Education News

Finding the Right Fit: Graduates in Pole Position

The 2018 gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey gauges the temperature of the graduate recruitment market in terms of what employers are paying, what skills are in demand, what recruitment methods are most common and much more.

The gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey 2018 was published earlier this year and is based upon a survey of 104 graduate employers, ranging in size from multinational corporations to small-to-medium sized enterprises. The survey was carried out between December 2017 and March 2018 and was conducted by our research partners, trendence. In addition to asking about salaries, the survey also obtained the views of employers in relation to ’employability’ skills, that unique mix of achievement and experience that today’s graduate recruiter is looking for. It also surveyed the graduate recruitment landscape in terms of the challenges that lie ahead for employers as economic growth continues, placing demands upon recruiters and HR teams to source the right talent in a time of greatly increased competition.

More graduates are being recruited

Maintaining the trend established in recent years, business confidence continues to grow, and this is resulting in more graduates being hired. In a noticeable increase from last year, 78% of the graduate employers surveyed said that they planned to recruit more graduates this year due to growth in business, up from 49% last year. There is also an increased strategic focus on graduate recruitment as the preferred means to build talent pipelines in organisations, cited as the reason for increased graduate hires by 49% of participants this year (up from 36% last year).

The average number of graduates recruited into companies during 2018, across all sectors and geographies, was 34. Employers surveyed expect this to increase to an average intake of 36 this year. Only 14% of employers surveyed planned to recruit fewer graduates. For those who were planning to recruit fewer graduates, it is interesting to note the improvement in retention rates as a factor in this, cited as the reason for recruiting less graduates by 38% (up from 16% last year). A focus on retention has been a theme for HR and L&D teams in recent years and attractive packages are often put together by employers with a focus on retaining top graduate talent at the end of their graduate programme and beyond.

The challenges facing employers

Almost half (49%) of employers said that they were expecting challenges when it came to filling their graduate vacancies, up from 44% last year. Like previous years, there were a wide range of factors which employers cited when asked what these challenges were or were likely to be in the next recruitment cycle. Employers surveyed for this year’s report could choose multiple factors in their responses. A total of 82% said that the main competition for graduate talent would come from competitor organisations within their sector, while 56% said that they would face a challenge for top talent from employers outside their sector of business. This highlights the fierce level of competition in graduate recruitment, especially in areas with identified skills shortages (see below).

38% of graduate employers reported that their recruitment challenges centred on the lack of relevant qualifications amongst graduates; and 36% identified a lack of the right skills. A further 18% said that they were finding that graduate salaries were not competitive enough while 16% said that the graduates they were seeking wanted to work abroad.

Skills requirements

When asked to identify the skills that graduate recruits need to succeed in the workplace, employers surveyed were able to select multiple responses in their answers, enabling us to create a ranked list of skills for work that students and graduates can seek to build.

For the third year running, communication skills (49%) were cited as the most common skills deficit that employers were encountering in fresh grads. Managing their own learning (35%) was the next most common while 30% of employers identified a lack of flexibility and confidence as being major shortfalls. Other soft skill areas identified by a significant percentage of employers as areas of concern included independent working (27%), motivation (26%), leadership (22%) and problem solving (21%). Students who can develop these skills and demonstrate how they have used them (eg during work placements or college life) will be at a clear advantage during the hiring process compared to peers lacking in these important skills.

In terms of hard skills, a lack of both project management and writing skills (both 35%) were the main areas identified by employers, followed by a deficit in administration and personal organisation (31%) and the lack of a foreign language (26%). In terms of addressing skills deficits, 93% of employers surveyed felt that completing an internship or work placement was either an effective or very effective method by which students could improve their skills for work.

Application and interview methods

65% of employers are now using online application forms as their primary method of soliciting applications, up from 63% last year and 52% in 2016. The traditional CV is still identified as being very important by many employers but only 32% now use it as their primary application method, down from 41% last year. Social media application methods, such as LinkedIn, have grown sizeably in popularity, up to 21% of companies from just 5% a year ago, likely at the expense of the CV and cover letter.

In this year’s survey we asked a new question in relation to the interview/selection processes, with companies allowed to select more than one answer. Just over 66% of graduate recruiters use competence-based interviews, with 40% going on to use Assessment Centres and 34% using panel interviews in their selection process. Telephone interviews were used by 32% of employers and 30% used technical interviews, so there are a wide range of methods being used extensively.

In terms of the number of interviews, 42% said that two rounds of interviews was their normal process. 24% used three rounds while 14% had as many as four or more stages. When it comes to pre-screening methods, the telephone interview remains the most popular (used by 50% of graduate employers), with 41% utilising online psychometric tests and 33% opting for video interviews. 29% use online ability/technical tests while, interestingly, 9% screened applicants’ social media profiles.

In new data acquired for this year’s survey, employers were asked what attraction factors they thought were most important in the minds of students considering applying to their programmes. 88% said career development was the most important attraction factor. 64% responded that perception of their employer brand was an important factor. 57% cited starting salary, with 34% saying work life balance and 26% identifying perks and benefits. Interestingly, only 6% said that job security was the primary attraction factor, pointing to awareness of the high mobility of today’s graduate workforce, who seem primed for changing career direction multiple times during their working life.

Internships remain vital

This year’s gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey captures the value of internships for students and graduate employers alike. 80% of employers surveyed offer student and graduate internship programmes. 95% of employers offering these programmes pay their interns, up from 93% last year. Of these, 52% pay their interns between €1,400 and €1,800 per month. 14% pay between €1,800 and €2,000 and 19% of graduate employers pay their interns more than €2,000 per month (up from 9% in last year’s survey). On the lower end of the scale, only 7% of graduate recruiters surveyed pay their employers less than €1,000 per month.

In findings that highlight internships as a highly effective route for students onto graduate programmes, 54% of organisations surveyed said that they recruited up to 50% of their graduate programme intake from those who had completed an internship with them, with 13% saying they recruited an even higher percentage of their graduate intake from previous interns.

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