5 questions to ask a potential employer

5 Questions (1)

The gradireland Summer Fair is a fantastic opportunity to meet and ask questions of potential employers. Many employers also bring graduates who are currently on their graduate programmes to attend their stand, so you can ask them what life inside these companies is really like!

These conversations are unbelievable opportunities for networking, and can help you decide on future career paths or give you that nugget of ‘insider information’ that can help you through the application and interview process and ensure that you beat the competition to land your perfect graduate job.

We’ve put together 5 questions to ask a potential employer below:

1: How many graduates do you take on each year and do you employ graduates from courses like mine?

This question helps determine whether or not it is worth asking the next questions! It’s important to ascertain that an employer is hiring, or, that they will be doing so in the not too-distant future. Equally it’s good to know if the employer has successfully hired graduates with a similar background to you – this question can get the conversation off on a positive foot, or end it nice and early! If the answer is no but you are keen to work for that employer or in that sector, ask about any conversion courses that you might take that they have successfully hired from.

2: What are the most important competencies you look for in graduates during the selection process?

All employers have criteria they look for when hiring. Some are quite defined, others relate to that elusive ‘fit’. Discover the answers to this question and, if you decide to apply, present your application in a way which showcases your corresponding attributes.

3: What would my first year in your organisation be like?

This question allows the recruiter to talk about your induction, training and development, opportunities for travel, and any promotion opportunities for high performing graduates. gradireland research has shown that these are the most significant factors for students and graduates when considering which employer they would most like to work for.

4: Tell me the single most important thing you would advise any graduate considering applying for a role with your organisation to do!

Not strictly a question, but if you can get the answer then you have the inside track which could give you that all-important edge over your competition throughout the selection process.

5: Do you have internship programmes and how can I get on them?

An internship is a great way to find out about a company, a sector of work, and of course to land a graduate job further down the line. gradireland research shows that over 86% of graduate recruiters run internship programmes, and that the recruiters themselves see completing a relevant internship as the single most useful thing a graduate can do to improve their employability.

Finally don’t forget to register today for your free ticket at summergradfair.ie

6 skills graduates need to work in the food and drink sector

The Food and Drink sector is growing and thriving with new opportunities for graduates developing all the time. However, as Hannah Kelly explains, a new report has highlighted skill gaps graduates will need to fill if they are to be successful in the industry.

The recently released Food Wise 2025,a report compiled by the Department of Agriculture & Food, sets out a plan for the development of the agri-food industry over the next decade, said they expect to see a further 23,000 jobs created, including the creation of additional graduate programmes, over the next ten years in the Irish Food and Beverage Sector.

“The Food and Drink sector has grown strongly over the period from 2010 to 2016 and has recovered”, the report said. “Employment in the sector increased to 54,000 in 2016, an increase of 6,600 from 2009.”

To achieve further growth though, it was stressed that gaps in skills required for the sector need to be addressed. Graduates eager to work in this sector should aim to focus on developing skills in the following areas that the report highlighted:

  1. Think internationally: Develop your knowledge of, and skills in, international trade and logistics. Companies also place a high emphasis on language and multi-cultural skills. More specifically in this area you should work on developing experience in customer management, dealing with international customers and suppliers and supply management.
  2. Innovation: In particular, companies are looking for graduates with production development skills. More specifically the report identified gaps in portfolio management, packaging technology and design engineering. Talk to your careers advisor or look up companies who could help you bridge this skills gap.
  3. IT and Numeracy: Employers are looking for graduates with good numeracy and IT skills no matter what section of the company you’ll be in. These skills are particularly useful as companies seek to merge roles within their organisations through automated manufacturing procedures.
  4. Supply Chain Management: Focus on customer requirements and standards, managing money effectively and reducing inventory levels. These are all skills companies are looking for in potential employees no matter what part of the business you might be working in.
  5. Leadership: In the gradireland Graduate Salary and Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey, we found that 37.1% of employers identified lack of leadership hard skill shortfalls. Being able to demonstrate the potential to lead a team is important as both more strategic and engaged leadership is a skill gap identified in the industry.
  6. Financial and Commercial Acumen: As mentioned above, a lot of companies are moving towards less structured roles, with cross-functional teams and a broader variety of work the ever increasing norm. This means no matter where you are in the business; you’ll be expected to have good financial and commercial judgement.

