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Applying for the Cancer Research UK Graduate Scheme

Emily graduated from Cardiff in 2017 with a BA (Hons) in English Literature and tells us more about applying and succeeding on Cancer Research UK’s graduate scheme.


When I told people that I’d be studying English Literature, they assumed that I was planning to become a teacher or work in publishing – both great options, but not routes that I could see myself going down. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my degree, but as soon as I began studying at Cardiff, I started taking up as many work experience opportunities as I could to work out what sort of job I’d like to pursue after graduation.


I started researching and applying to lots of graduate schemes in PR, advertising and media in the September of my final year, as this is when companies typically start opening applications for places on their schemes starting the following summer. I still wasn’t set on a specific career path, but I researched each company and applied if I thought I could see myself there. I used a lot of grad job websites like and Milkround to find opportunities, and this is where I found the Cancer Research UK scheme.

Cancer Research recruits annually for its two-year graduate placement scheme. As well as Technology, they offer placements in Research and Innovation, Fundraising and Marketing, Human Resources and Finance amongst other options. Although I didn’t have a tech-based degree, I’d had experience helping with digital projects whilst working as part of student media at Cardiff, so I put myself forward for the Technology scheme.

The application process

The initial application was quite simple. I was asked to submit a CV, cover letter, and answer questions about my interest in Cancer Research UK, my strengths and achievements, my interest in technology and my predictions for the future of the industry – nothing too heavy! The next stage was a Skype interview with a senior member of the tech team and one of the current graduate recruits. The final stage of the process was a graduate recruitment day in Cancer Research UK’s London office. There were six candidates for the technology position, and after an icebreaker, we were split into two groups and given a problem to solve between us and then present back to our interviewers. After this, I had a more traditional interview with a panel of three senior members of the technology department. I had no idea how it had gone, but I found out a week later that they were offering me the job!


Whatever you are studying, I would encourage you to apply for one of Cancer Research UK’s graduate schemes. As well as the job satisfaction of working for a brilliant cause, the graduate scheme itself is structured to help you achieve the best of your potential. Because it’s a rolling scheme, the graduates from previous intakes act as mentors, able to answer any questions that you may have, no matter how small! We also get involved in helping with the hiring process, so if you spot me at a graduate recruitment fair then be sure to say hello!


5 Tips for Graduate Job Hunting

  1. Keep a record – with so many applications being sent out, it’s easy to lose track. Being the nerd that I am, I had an excel spreadsheet to track all the graduate schemes I’d applied for and where I’d got to with each one.
  2. Broaden your horizons – be prepared to think outside the box when you start your job hunt. I hadn’t considered working at a charity before I started researching graduate schemes but now I can’t wait to start my new job!
  3. Don’t be put off by rejection – I was turned down for several jobs at different parts of the application process. The best thing you can do is ask for feedback, as it will help you strengthen future applications.
  4. Use LinkedIn – LinkedIn is great for you to showcase all your work experience and skills for potential employers and a place to put all the detail that you couldn’t fit on a CV of one or two pages. There is also a great job search function.
  5. Graduate schemes aren’t the be all and end all – although grad schemes get all the hype, companies of all sizes, including Cancer Research UK, also hire graduates to fill entry level positions, so keep an eye out for opportunities of this type.



Your feedback and help please

Have you found this blog post useful?  Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and  if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.

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Best wishes,

Emily, Cardiff University graduate and Cancer Research UK Graduate Trainee 

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