5 Big Myths about Graduate Recruitment
We’re not going to pretend the graduate recruitment market is dreamy, but research suggests that some common assumptions about the world of work are just plain wrong. You need to know the truth. Real World investigates on your behalf…
1. Your degree is enough.
Many employers ask for a 2:1 but don’t be fooled into thinking this is all you need. "A 2:1 minimum is often used as a way to reduce the number of applicants," says Tim Forster, head of resourcing media, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It is also used when an employer needs evidence of academic ability. "In some industries, employers need evidence of intellectual rigour and it’s a logical starting point," he says. "Nearly all of our recruits go through professional exams and UCAS tariffs are an indication of future success."
However he stresses that many employers regard academic prowess as a small part of the application process. At PwC, for example, a recruiter screens each application. "If we recruited on the basis of degree level, we’d just use a computer but we’re looking for examples of leadership, teamwork and commercial awareness which are usually found in extra curricular activities or work experience." In short, your degree alone will not get you a job. You need work experience too.
2. The graduate recruitment market is just too competitive
Well there’s no doubt that it is fiercely competitive, but too competitive? The level of fear is such that many graduates decide to opt-out and take a gap year or further study. Only one in five graduates surveyed in 2005 said that they planned to enter the graduate job market as soon as they had graduated. .
However, employers are saying that now is a good time to get into the job market, as vacancies in some sectors have risen. "Employers are frustrated that there seems to be a lost generation, because a relatively small percentage of students are putting themselves in the job market. While there may be good reasons not to apply for jobs the market is picking up and graduates should be aware of that," says Tim at PwC. "We spend a lot of time and energy trying to get students excited about joining the job market. But the message that this is a good time to start a career doesn’t seem to be getting across."
3. A postgrad qualification will boost your future earnings
Record numbers of finalists have been enrolling for postgraduate courses, but will they earn you a wage premium in the job market? Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, which produces The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers says there is a worrying trend towards graduates taking postgrad courses without considering how useful they will be.
"Half the graduates taking postgrads are doing it for the wrong reasons," he says. "Many see it as a way of boosting their earning potential and this is a real problem. Only about one-in-20 employers pay a premium for a postgrad degree and that has to be related to the job." He also points out that it’s a very expensive way of delaying entry into the job market, at an average cost of £10,000 a year. Tim at PwC agrees: "For most entry level jobs we wouldn’t distinguish between those who have done a further year or those straight from an undergraduate course."
4. The Private Sector is the place to go for Graduate jobs
According to careers advisers Graduate Prospects, only 27 per cent of young graduates aged 21-25 are employed in the public sector. But in recent years, the public sector has become one of the most popular career choices for graduates. According to the Highfliers survey of graduates in 2005, there has been a 57 per cent increase in applications for the police force and a 41 per cent increase in applications to the Civil Service compared with the previous year.
Erika Vally, recruitment strategy manager at the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames believes that graduates aren’t aware of the range of jobs available in the public sector. "Imagine a job and I’m pretty sure we’ve got it," she says. "We have the specialist roles like social workers and teachers but also policy officers and sorts of roles that you don’t think about immediately."
5. Graduates only join the big blue-chip employers
Actually, only about a fifth of the graduate population ends up working for big blue-chip companies. More than a quarter of graduates from 2003 are working in small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of between 10 and 250 people. And an increasing number of graduates are going into self employment (2-3 per cent).
"These options aren’t always advertised on campus or in milk-rounds, so graduates forget about them," says David Bishop, spokesman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). But the Small Business Services estimates that at the start of 2003, 99.8 per cent of the four million active businesses in the UK were SMEs. "In the past 10 years, the number of people employed by large companies has fallen and the small business community expanded," says David. A government report, Facing the Enterprise Society, predicted that there will be 4.5 million SMEs in the UK by 2010, creating two million new jobs.