Do you know your graduate scheme from your internships? Career terms explained

Whether you’re looking for an internship, trying to find part-time work, or just starting your first job, you might find there are a lot of terms out there that you’ve never heard of before. So we’ve come to the rescue with this handy guide to some of the main terms you may come across when it comes to the world of work.

Job Hunting

Graduate Market (Labour Market) – This is a broad term used to mean everything to do with how many graduate jobs are out there, what employers are looking for, what recruitment trends there are and so on. So the staff here in the Careers & Enterprise Centre are all very knowledgeable on the Graduate Labour Market.

Jobs Board – Employers usually pay or approach companies to advertise positions on these sites. You can navigate the collection of roles on offer by specifying in the search box what it is that you’re looking for. Alternatively you can search industry specific job boards for a more streamlined search. Jobs boards are sometimes responsible for forwarding applications to employers or you may just be redirected to the employer’s website.

Graduate Job – These are positions aimed at recent graduates (i.e. those who have a degree). Often the word ‘graduate’ will be in the job title, if not in the job description.

Graduate Scheme – A structured recruitment and training programme used by large employers. Will often involve a competitive selection process, followed by a set training scheme which will fast-track graduates into management roles.

SMEs – Small to medium-sized enterprises. Often overlooked, these companies make up most of the private sector and offer the highest amount of vacancies for graduates. The roles advertised through QTemps and QInterns are often with SMEs.

Recruitment Agency – Paid by employers to handle the recruitment process. They screen applicants and assist the employers’ recruitment team. They contact registered candidates when suitable vacancies arise and keep in touch with them throughout the process. You can register with an agency to get help with your job search. Look for those who are members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederacy.

Temping – Working for an employer on a short-term basis, maybe to help on a specific project or to cover maternity leave/holidays.


Assessment Day/Centre – A common part of the selection process for recruiters, this usually involves a day or half day where a number of candidates go to an allocated place to take part in certain tasks. This can include an interview, a presentation, group exercises, written and computer tests and other exercises.

Psychometric tests – A term for the variety of different tests employers can use in the recruitment process, including verbal and numerical reasoning, situational judgement and spatial reasoning.

Case study – A scenario will be presented to you and you will need to make a recommendation or decision based on all the information given. For example, a business might be considering relocating, you will be given information on various choices for the new premises site and you will have to make a recommendation.

E-Tray Exercise – An example of a type of test you might have to do at an interview or assessment day. Usually, you would be given lots of different types of documents (emails, phone messages, reports etc) and will have to organise the material and write emails or a report in response. This tests your ability to organise and prioritise a work load.

Competency Interview/Questions – ‘Can you tell me a time when you…’ This type of question is based on the idea that if you have demonstrated a certain competency in the past (like leadership or teamwork) you will be able to do it again in the future.


OTE – On Target Earnings. Let’s say a job ad mentions a salary package of ‘£30k OTE’. Part of that £30k is base salary and part is the bonus paid if a particular sales target is reached. So the base salary may only be £15k and the rest is your bonus only if your targets are met.

Commission based – You will get paid based directly on your performance (e.g. how students 4many items of product you sell) rather than how many hours you work.

NMW – National Minimum Wage. It is illegal for an employer to play you less than this.

London Weighting – An extra amount of money paid on top of your normal salary if you are working in London. This is done because the cost of living in London is so high. Common in the public sector.

ph – per hour. E.g £7 ph means you will get £7 for every hour you work.

Per annum – This is your salary per year prior to tax. Per annum pro rata relates to part-time work. So, if a job pays £30k per annum this is your salary for working full-time hours for a year; if it is pro rata this £30k would be less depending on the actual hours you work (so say £15k or £20k depending on the hours you work).

PAYE – Pay As You Earn. This is a tax that will be taken off your pay every month.

NI – National Insurance. A contribution to certain benefits like a State Pension, this also gets taken out of your pay every month. You need to have an NI number in order to be taxed properly.

Pay slip – Your pay slip will detail what your pay was for the month/week, together with what money has been deducted in taxes, national insurance or sickness.

Starting Work

Probation period – Often for the first 3 or 6 months of your new job, this is when your employer is assessing your performance and conduct to make sure they are happy with your work. Passing your probation period can sometimes mean an increase in salary or benefits.

CC/BCC – Seen on emails. CC stands for ‘Carbon Copy’ and is used when you send an email to one person but other people might be interested in what is being said. BCC = ‘Blind Carbon Copy’ and used similarly as above but keeps the BCC person hidden from all other recipients of the email.

Pension scheme – Money is taken out of your salary each month to put into a pension (like a savings account) which you can then access when you retire. Most employers will contributes a certain amount to the scheme too, often a percentage of what you put in.

Extension – Refers to the last four digits of a person’s phone number at work. So when contacting a colleague within your work place, instead of having to dial a whole phone number (020 7882 8533) you would just dial the last four numbers (8533).

Annual Leave (A/L) – this is the amount of holiday time you are allowed every year.

TOIL – Time Off In Lieu. If you do some extra hours at work, you will be entitled to either get paid for this (overtime) or get those same hours as time off.

Agenda/Minutes – An agenda is written before a meeting detailing what topics will be discussed at what time and for how long, as well as details like who will attend the meeting and where it will take place. Minutes record, in brief, what was said at the meeting and any action points that need to be taken by people.



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