5 things employers should know about today’s graduates

Apr 28, 2021 | Attraction & marketing

What really matters to graduates when it comes to their first job? Ben Triggs from Bright Network shares their latest research.

The past year has been like no other for students and recent graduates – youth unemployment is high, graduates’ career confidence is low and the future of the workplace has changed rapidly.

To provide some insight on what really matters to graduates when it comes to their first job and employer, Bright Network has just released its latest annual research What do graduates want? 2021/22. Based on 15,158 respondents, it covers confidence, ambitions and concerns as well as the importance of wellbeing, diversity and supporting social mobility for today’s future job seekers.

We look at five key insights from the findings that can help employers define their future graduate recruitment and engagement strategies.


1. We need to do more to encourage talent from all backgrounds

Confidence across the student population about securing a graduate job has dropped to 39% compared to 49% in early 2020. This decline is amplified when considering school background, with only 32% of state educated university students feeling confident compared to 42% from their privately schooled counterparts.

One clear reason for this is that privately educated university students are more likely to participate in formal internships (one-third compared to a quarter educated at a non-selective state school) and the pandemic has increased this gap.

The majority (77%) of students say they’ve found it harder to connect with employers over the last year, so students that don’t have a network around them are increasingly struggling to access leading employers and therefore not building their confidence about going into graduate schemes in highly competitive sectors.


2. Upskilling is key to graduate recruitment strategies

Career support throughout university is key to supporting more graduates into careers and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to flourish in their early career. With only 42% of students saying that they feel prepared to enter the world of work, there’s definitely more that can be done and this gives employers an excellent opportunity to build their brand, engage students throughout university and become a desirable employer.

The majority (95%) of students are looking to graduate employers to support them with their skills development during university. Students are also shifting their focus, with a view that coding is now the most desirable route to a secure and well paid career – with one in five (from one in 10 last year) believing they should have a strong grasp before entering the working world.

3. Current students aren’t clear on what employers are looking for

It’s not just core skills where employers can have an impact to driving higher quality applications, as there’s a clear disconnect between what graduates think employers are looking for and what employers actually say they are looking for.

In the table below, you can see that students believe employers most value existing industry experience and a university of 2:1 or above (on the left), which in reality aren’t that important for employers (on the right). They are more focused on the candidate’s passion for the business and core transferable skills, which can be demonstrated from all kinds of experience.

Both problem solving and resilience are skills which employers really value but for students they don’t see them as the key skills they need to be demonstrating. This education piece is so important for employers to start seeing improved applications from graduates, as well as not putting great potential candidates off because they haven’t done a formal internship.


4. Diversity and inclusion is essential across the student population

It’s been often stated how important it is to the students population to be an inclusive employer and the latest research shows just how impactful this can be. Across the 15,158 surveyed, 92% of students will at least consider an employers commitment to diversity and inclusion before applying, with almost half saying it’s something they actively research.

Getting buy-in from across the business around inclusivity is vital to having an authentic message for today’s graduates. Many employers are currently enacting positive change within their culture and ways of working – talking to students about what’s happening in the space and being open about what you still plan to do will help you come across as an employer of choice.


5. Graduates want to come into the office

Students are enthusiastic about being in the office environment with 94% stating that they wanted at least some time on site per week in their graduate role.

There are social aspects to this, with young people wanting to connect with others in the office after potentially moving location to take a role. However, talking to Bright Network members, there’s an overwhelming sense they are most worried about missing out on the ad hoc learning experiences you find in the office environment, such as by observing senior figures and role models at work.

As businesses make decisions about their future workplace and policies on remote working, the next generation and their ability to grow in their early career does need to be factored in.

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