Careers Advice

Ask The Expert Queen Margaret University

We continue our series where we ask the careers experts to share their knowledge and expertise about successful graduate placements. This week we hear from Marion Pollock, careers adviser at Queen Margaret University.

Published: 15/12/2017

Marion Pollock QMU Careers Adviser


What’s the most important thing to look for in a graduate placement?

Look for a placement that offers good opportunities for you to contribute and make a difference to the business. The project you work on is key; ensure you choose a placement that interests you as this will allow you to shine.

When searching for the right graduate placement, look for opportunities around you to boost your skills, to network, to build your confidence – putting yourself in a stronger position to get a permanent graduate job.

Why would you recommend a ScotGrad placement?

ScotGrad’s application process gives an insight into how employers recruit graduates and how to present yourself to an employer. This, in itself, is an invaluable experience as preparation for graduate employment.

Furthermore, ScotGrad is a reputable provider of student and graduate placements. We’ve had great feedback from our QMU graduates who have done placements, many of whom have gone on to secure permanent graduate jobs afterwards.

One of the great things about ScotGrad is that placements are offered in small to medium sized organisations. This gives graduates the opportunity to get really involved and learn about all aspects of the business. This is brilliant experience for your CV and a fantastic opportunity for you to make your mark.

What’s your top tip for tailoring applications?

Be very clear on what’s required in the placement and present your application in a way which makes it easy for someone to see instantly how you fit the bill. Well worded, focused headings are helpful as they act as signposts to all the essential information. Place emphasis onto those aspects of your experience that are most relevant to the role and describe them with the job requirements in mind. 

It’s a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter and imagine that you have limited time to sift through a pile of applications for this role. The application that stands out is the one that speaks directly to the reader.

How can a candidate stand out during an interview with an SME?

Do your homework on the organisation and be keen to find out more. Show that you’ve thought about the role and imagined yourself in it. Be prepared to demonstrate, by example, how you’ve developed the skills they’re looking for and be able to draw on lots of varied experiences. 

Talk about what you’ve learnt during your time at university and any specific skills that you can bring into the organisation and to the project you will be working on. Showing that you are prepared to ‘muck in’ will also help you to stand out. Your willingness to be flexible and get involved in all aspects of the business will be appreciated in a smaller organisation which may not employ many staff.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

Ask for advice. Be proactive in seeking the opinions of others, whether it concerns an application, career decision or issue within a job. The more you reach out to people the more you learn, gain insight and are better placed to make good decisions. Asking questions and asking for advice get you noticed too!


Graduate placements with ScotGrad are available throughout the year. If you’re interested in ScotGrad check out our current placements on offer and register for updates.