Just published: major study of the changing graduate recruitment practices of UK employers

IES News

6 Nov 2015

IES’s major study of the changing graduate recruitment practices of UK employers for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been published today. Working in partnership with the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, the Institute undertook in-depth interviews with over 100 employers and stakeholders across a range of sectors, a literature review, and analysis of existing quantitative data on graduate outcomes.

The research shows how the key challenge facing employers appears to be how to attract the right volume and the right type of applicants into the candidate pool. Some employers fail to attract sufficient applicants in specific skill areas or more generally due to a lack of ‘visibility’ or strong brand in the graduate recruitment market; whereas others are overwhelmed with applicants and face challenges sifting through the volume in a fair and efficient manner. Employers are not only troubled by quantity but also concerned about the quality of applicants they encountered. Although happy with the graduates they recruit they worry about the paucity of inter-personal skills, attitudes to work and workplace behaviour, and career management skills of some graduates.

In dealing with quantity and quality challenge employers are using a range of tactics. They are: looking at alternative sources of supply, engaging with students earlier in their higher education journey through work experience, targeting recruitment effort at specific universities, and attempting to harness social networks. Employers are trying to reach out to and keep the ‘best’ (from their context) candidates ahead of the competition (as we move from recession to a tightening labour market) in the most cost effective means.  Such actions by employers may be changing entry routes and the transition into graduate work which have implications for students, universities and careers professionals.

Ten key messages from the research are:

  1. The labour market for graduates is diverse and competitive for both employers and students
  2. Generic and employability skills really do matter to graduate employers
  3. Graduate recruitment is only one of several entry ‘streams’ into organisations
  4. Attracting the ‘right’ applicants is often the biggest challenge facing graduate employers
  5. Graduate employers can ‘target’ universities to support recruitment in several useful ways
  6. Selection practices need to balance validity, fairness and efficiency
  7. Work experience is a key component of recruitment strategy
  8. Social networks and informal processes can highlight work opportunities
  9. Graduate employers have varied responses to diversity and social inclusion agendas
  10. A range of competing drivers influence employer graduate recruitment practices

Link pointerRead the full report and the supplementary evidence report