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Sophie Phillips: Placement application process

A lot of students are interested in completing a placement year as part of their degree, as it is a chance to gain experience in industry and become more competitive for a graduate market. The process can be quite long, but hopefully this blog will give you a bit of an insight into how to choose and apply for placements.


Application Process

Choosing a placement

I began my placement search early in my second year of studies. I was aware of the Government Economic Service (GES) sandwich student scheme and kept an eye on when they were open for applications as I had my heart set on this placement. Different placement schemes open their applications at different times, so it’s good to keep an eye on a few that you’re interested in. I attended the placement fair at St. James’ Park, where I spoke with numerous firms about different schemes. This gave me a good idea about which placements I would apply for alongside the GES.



The initial application for the GES placement is important, as the sift stage really narrows down the number of applicants that make it to interview. If you are keen for a specific placement, putting a lot of effort into the initial stages of the application will help you a lot.

I knew the GES scheme was competitive, and so I applied for a number of placements within finance and management roles. I personally wanted to do a year in industry, even if it was going to be a different role than I originally planned. By October, I had applied for around 6 placement schemes, so I had quite a lot of applications to keep tabs on. This became quite stressful for me, as I felt I was spreading myself quite thinly between trying to make my applications as good as they could be while maintaining my studies. I completed a number of video interviews and attended some face-to-face assessment centres and interviews.

I would recommend choosing a few schemes that you would genuinely be happy to spend a year doing, and then focus on making good applications for these. Not all schemes open at the same time, so you may not have to focus on numerous applications in one go, but if your desired schemes all have similar application dates it is really useful to limit the number of roles you apply for.



Video interviews were really strange to me, it felt odd answering questions when there was no one there to speak to in person. If I were to do it again, I’d practice interview questions in advance so that I wasn’t as nervous. You’ll never give the perfect answer in a video interview, they’re usually just trying to work out what you’re like as a person and whether you’re a good fit for the job. Just be calm and try and let your personality shine through where possible.

Another thing to be aware of is that you can directly contact businesses who currently aren’t advertising for placement students and ask if they would be interested in hiring you for a year of work. This is unconventional, but it shows you are really driven and keen to work for their business. This could be a good idea if you have a particular company in mind you’d love to work for. It could also be a good idea if you find the application processes for large companies difficult.

Once I found out I had been successful for the sift in the GES placement, I withdrew a few of my applications from placement schemes that I was not as passionate about so I could focus more on my interview. At this point I had been offered one placement and had 2 final interviews lined up so I was happy to focus on this.

At the GES interview, they mainly assessed my technical economic ability, which felt odd given that it is a job interview and not an exam. For this style of interview you need to ensure you really understand the basics of economics, like elasticities and demand relationships, as they want you to apply this to the real world. At the interview we also had a 30 minute written paper which had questions ranging from opportunity cost to Lagrangian functions.

I also attended a group interview for a management scheme, which was very different to the economics-based interview. In this interview we had a variety of different activities, such as reading through CVs and trying to choose successful candidates and presenting on a specific area of the business. I was successful at both interviews, so I accepted the GES role.



When you are successful at interview and you are offered the role, sometimes you have to accept within a specific time limit, e.g. 7 days. If you are 100% sure this is the role for you, then this is no problem, but if you’re waiting to hear back from other businesses this can feel quite daunting. Don’t be afraid to contact the hiring teams and ask if you can have extensions, as they are often more understanding than you expect. Take time to congratulate yourself for securing a placement, as it is competitive and a huge achievement.

Applying for placements can be stressful, but there is a lot of support available to you along your way, so make sure to utilise the careers service, speak to your friends and ask others who have gone through the same experience for advice. The mobility ambassadors are around to support and answer questions, as well as the placement team!


Sophie is a final year student in Economics, who completed a placement year with the Department for Work and Pensions in 2020/21. If you are interested in completing a placement between Stage 2 and Stage 3, you can find out more in the Business School UG Stage 2 Community 2021-22 on Canvas, or contact the NUBS Student Experience Team.

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