If you have judgement and can make things happen, get your application in now

It was during January's vicious cold snap that Vodafone noticed a huge spike in applicants to its 2010 graduate recruitment scheme. In the week that the snow knocked the rest of the country sideways, several hundred eager applicants were spurred into action. They weren't the only ones who had the idea: this year, according to Vodafone's head of human resources, Matthew Brearley, they will have been joined by more than 2,500 other hopefuls by the time applications close at the end of January.

"I reckon it was a combination of the snow and the new year – students are starting to think about what they will be doing come September when they graduate," says Brearley, who is in overall charge of the programme.

Vodafone is a big graduate recruiter, and various departments – legal, technology and finance – have been running their own graduate traineeships for several years. This, though, is the first time for a while that the company has organised a business graduate scheme. There are 50 spots, making competition for places fierce, but those who are successful will have a real opportunity to get a broad grounding in what corporate life is all about.

Graduates can expect a healthy starting salary of £25,000. Initially, it's a 12-month scheme, broken down into three parts. First, there's a two-month stay on the shop floor in one of the 400-odd stores. "Doing this right at the start will ground you in Vodafone's reality," says Brearley.

The rest is made up of two equal stays in two very different branches of the business. You could end up in marketing, research and development, human resources or finance – anywhere in the organisation, in fact. These are real jobs, too: candidates are not having their hands held, and they will not be marking time.

They will be getting training, learning about the telecoms industry, and developing their "core skills" throughout their year. Most of the graduates will be based at the Newbury headquarters, but certain placements could be at other UK locations. And, as it's a global company, successful candidates could find themselves working abroad after the initial year.

"At the end of 12 months, we'll be taking on as many people as we believe are cut out to succeed in the organisation," says Brearley. So, the ball is in every candidate's court. "I'm looking for three qualities: judgement, drive and impact. In other words, have they got it upstairs, have they got the will to succeed, and can they make their ideas work?

"Vodafone offers a world of opportunity and a working environment at the cutting edge of technological and social change," he enthuses. The perks are certainly abundant, with a bonus scheme, share options and medical insurance, as well as 28 days' holiday.

The third-largest mobile phone company in Britain, Vodafone has the largest revenue of all worldwide – serving more than 323 million customers. With more than 79,000 employees internationally, the sky is probably the limit in terms of career progression.

"We're looking for capable, web-savvy, 'change-agent' style people," says Brearley. "We're constantly trying to bring in talent to drive the success of the business. The world is changing around us, and we want to be able to change with it."

Graduate scheme: The low-down

* How to apply: Information and application forms for all graduate schemes are at http://careers.vodafone.co.uk/. The closing date for applications is tomorrow, 31 January.

* How long is the scheme? Twelve months, broken into two months' retail experience, and two longer periods on secondment to different Vodafone departments. There is no guarantee you'll be taken on at the end, but places aren't limited.

* Pay and the prospects? You'll get £25,000, with great prospects.

* Training: Extensive and in various corporate disciplines.

* Perks? Twenty-eight days' holiday come as standard, though the majority of these are pre-set for your first 12 months. The company offers a range of other benefits.

* Entry requirements? You'll need a minimum 2:1 degree, and there will be aptitude and attitude tests to help screen the hundreds of hopefuls.