The job search begins: Swimming in the competitive pool of new graduates

As a soon-to-be graduate, the time has come for me to think about my next career step.

A few weeks ago, I sent an application to participate in a 2-year graduate program after finishing my degree. If you don’t know what a graduate program is, you’re not alone.

What is a Graduate Program?

A graduate position is a program offered by large organizations specifically designed for new or recent graduates. The contract usually lasts between 1 to 3 years and often includes rotations between branches in different countries. The benefit of joining a graduate program is that it offers new graduates the opportunity to work in different roles and locations while learning and developing with the company. The main attraction for me is the possibility to travel the world and develop valuable leadership skills.

As you can probably imagine, the application process for these graduate programs are quite competitive. When I submitted my application, the company informed me that there had been 1.500 applicants for the 15 vacant positions. Which means there’s a hiring rate of just 1%.

Now, screening 1.500 applicants individually is obviously very time consuming. Therefore, these companies have implemented an elaborate recruitment process to gradually sort out the applicants. So far, I have participated in 4 rounds of the process.

Step one:

Upload CV, 1-page application letter and recent transcripts.

This first step of the process is just like any other job I have applied to. The key here is standing out from the crowd. Luckily, I have developed some skills in InDesign, which has come in handy when designing my CV. In my application letter, I tried to convey my passion for joining the program. Then I sent it to my friend, who works in HR and she told me: “My, I really like it. But I think you could improve this piece…”

I ended up rewriting everything and it took me about 5 hours. I improved my arguments, tightened my wordings and I ended up with a very powerful application. I pressed ‘sent’ and decided I owed my friend a bottle of wine.

On the day of the deadline, the company sent me an email, thanking the 1.500 applicants for their interest and added a link for the next step of the process.

Step two:

A game-based traits assessment

Gamification is everywhere these days and it presents a wonderful opportunity to extract data from unknowing users on their behaviour.

Naturally, big companies have included this in their recruitment processes. And to be honest: I love it!

This step included playing 12 short games online.

Some of the games would be identifying emotions based on facial expressions, other would include betting money to assess your willingness to take risks.

After you finish the games, the website provides you with a list of your identified traits in three categories: emotional, social and cognitive.

I must admit it was a strange feeling, suddenly seeing myself in data. Here is an example of how the results look:


Once I had completed the games, there was nothing left for me to do than wait.

And so I waited.

A few days later I received an email saying:

Congratulations! You are now one of 817 candidates.

I was now ready to complete the third step

Step three:

An online test measuring your general cognitive ability. And The Predicvtive Index® Behavioral Assessment (a personality profile)

The cognitive part of this test was much like the standard IQ-test you can find online. A mixture of language, math and visualization. It was time-based, and my adrenaline was pounding through my body. Unfortunately, I would not receive my results for this one, so all I can do is hope I did well.

The PI assessment was more relaxed and 7 days later, I received a full report on my personality. Again, a little scary to see yourself on paper like that. Here’s an example from the report:


Auch! Aggressive? First, I didn’t really like that word – it’s not usually a word that many women like to describe themselves with.

Then I remembered, that if I were a man, being aggressive would mean: taking control, being decisive and powerful. And so, I decided that that applies to me too. A woman impowered, ladies and gentlemen.

Something must have gone well in these tests, because this week I received an email saying:

Congratulations! You are now one of 200 candidates.

And then I prepared for the fourth step

Step four:

A pre-recorded video-interview

Forget about personal interviews. In our digital world, a stable internet connection is all you need.

It’s a strange situation, getting ready for an interview over webcam. The first thing I did was make sure I looked presentable. For a moment I considered whether it was truly necessary to put on pants.

It is. Always put pants on before a interview.


The link directed me to a webpage for an online interview. The interview was made up of 13 pre-recorded questions. As soon as one question had been asked, I got 30 seconds to prepare an answer and then reply to my webcam for 2 minutes.

Although the questions were recorded by a real-life person, it was kind of strange to argue my case to my computer. And then of course, I could see my own camera reflection, which sometimes makes me self-conscious. So instead, I focused my look straight into the camera and imagined the person behind it.

It was a very interesting and fun experience. It challenged me to think of qualified answers under pressure. And I’m always up for a good challenge.

Now comes the hard part: Waiting for a reply.

Considering the very competitive nature of this process, there’s a good chance I may not make it to the next step. So, I will keep my expectations low. But it’s been a lot of fun so far and I have learned a lot about myself. And hey – making it to round four is not half bad! Let’s see what happens.

Until next time,


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