For more information on different career sectors visit: https://gradireland.com/career-sectors


gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards 2017

2017 gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards recognises work of graduate recruiters as career opportunities continue to grow for students.


April 27th 2017 saw the 11th gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards held at Dublin’s Mansion House, a gala event for almost 600 of the country’s graduate recruiters, talent developers and industry stakeholders. As always, the awards were held in partnership with the Association of Higher Education Careers Services (AHECS) and this year’s sponsors, the Irish Management Institute (IMI). The 2017 event attracted over 150 high-quality submissions from many of Ireland’s top employers, with over 7,000 students, from north and south, participating in the vote to select Ireland’s most popular graduate recruiter.

The awards were preceded by a gala dinner and speeches from gradireland Director Mark Mitchell, who said that the awards represented an endorsement of the tremendous work being done by those involved in the area of graduate career development.

He was followed by Dr Simon Boucher of the IMI who said that despite facing a world order that is  “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, it is a fundamental truth that there has never been a more exciting time to be a graduate and there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in graduate development.”

The awards were presented, as has become customary, by RTE’s Brian Dobson, and the winners were chosen from across the graduate recruitment sector, reflecting the range of interest in the awards and the quality of the submissions received.

Professional services firm EY were named Graduate Employer of the Year while Deloitte replaced KPMG as Ireland’s Most Popular Graduate Recruiter in the student vote, with Google once again in second place. KPMG was named as having the best professional training and development programme, while Glanbia landed the same award in terms of business training and development. The competition for Best Internship Programme was especially stiff, with two categories, those companies with an internship intake of less than 50 and those with an intake of over 50. EY were named the winner in the former category, while AbbVie took home the award for the latter. AbbVie also won Graduate Employee of the Year when Michael Redmond.

GradIreland_Awards_2017_Winners_25 (1)

The full list of winners at the 2017 gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards are available here.

The awards are now a firmly fixed event on the graduate recruitment calendar, representing a unique cross-section of industry, including recruitment professionals, employment stakeholders and careers advisors alongside course providers. Dr Simon Boucher added that; “many organisations now recognise that leadership development starts at the point of career entry, giving graduates the opportunities to develop their leadership style, research has shown that talent development features as a top priority for the majority of CEO’s and it is gratifying for professionals involved in the recruitment and development of graduates that their work has never been higher profile or more strategically significant.”

The awards also saw the official unveiling of the new look gradireland website, Ireland’s leading portal for graduate careers advice and jobs.

Ireland’s Top 100 Graduate Employers 2017

gradireland awards 2017


Ireland’s 100 leading graduate employers reveals Ireland’s most sought-after employers from the perspective of those that matter most – the students and graduates who will provide the next generation of innovators and leaders in Irish business.

The Ireland’s 100 leading graduate employers survey is part of the European Student Barometer, the largest pan-European survey of graduate trends and is conducted by Europe’s leading graduate research firm, trendence. The data produced decide the winners of Ireland’s 100 and the winners of the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards and contribute also to a wider study across all 24 European Union countries.

Here is the 2017 list in full.

You can find more information in gradireland’s book Ireland’s 100 leading graduate employers, published every Autumn and the 2016 edition is still available to view via gradireland.com/publications.

Follow us on twitter @gradireland for graduate recruitment  updates and like gradireland on Facebook

Choosing the right graduate employer

The rustic kitchen

Picking a graduate employer is one of your first big decisions in life so you need to be rational, thoughtful and well prepared.

To get the best start to your graduate career you need to think about the kind of place where you will fit in. Even within a single career area, employers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they offer a diverse range of working environments, training options and opportunities for career development. With so many organisations to explore it’s worth sparing some time to reflect on what you want and to think about the attributes that will be vital in your future graduate employer.

Be curious and think about what’s important for you

Think about the key things you would want to compare and contrast when you mull over employers. Here are some points to get you started:


Do you dream of being part of a gigantic multinational corporation, a valued employee in a company of around 150 people, or an essential cog in a small business? Find out if there are both small and large firms in the career sector that interests you and think about the benefits each size of employer  potentially offers?

