Insights and tips from offer holders

The Careers Service ran Offer Holders panels in early May, and many thanks fall to the 20+ students who shared their experiences and insights on application processes, how they prepared and what they learned from their own applications.

An alternative title for the panels is ‘Get Ahead in …’ and we focused on four sectors that tend to have very early application deadlines: banking, consulting, law, and the public sector. In these sectors, full-time graduate vacancies for finalists can open as early as July, and often close by 2nd or 3rd week of Michaelmas term.

It takes time to research, plan and execute an effective job search, so starting early and using the summer well can be essential to making enough high-quality applications to be successful. This post summarises the key insights and suggestions provided, and can help everyone this summer and into the autumn recruitment season to improve their confidence, clarity and chances for a successful outcome.

Essential ideas for all and any sectors

  • You are not alone. There are many people that would be happy to support you.
    • Start with friends / fellow students in colleges and departments to learn from people who have already been through similar processes.
    • Join relevant societies and work with others interested in similar sectors or roles: share your research / ideas / contacts.
    • Make a difference for members or clients by organising events, or joining the committee leadership roles to further enhance your skillset and visibility.
  • Do the things you are interested in – it does not have to be work or sector relevant!
    • Extra-curricular activities can be invaluable to broaden your skills and experience, and to help you be distinctive in your CV stand out.
    • Volunteering, supporting RAG or College fundraising, community projects or admissions outreach are all valuable.
  • No internship or work this summer? No problem! Create your own project; do some self-directed learning; participate in a competition; do a virtual work experience programme (e.g., The Forage website has extended case studies created by leading firms that offer 5-6 hour ‘typical’ work tasks, as a safe space to gain sector specific insights and relevant experience). 
  • Quality counts: A strong application takes time and commitment at each and every step.
  • Pace yourself:
    • Start early and get on top of dates and deadlines.
    • Apply when you are ready, not ‘on the deadline’ especially when it is “rolling recruitment” and applications are evaluated as they arrive.
    • Do a little and often to build momentum and confidence.
  • Use the Careers Service:
    • Attend talks and workshops, and plan time to join the career fairs. Use Career Weaver to understand your skills and strengths.
    • Ahead of any interviews practise your responses and record yourself on your mobile phone – it is incredibly useful to see how you are coming across.
    • Read our guide on networking to help demystify the process.
  • Read our essential guides to Sectors and Occupations of interest, which provide information on the sector, the skills required, how to build experience and highlight valubale additional resources.

Banking and Investment 

  • Join and actively engage (become a committee member, attend events, take any training offered) with relevant societies such as CapitOx Finance and Consulting Society, Oxford Finance Society, Oxford Alpha Fund and The Oxford Guild Business Society, etc.
  • Research early work experience opportunities e.g.: Spring weeks, Insight days and also ask for advice from students in the years above you.
  • Take time to research and write your applications; competition is fierce and firms have high expectations (just like your tutors!)
  • Network as much as possible during any recruitment events, spring weeks/internships. Get to know your potential future peers. Be engaged, be curious about the work and the organisation, and ask questions.


  • Participate in Careers Service’s The Oxford Strategy Challenge (TOSCA) as a first taste of consulting work.
  • Get involved with student-led societies such as CapitOx Finance and Consulting Society and The Oxford Guild Business Society, for information, networking with alumni, training and hands-on consulting roles.
  • You can learn to do Consulting Case Study Interviews well, but start early and practice, practice, and practice. There are many online resources available, including career pages on company websites and YouTube, but practice aloud and with others: attend workshops run by companies; the Careers Service; and student societies (which may also run buddy schemes for practice).


  • Make connections with Oxford alumni (using LinkedIn or College networks) working in the legal sector to get a first hand view on what day to life is like as a lawyer and why they think their firms/chambers are different. Most solicitors and barristers post email addresses on their firm/chambers websites.
  • FT News briefing – a ten-minute podcast available each weekday covering the key global news stories was particularly useful for improving commercial awareness.
  • Go beyond the graduate recruitment pages of the firms’ websites to read about their views on issues as they affect them and their clients. Clifford Chance’s YouTube channel and Thought Leadership articles were mentioned and these were referred to during interview.
  • Join any of the student law societies at Oxford to attend events and learn more about the profession, such as the Oxford Law Society and the Oxford Commercial Law Society.

Public Sector, including Civil Service 

  • Understand the core values in the Civil Service Code (Integrity, Honesty, Objectivity, and Impartiality) and reflect on how you can demonstrate your alignment and commitment to these.
  • Reach out to alumni – they have been incredibly supportive.
  • Use the Careers Service: read the Government and Public Service briefing, attend public sector and policy related talks, application workshops, and one-to-one support, all of which are valuable.