Graduate recruitment squeezes candidates and employers

This year’s milk-round is getting tougher. New research from Oleeo and Universum suggests graduates are both chasing fewer jobs and applying for more roles, putting pressure on recruiters.

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A new report, The Must-Know Student Recruitment Trends in the UK for 2019, launched today finds candidates on average apply for graduate schemes with 29 different UK employers.  The study by Oleeo, a global talent acquisition software provider, in collaboration with employer branding consultancy, Universum, reviewed anonymous application data from 3.8 million candidates applying to graduate programmes across the finance, government, professional services, advertising, engineering and retail industries. 

Graduate recruitment in numbers

Companies within the financial and professional services sectors attract over 250,000 applications and other sectors typically receiving applications from 50,000 graduates.The report’s findings also suggest competition is not just tougher for the recruiter, but also candidates.Three-quarters of students are interested in graduate programmes. However, only 1% of graduates applying for schemes within finance, advertising and professional services and major retailers were hired in 2018. This is down from 2% the previous year.

Graduate recruitment declines

According to Oleeo, this drop is in part due 2017 seeing the first fall in graduate recruitment in five years (4.9%) and the biggest since 2009. With fewer graduate jobs to go for, graduates are applying for more than twice as many positions compared with 10 years ago in the hope of increasing their chances of being hired.Charles Hipps, founder and CEO at Oleeo, comments: “As the chances of reaching the offer stage falls and the number of places available on most graduate schemes decreases, it is clear that graduates are becoming worried about their future prospects. It’s no wonder that many are responding to this by increasing the number of roles they apply for. This is creating a big challenge for recruiters – who are facing larger volumes of applications to deal with.

Smarter recruitment practices

Mr Hipps continues: “This has left employers in a race against time; they must not only go through all of these applications to find the right quality talent who will fit with their business, but they must secure these graduates ahead of everyone else. Intelligent Selection is key here. That means smart recruitment systems that not only score and screen applicants but can also enable employers to ensure candidates are kept engaged and nurtured during the end-to-end application process.”Claes Peyron, MD at Universum, Nordics and UK, agrees: “When the percentages being hired are so small, candidates will naturally lean towards the first offer they receive – accepting it while they consider their other options – again making companies vulnerable to reneging. To avoid this it is vital that companies are at the top of their recruitment game in terms of how they deal with candidates; every touch point needs to be right.”

Is graduate recruitment becoming more inclusive?

Oleeo’s research highlights some areas where employers could easily make improvements. Nearly a third (30%) of all graduates abandon the recruitment process mid-application after finding it too lengthy.Yet it finds graduate recruiters are making progress in other areas. The gender gap has closed significantly – 58% of all graduate scheme hires were male versus 42% female in 2018. This compares to 69% male and 31% female the previous year.The public sector is the best performer, achieving 50/50 gender equality. The engineering, retail and advertising sectors are still struggling with gender bias – with 70% of graduate scheme places going to men.Race equality has also improved, with the proportion of black candidates being hired doubling over the past 12 months. However, this group does still only accounts for 6% of total hires. Applicants reporting an Asian heritage saw a rise in hire rates in 2018, increasing from 13% to 16%.  

Room for improvement in graduate recruitment

Mr Hipps concludes: “It is fantastic to see some of these numbers change so dramatically over the space of a year. That said, there is still plenty of room for improvement."The introduction of innovative technology within the recruitment space has played a massive role in facilitating this diversity shift – and there’s a lot more still to come."I foresee even bigger changes over the next few years in terms of attracting, engaging and securing top talent, as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data continue to open up new possibilities for proactive recruiters.”

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