Company culture

Graduate jobs don’t all require a suit and a briefcase, and different employers have their own ways of doing things, even if they are in the same business sector. Explore different the work ethics, methodologies and values of different firms. Try to get a feel for whether employers are more formal and hierarchical in structure, or laid back and dress down on Fridays.


Depending on the location of where you are happy to work, you’ll also have to consider where you’ll live… and then think about how far you are really prepared to commute. If you have no car, find out if there are good public transport links to where an employer is based.

Work/life balance

When choosing employers, think also about the nature of the work you want to do. With some careers longer hours are par for the course, but employees are usually rewarded financially in return. Look into the flexible working opportunities offered.


To progress in certain careers, training is essential. Assess what training is offered and how it is typically provided – will you be trained in house, on the job, or have opportunities to attend external courses. If your career choice involves sitting professional exams, find out what study leave might be available.

Career paths

You don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end job with no prospects of promotion. Find out what opportunities are available with the employers that interest you and see if you can find out how graduates in a company typically move up the career ladder.


Some employers offer the chance to travel – six-month assignments abroad, or lots of national or international business trips. If you love travelling, see whether this is a possibility. If you don’t want to live out of a suitcase and you really aren’t prepared to be mobile, this might also dictate your career and employer choice.

More help from gradireland

On the 27th of April, gradireland will host its annual Graduate Recruitment Awards at Dublin’s Mansion House and the following companies have employees nominated in the Best Graduate Employer of the Year:

A version of this article first appeared on targetjobs.co.uk


Starting your graduate career


Your first graduate job brings new challenges, from workplace etiquette to dress code. These tips will help you make the transition to working life.

Even though you may have had summer jobs and worked at weekends, nothing can quite prepare you for the experience of your first ‘proper’ job. We’ve come up with some hints to help you adapt.

Starting a new job

It’s not quite the same as your first day at school, but nerves can feature strongly at the start of a new job. You may feel worried that you’ll not know what to do, make mistakes or feel out of your depth. These concerns are natural when you’re facing any major life change but it’s important to remember that the others in your intake will be equally apprehensive. Your employer will be used to this and is likely to have plans to ease you into working life, with an induction period and plenty of working and social opportunities for you to meet people and learn about your job and the company.

Many graduates speak of the culture shock between the more relaxed atmosphere of student life compared to holding down a full-time job. Some of the most difficult aspects to adjust to are the early-morning starts, the nine-to-five working day and the same weekday routine. Accept that this aspect of transition will take a little time to become accustomed to, but you will get there.

Use your experience

You may already have some experience of working life when you take up your first graduate job. In fact, most graduates will find that they do have skills related to the workplace, whether it’s time management or understanding workplace etiquette. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that your first graduate job is just a longer version of your summer job or work placement. Previous work experience gives you a head start, but it’s only a beginning.

Workplace culture

How do you make the transition from student life to the demands of the workplace? It probably helps to appreciate that all organisations are different, so your first workplace is going to have a particular work culture. Most organisations in Ireland now have a distinctly informal code but it is useful to check before making any assumptions (for example, do people use first names?).

Companies have different dress codes – sometimes these are explicit and sometimes they are less openly stated. Irish companies tend to be fairly informal but this doesn’t mean you should turn up to work in jeans on your first day… unless of course you know that is how people dress. Try to find out beforehand what is expected in your workplace. If you’re not sure, then attend on your first day in ‘safe’ – i.e. conservative – clothes. You can always dress down more the next day.

Learning and development

The big difference between your previous jobs and your first job as a graduate is that your overall performance is likely to be reviewed quite systematically. This review will cover your motivation, your capacity to handle the professional demands of your role, and how well you integrate with your colleagues.

This is serious stuff and involves handling a range of different agendas at the same time. Use the support offered within your organisation, whether a formal appraisal or informal mentoring. It has cost a lot to recruit you and people want to see you do well.

Most organisations now have a clearly defined ongoing learning culture. Using the resources available to develop your skills can bring long-term benefit to your career. You should look at your first few years following graduation as continuing the education agenda that typified your career to date. This focus does not radically change when earning begins: there is a growing realisation that ongoing development, both professional and personal, is important in the graduate workforce. This is supported by the recognition that a highly educated workforce is a key factor in national and social development, both within industry and in the wider society.

