Graduates: Employer expectations…

With the recent release of A’level results, a new influx of students will be entering the university halls this September but what should they be doing to make the most of their university experience? And how can employers ensure that their expectations of graduates align with a graduate’s expectations of them? Recent research undertaken by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) reveals what leading companies expect from graduates regarding:

Academic qualifications

Nearly half of employers indicated that a 2:1 degree was a minimum requirement, although 76% did agree that an applicant with a 2:2 that had relevant skills and experience was likely to be more successful than one with a 2:1 and limited experience. One employer explained their reasons behind keeping the 2:1 benchmark but still being open to 2:2 graduates:

“2:1 is still the standard on our recruitment process as it helps to filter the best candidates. We generally find that motivated 2:2 or even third graduates will apply anyway though and if they demonstrate motivation and experience they will get an interview and are probably more likely to get the job than a raw 2:1 graduate. It’s necessary to keep the 2:1 filter in place though because otherwise we get a flood of low quality applications from low quality candidates.”

Work experience and extra-curricular activities

Gaining work experience whilst at university is a must in such a competitive job market. 93.5% of employers state that they’ll consider a graduate if they are able to demonstrate how their work experience is relevant, whilst 30.5% will only consider those with experience in their sector. However, with 66% of leading employers maintaining that the completion of an internship with them offers the best chance of future employment, those graduates who are able to get experience with their desired future employers will be a step ahead.

The chart below displays what work experience and extra-curricular activities are thought of most highly by large employers and SMEs. (N.B. the more highly ranked activities have smaller scores and therefore shorter bars):


Career preparation

The chart below reveals the high level of career preparation employers expect graduates to have reached whilst at university. An important area for both students and university career centres to consider:

Selection criteria

When employers were asked to rank the importance of a range of broad selection criteria (NB: the more highly ranked activities have smaller scores and thus shorter bars) their answers reveal the importance of relevant work experience, skills, cultural fit and personal motivation and interest. Degree classification and discipline came secondary to these criteria for both large organisations and SME’s demonstrating that it is a necessity to develop skills and experience alongside a university degree.

Whilst students and graduates need to be aware of what makes them employable, it’s also essential that employers meet graduate expectations – especially in the hard-to-fill sectors where competition for the top graduates is high. Gathering graduate feedback year-on-year allows companies to pinpoint why they have appealed to their applicants, ensuring they can align their offering and expectations with their target market.

To find out more about how to measure this, click here.

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