Research: What students want from employers

Jul 31, 2019 | Attraction & marketing

Paul Stollery from Hype Collective shares new research on what students really want from the world of work. Be prepared to disregard any cliches.

Ask anyone their thoughts on the next generation of students readying themselves to enter the workplace and you’ll hear the same cliched replies – they’re flighty, they’d rather be socialising and they care about their morals more than their money.

Anyone who’s ever worked with students knows the first two cliches aren’t true and the third, well it’s complex.

To find out the truth we spoke to students up and down the country. And the answer was simple – first and foremost they’re looking for an opportunity.


Remaining in first jobs

Students don’t expect their first job to last for life – in fact they don’t even expect it to last three years. So you need to show why your company is the right place for them to learn their trade and that it will have the opportunities for them to progress.

This doesn’t mean your investment in graduate training will be wasted – research from the Institute of Student Employers shows that the average graduate lasts twice as long as they would expect in their first job (3.6 years). What it does mean is there’s no point showing off your lifers at open days and in interviews – far better to showcase the employees who’ve worked there a few years and made the most of the opportunities on offer.

This is especially important when you consider that most students have viewed university as a bit of a waste of money. While we think they’d rather be socialising, not a single student we surveyed said their degree offered value for money and as a result they’re now looking for opportunities to acquire the skills they need.


What about morals?

Endless research papers and conference talks tell us students will only work for companies that align with their moral compasses and will pass up great jobs at the merest whiff of a company being ‘unwoke’.

In reality? The vast majority of students cited money or how they would be treated as the number one reason why they would choose to work for a particular company. Most students didn’t rank morals in the top five reasons; in fact, many didn’t even put morals in the top ten.

This doesn’t mean students don’t care about morals – it’s just that they’re used to navigating a complex world where not everyone agrees. Chaos is the new normal for this generation and as long as they’re not asked to compromise their personal beliefs in pursuit of their work or mistreat people, graduates aren’t going to bat an eyelid at a difference of opinion.


Mental health

While they may not be led by ethics, one area students are rightfully focused on is mental health in the workplace. Around two-thirds of students we spoke to said that they would be ‘significantly more likely’ to want to work for a company that had a ‘public and transparent’ mental health policy.

But, employers can’t take this desire for transparency as justification for asking students about their mental health in an interview. A full 75% said they wouldn’t be comfortable discussing the topic in an interview as they believe it would make an employer less likely to hire them.

For employers, the right approach to discussing mental health with potential recruits is clear – be open and honest about the policies you have in place and leave the personal questions at home.

What does all of this mean for employers considering their next graduate intake? In a nutshell: be transparent – about the opportunities you have to offer students, about what your company stands for and about the policies you have in place to let them thrive to the best of their ability. Do these three things and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Want to learn more? Check out the full report here.

For more ISE research and insights visit our knowledge hub.

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