Job-hunting problems


job security

I have a 2.2 and all the employers I've looked at want a 2.1

Many of the large, high-profile graduate recruiters do look for a 2.1. These recruiters receive many thousands of applications and use degree classification as a way in which they can keep numbers down to a more manageable level.

Employers in the finance and legal sectors are always popular choices for graduates and almost always look for high academic standards. The blue-chip, household name recruiters, such as oil companies and food manufacturers, are also likely to impose a 2.1 requirement in order to limit the applications they receive.

However, plenty of graduate training schemes are open to graduates with a 2.2 (although a 2.1 or above will obviously do your application no harm). These include many public sector employers, such as the NHS, the Audit Commission, HM Revenue and Customs and the Civil Service Fast Stream. Other employers which have specified a 2.2 minimum in the pastincluded AWE, Centrica, EDS, Network Rail and Toyota to name just a few.

For a list of employers that will accept a 2:2 see here (campus only link)

Other graduate programmes which rarely specify a degree class are those in which good people skills have priority: these include the armed forces, the police, social and probation work, retail, logistics and teaching.

“Graduate training schemes” in fact only represent a small proportion of the graduate job market. Most graduates, whatever their class of degree, will join smaller/medium-sized organisations (SMEs) which tend to be more willing to look at all parts of graduates' applications. See

Several years ago I interviewed a Theology graduate who had just been awarded a 3rd class degree. He was a bit despondent about this but had a really pleasant outgoing personality and a conscientious attitude to everything he did.

A few months later I was shopping in Debenhams when I bumped into him. He was really happy. His manager had been so impressed with his hard work, cheerful demeanor, his desire to go out of his way to help customers, keenness to learn and positive attitude to even the most routine tasks that she had had no hesitation in putting his name forward for the company management training scheme.

SMEs also include many media organisations, such as publishers, public relations agencies and production companies. Here, relevant experience is more important than degree class – someone who has edited the student newspaper or run the student radio station will be of more interest than someone who has a 2.1 but a much lower level of practical experience
Finally, people with outstanding skills and experience should not be put off applying for graduate employers that do normally look for a 2.1 – but your additional qualities really do have to be outstanding. If you have run your own business, held a sabbatical post or set up a community project in Outer Mongolia , contact the graduate recruitment department directly, let them know what you have to offer and ask to be considered. Not only your experience but also your confidence and assertiveness will make a positive impression!

I only have 240 (or fewer) UCAS points and employers all want at least 280 …

UCAS points may, like class of degree, simply be used as a way to cut down the numbers of applications still further. In some cases, there are stronger reasons: chartered accountancy firms have found over many years that A-level grades are a very strong predictor of success in professional exams and therefore look for a high points score.

It isn't usually worthwhile retaking A-levels during or after a degree, as employers will only consider the results from your first sitting.

If there were good reasons why you didn't do as well as you should have done in your exams (illness, bereavement, etc), make sure that employers are aware of these.

If your results have improved substantially while at University, it is still worth trying these employers. Recruiters are usually impressed by first-class degrees, provided that you also have all the general skills and competencies that will help you to do the job.

Outstanding skills or experience in other areas (such as gap year, vacation or part-time work and posts of responsibility at university) can also help you to be considered. If you feel that you have got something extra to offer, it is worth contacting the graduate recruitment department directly and asking to be considered on these grounds. Not only your experience but also your confidence and assertiveness may make a positive impression!

Again, employers in retail, logistics, the media and the public sector don't normally select on A-level grades.

I have a criminal record

There are so many different types of crimes, convictions and sentences that you should really seek individual advice from a careers adviser or from any other individual with knowledge of the criminal justice system or of the area in which you hope to work.

In a survey of employers in the United States 98% of all survey participants made comments that applicants with a criminal history must be honest about the situation to prevent HR from finding the issues on a background check later.

An applicant was filling out a job application.

When he came to the question, "Have you ever been arrested?" He answered, "No."

The next question, intended for people who had answered in the affirmative to the last one, was "Why?"

The applicant answered it anyway: "Never got caught."

The following information sources may be useful starting points:

DBS checks (previously CRB checks)

Employers are required by law to undertake appropriate checks on staff and potential staff, both paid employees and volunteers, whose work may bring them into contact with children and vulnerable adults. These checks may also be carried out by employers recruiting for positions of trust or where staff regularly work unsupervised.

These checks, formerly carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau and therefore referred to as ‘CRB checks’ are (in England and Wales) now the responsibility of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formed from the merger of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority. CRB checks are now officially known as DBS checks.

For further information about the DBS, and how these checks are carried out, see

There are three types of DBS check:


Roles where these checks are used include: part-time or supervised staff and volunteers working with children or vulnerable adults or who have access to sensitive records about these groups and ancillary and support roles in education, health and social care.


For a full outline of these checks, and who needs to go through them, see

Employers should only arrange a DBS check on a successful job applicant. They can withdraw a job offer if the results show anything that would make the applicant unsuitable.

How to apply:

To apply for any type of Disclosure, you will need to complete an application form (which the employer will give you) and provide documents to confirm your identity

Individuals cannot apply for a DBS check on themselves.

When you apply for a DBS certificate you can also register for the Update Service. This registration lasts for one year and costs £13 per year.  It provides you with an online account that lets you keep your certificate up to date so that it can be used if you move between jobs or volunteer roles or are involved in more than one role. It also allows you to permit employers to check your certificate online. See for full details and to register.

Overseas applicants and UK applicants who lived abroad

If you are from another country, or have lived abroad for prolonged periods, the employer can ask you to get a criminal records check or ‘Certificate of Good Character’ from your country of origin.

Processes for getting criminal records checks from abroad vary between countries – see for details

Other types of criminal records check

Although current legislation does not allow individuals to apply for a Criminal Records Bureau check on themselves, if you are asked to provide a “criminal record check” by an organisation that is not registered with the DBS (perhaps one that is based outside the UK, such as a language school) a Basic Disclosure or a police check is often acceptable.

Basic Disclosure

This contains only convictions considered unspent under The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Anyone can apply for a basic disclosure in their own name. This might be requested for a new job, volunteer work or to support a visa application.
Apply online via This costs £25. You will be required to supply copies of at least three documents which confirm your identity, such as passport, driving licence or utility bill.

Police checks

If you require a visa (residential, working or tourist) or wish to emigrate to Australia; Canada; New Zealand; South Africa or the United States of America, you will need to obtain a Police Certificate, which will show any convictions, warnings, reprimands and cautions recorded on UK Police Systems. This is provided through the Association of Chief Police Officers.  Anyone who has lived in the UK for any length of time, regardless of nationality, can apply for this certificate. The cost is £45 or £80, depending on how quickly you need to get your certificate. For full details and application forms, see 

Other countries may accept the above certificate but you can also ask your local police force to check whether anything is held on their computer system about you. This is known as a subject access request. The police check is not a criminal records check: it will either provide a certificate stating that there is currently no information held about you on the national police computer or it will provide a list of convictions.

There are three possible ways of obtaining the form. You can write/telephone the force involved and they will post one out to you; if you are outside the UK you can ask a friend or relative to collect one from the local police station in the force area concerned; or some forces may have the form on their website that you can download.

The cost of one of these types of checks is £10


Last fully revised 2013