The 10 Stages of Applying for a Placement

Doing a placement year while you’re at university will really improve your chances of getting a cracking grad job after you graduate. 

But applying for a placement is a little bit like wrapping an oddly-shaped present. It’s tricky. So we’ve put together a ten-step guide to help you through the process.

1. Start searching for placements as early as you can

September is a time for freshers events, the first lecture of the year, slightly undercooked pasta and/or hangovers. You’ve probably seen our RateMyPlacement stands dotted around most university freshers fairs. We start early, and so should you. We don’t bite! Come and say hi and we’ll sort you out with one of our infamous guides. 

But don’t worry if you missed us this year - we’ve got you covered. You can download a digital version of the Guide to Placements, Internships and Insight Schemes.

2. RateMyPlacement is a great place to start

Have a browse on the find a job tab on the RateMyPlacement website. Get an idea of what kind of placements are available. You can also click on our employers tab to keep up-to-date with which of our employers are the highest rated. 

Don’t forget to sign up to the website to get tailored job opportunities emailed straight to your inbox. This just means you don’t have to sacrifice all of your time trolling through our website for new job opportunities - the amount of time you can spend playing Monopoly will significantly increase.

RateMyPlacement's crazy-cool features

  • You can shortlist and follow your favourite companies - a great way to keep track of them and the jobs they have.
  • We have over 60,000 reviews for you to browse and get to know the company before you apply. (There might also be a few easter eggs in reviews that you can use in your interview/assessment centre if you get that far!)
  • You can create notes and to-do lists on your tracked companies/jobs.
  • You can also add the job to your digital calendar to remind you to apply!
  • If the impossible happens and you don’t find anything on the website that tickles your fancy you can register your interest for future jobs.

3. Find your very own top employers - and track them like a hawk

We’ve gone over and above to make your placement applications as easy and organised as possible. Our website offers a built-in application tracker so that you can keep your eye on every job you apply for. On top of that, we’ve also created a super-handy downloadable application tracker.

4. Your CV needs to be up to scratch

A great tip is to update your CV with each application. Read the job description carefully and make sure your CV is relevant to the role. Employers will be searching for keywords when they read your CV so make use of the job description!

Is your CV looking pretty shoddy? Don’t worry, we have a 10/10 guide on Writing CVs for a Placement Application

5. You’re ready to apply, apply and apply some more

You can’t expect to miraculously get a placement if you only apply for one or two jobs. Searching for a placement has a similar process as searching for a job. 

Our very own placement student applied for over thirty roles before he arrived at RateMyPlacement. 

Just make sure that each application is as perfect as you can get it. Don’t rush. It’s pointless sending off atrocious applications. Take your time. Spread out your applications over a couple of weeks. 

Schoolboy error

Don’t just apply for your dream job or for your dream company. Even if you aren’t 100% sure on a role, apply anyway because you might get to the interview stage and completely change your mind - and if not it’s still great practice!

6. Keep going!

Don’t stop now. We know how long these applications can be. You might have numerical tests to deal with, maybe online questions too. But don’t give in. 

Put down the TV remote and pick up your laptop. Obviously, eat, sleep and play etc. but just don’t get complacent.

If you don’t hear back straight away, don’t moan about it - get back on the alpaca. You need to be regularly checking the website OR you could sign up to receive tailored job alerts. The perfect placement is out there - you just have to put the work in to find it.

7. If you haven’t heard anything there’s a reason

If after a couple of weeks and 101 applications, you still haven’t heard anything, you might have to accept, there’s a reason your applications have been unsuccessful. 

It’s nothing personal. Maybe it’s your CV. Maybe you need to look at how you’re filling in the application forms. Try and contact any employers you haven’t heard back from, and find out why your application failed. 

Sometimes it’s hard to get feedback from a company. Particularly if they’re sifting through hundreds of applications. But it’s worth a try!

After that, it’s a good idea to make some small tweaks to your CV. If you know anyone who has already got a placement, (there’s always a smug few) ask them to take a look at your CV. They might be able to make some helpful, if not smug suggestions.

8. You’re nearly there!

Once you’ve made some tweaks to your CV, it’s time to start applying again. And by this point, you’re probably getting unnaturally good at filling out application forms. 

So you’re nearly there! Keep your fingers crossed and KEEP APPLYING. Your persistence will be rewarded. 

Remember, J.K. Rowling was rejected by thirty-something publishers before Harry Potter was published. They all said NO to Harry, Ron and Hermione. 

But J.K. kept plugging away, and eventually, she prevailed. And she’s done fairly well since then. So be like J.K.

9. You FINALLY start getting responses

That special moment comes. You get an email from an exceptional employer and they want you to come in for an interview or assessment day. 

This is it. Your big chance. But no pressure.

Seriously, don’t stress. It’ll show in your body language and screw up your whole interview. 

You just need to breathe and prepare, prepare, prepare! We have a whole blog dedicated to The Most Common Internship Interview Questions - it does have the word ‘internship in the title, but this blog is SUPER relevant to placement interviews too.

10. Smash this and you’re sorted

Most employers include an assessment centre as part of the final selection process. It’s the final hurdle. 

Make sure you read this blog: How to prepare for an assessment centre - put together by, funnily enough, a former RateMyPlacement placement student. (Inception.)

An assessment centre is like an extended interview, that includes ice-breaker activities, group tasks, possibly psychometric tests and even a presentation. 

Be as cool as a cucumber sandwich - you’ve made it down to the final few candidates for a reason. 

When you have the job, buy a very expensive packet of biscuits to celebrate.

Those are the 10 steps of applying for a placement. It’s probably just as tough as applying for Love Island or applying for planning permission to knock through your student accommodation to create a more open living space. (Do it.) 

But it’s totally worth it. Once you have a placement, you’re laughing. Your career will have officially been kick-started.