Top tips for starting your first job

Ask questions

No employer is going to expect you to know everything from day one. That’s why many have formal training schemes. During your training period – and beyond – make sure you ask questions, as this shows an interest not only in the organisation but also in what it does and what your role is in it. If anything isn’t clear, then say; there is no shame in asking for clarification.

Stand out

Many employers say that the graduate recruits who impress them most are those who throw themselves into work and show enthusiasm, commitment and a desire to learn at every opportunity – even if that means manning the photocopier for a while! They get stuck in and don’t believe they are too clever or good for a certain role just because they have a degree, which also shows a great attitude to team working.

Learn from another

Finally, many organisations will allocate you a mentor or ‘buddy’ when you start your training: they are the person to turn to if you have any worries or concerns.

On the 27th of April, gradireland will host its annual Graduate Recruitment Awards at Dublin’s Mansion House and the following companies have employees nominated in the Best Graduate Employee of the Year:

What is a graduate programme?

Grad Programme T&D

So what is a graduate programme or graduate job? Isn’t it the case that any job done by a graduate is a ‘graduate job’? Well there’s a little bit more to it than that, within the graduate recruitment industry, a graduate job is a very specific thing.

Firstly, as you’d expect, it’s a job offered by graduate recruiters – companies large enough to need a constant flow of new talent that can be trained up for management roles in the future. Secondly, the job is almost certainly going to be a place on a formal graduate training programme (also known as a graduate scheme).

These programmes are a way for recruiters to build up what is known in HR parlance as a ‘pipeline’: a group of high-flying graduates who are expected to aspire to leadership positions. These schemes are highly structured, typically over two years, and focus on training and development, sometimes leading to a professional or postgraduate qualification.

Employers can run more than one type of training programme within their organisation. For example, investment banks typically run separate streams for their operations, sales and trading, investment banking and technology roles, among others

Engineering employers can run a management programmes or finance schemes alongside their engineering training. Accountancy and professional services firms will specialise in training graduates in particular areas of work such as tax, audit, assurance or advisory.

How to find a graduate scheme

Graduate employers promote their graduate jobs, schemes and training opportunities on gradireland and in sector-focused careers publications like gradireland Finance, Engineering, IT, Law etc. These publications can be picked up free from most university careers services or departments, or you can download the latest editions on our graduate careers publications page.

The advantages of training schemes

Graduate schemes enable new recruits to settle quickly into a professional work environment, receive relevant skills development and get hands on experience, either working in a specific role within an established team, or through working on a number of assignments in different areas of the organisation over the duration of the programme. If an employer has a large graduate intake, it is more than likely that you will have opportunity to network and socialise with your peers.

The golden rule of graduate schemes: apply early, even if the employer has an ‘open’ or ‘ongoing’ recruitment process.

You may have opportunities to work overseas or at different locations in Ireland, or you may be based in one place. If you would prefer not to travel and you like a regular home life make sure you are aware of how much mobility is expected when you consider careers and employers.

Training in career areas such as engineering, accountancy, human resources, law, construction, management and property is often accredited by a relevant professional association. This type of support will assist you in qualifying to practise professionally.

Getting onto a graduate scheme

The majority of training schemes have application deadlines between November and December for programmes starting the following September/October. You need to do your employer research and be ready to apply early during the first term of your final year.

An increasing number of employers have ‘ongoing’ or ‘open’ recruitment processes meaning that, in principle, they take applications year round. Despite this seeming flexibility, you are still advised to apply early. While these recruiters don’t give a hard and fast deadline, they may make offers from the start of the application period and they may close their scheme once they have filled all their vacancies. Some employers do give a specific closing date, but also state that they will close their recruiting process as soon as they have filled their spaces.

For recruitment success, make sure you’re clued-up on the applications and interview methods used by employers (check out our employer hubs for employers with tips to get hired). Many large graduate employers use online application systems to sort prospective candidates for their schemes and training opportunities. If your application is successful you may then be invited to an assessment centre or interview. Be prepared for psychometric tests – they can crop up in online applications and at interviews and assessments.

On the 27th of April, gradireland will host its annual Graduate Recruitment Awards at Dublin’s Mansion House and the following companies are nominated for the Best Graduate Training and Development Programme:

Best Graduate Training and Development Programme – Specialist/Professional Training programmes

Best Graduate Training and Development Programme – Business/Management programmes

A version of this article first appeared on targetjobs.co.uk