal training programmes, online learning, or opportunities to gain qualifications; such as Accounting qualifications – ACAACCA, and CIMA – or marketing courses like CIM.

In a graduate job interview, it’s a good idea to ask about the learning & development opportunities that the company offer; whether it’s structured training programmes, courses, the chance to gain new qualifications or the scope to work on a range of different projects.

All of these will be hugely beneficial to you now; and as you progress in your career – so should be top of your list of things to look for in a company.


2. Growth opportunities for graduates

As a graduate, you need to know that there is going to be room for you to grow within the company.

It’s important to find a company that will help you develop your career; so when you search for a company, make sure that you are clear about opportunities for advancement in both the short-term and long-term.

Graduate employers know that growth in a role is important for young people; so will often talk about these opportunities either on a job description, or in a graduate job interview.

If you’re worried about the room for growth in a company or graduate role, ask the graduate recruiter or employer; they’ll be impressed by your ambition and drive.


3. Good company culture

Most people would agree that company culture is a key part of job satisfaction, but getting it right all depends on the kind of environment you feel most comfortable in.

If you think you’d be better suited to a more casual workplace, graduate jobs at startups or smaller companies might be for you; whereas if you like the idea of a rigid structure and a more conservative environment, you might be better suited to working at a large or multinational corporation.

Whether you are looking for a startup or corporate, the environment and culture you decide to work in will play a big part in your job satisfaction; and therefore have to be something you consider when you search for a company.

When you’re asked “What do you look for in a company?”, don’t be embarrassed to say “culture” or “people”; good cultural fit will be key to your success!


4. Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

A company’s CSR can reveal a lot about them; so it’s an important thing to look for in a company.

Organisations that are socially responsible will generally treat their employees well, and respect their community, customer base and environment; so if you’re looking for a charitable company that gives back, their CSR policy is a good place to start.

On your list of things to look for in a company, think about what you value most.

Ensuring that the company’s vision and values align with yours will be key to your success and job satisfaction.


5. Benefits & perks for employees

Alongside a basic graduate starting salary, companies will offer a benefits package; including things like a pension scheme, insurance, healthcare and paid sick leave.

Additionally, in order to attract the best candidates, companies will often include a competitive perks package, which includes the more fun, non-essential bonuses.

This could consist of things such as early finishes, flexible working, work socials, company car, free food, and training budget – all great bonuses to consider alongside your basic salary.

The benefits & perks will be visible on the job spec, but if you’re looking for more information, then just ask the employer or Graduate Recruiter.

For more tips, check out our blog about other company perks to consider.


6. Graduate mentoring schemes

If a company has set up an internal mentoring scheme, it usually indicates that they care about the career development and well-being of their employees.

In the early stages of your career, having an experienced and trustworthy mentor in the workplace can play a big part in your professional development; so it’s a good thing to look for when deciding on a company.

If you’re unsure about whether this would be valuable to you, think back to any times you’ve had a mentor throughout your education; i.e. when you were applying to university, or writing your dissertation.

Though many graduates wouldn’t consider mentoring on their list of the most important things to look for in a company, it might be something you find useful; especially in the early stages of your career.


7. Good work-life balance

Job satisfaction isn’t just based around salary, benefits or even your team; it’s also about having a productive work-life balance.

A recent study reported that 37% of 18-25 year olds report working on holiday to keep up with their boss’ expectations – so it’s clear that this isn’t a priority for many graduates just yet.

In the long term, maintaining this balance will aid your physical and mental well-being, increase your productivity, and help you develop professionally.

When you’re job hunting for graduate roles, it’s important to consider how much the company promotes work-life balance.

Things like work-from-home / flexible working policies, company trips away, or a high number of paid annual leave days are usually indicative of a company that cares about the well-being of its employees.


8. Recognition for graduates

In recent years, employee recognition has become a hot topic of conversation in the workplace; and that’s because companies who invested in ways to recognise employees tend to have engaged, motivated and happy staff, who work well together as a team and are motivated to do well.

As well as having benefits for companies, it is a surefire way to boost your job satisfaction, productivity and career development, especially as a graduate in the early stages of your career.

There are several ways to work out whether an employer is good at recognising the hard work of it’s employees.

If the employer mentions an ‘Employee of the month’ vote, or awards for outstanding work, this is a good indicator of the type of company they are – and something to consider when you search for a company to work at.


9. Positive company reputation & employee reviews

When you’re working out your top things to look for in a company, you can’t forget about employee reviews.

A company’s reputation is usually a good reflection of whether or not it’s a good place to work.

During your applications for graduate jobs, check out Glassdoor and Google reviews to assess a company’s reputation; and to ascertain whether it’s the right environment for you.

Employee reviews will help you ascertain whether all of the above points are true of the company.


What to answer when asked “What do you look for in a company?”

In a graduate job interview, questions like “What are you looking for in a company?”, or “What are you looking for in a job?” are likely to come up; so it’s vital to have your answer prepared beforehand.

Salary should never be your answer to this question.

When asked “What are you looking for in a company?”, make sure your answer includes things like potential for growth & professional development, good company culture, or recognition from your employer.

All of these answers will give the interviewer a good insight into the type of candidate that you are.


Salary is an important factor when searching for graduate jobs; but it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all.

In fact, there are a number of other things to consider when you search for a company; that might help you make up your mind about where to work.

Find more career advice on our careers advice blog – or check out the latest graduate jobs in the UK!


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