Graduate recruitment

Graduate recruitment remains strong despite the pandemic

over 3 years ago by Claire Smith

​The results of a recent annual survey show that, despite 2020 being dominated by Covid and fears of a recession, employers are continuing to attract, select and hire graduates, highlighting the importance of the next generation of talent to the workplace.

The student recruitment survey carried out by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), an employer association for student and early years recruiters, showed only a 12% decline in graduate recruitment in 2020. The survey revealed two main findings:

1. Student recruitment is down, but it has certainly not collapsed.
2. Recruiting in a pandemic is difficult, but employers have risen to the challenge.

Candidate attraction

For many employers, the process of attracting graduates to work for them in 2020 would have started pre-pandemic, so they are now faced with the challenge of recruiting for 2021 with the majority of this engagement taking place either online or in a socially-distanced manner.

The pandemic has put a stop to some of the most effective methods of attracting graduates – careers fairs, open days, visits to universities and handing out printed materials. The most proactive employers have, however, adapted their methods and focused on improving the graduate experience on their company website, utilised external job boards and invested in social media marketing.

Many universities have taken their careers activities online. The MorePeople team have been involved in several university virtual careers sessions this autumn, receiving great feedback about the more interactive question and answer format.

Morten Andresen, from our Commercial team, has been on the panel of some of these. He explains further:

“The main message I get from graduates is that they are all looking for their own way to stand out from the sea of people around them. With competition for roles getting fiercer, this is more important now than ever. We’ve had a brilliant response to the student presentations we have made this year and look forward to handing out more advice in the coming months.”

Whilst virtual careers fairs have also been hosted by some universities, employers have noticed less benefits than traditional face-to-face careers fairs, mainly the lack of opportunity for catching any passing trade.

Graduate salaries

Despite the pandemic, 97% of graduate positions were filled this year. The typical graduate salary was £29,667 with the average graduate salary in the Retail and FMCG sector not far below this at £28,800. The majority (90%) of employers in this sector said that they ‘almost always’ found the quality of graduate hires that they needed, which was higher than most other sectors.

Andrew Fitzmaurice, Managing Director of MorePeople, feels positive about these findings:

“For a long time it feels like our clients have complained of a dearth of talent, so it’s no surprise that there’s still demand for good people to come into the industry at graduate level. The pragmatism and resilience of our sector in 2020 is great to see – yet another reason why it’s a fantastic industry to be a part of.”

Future skills

The survey asked for predictions of the skills that will be the most important for graduates over the next five years. The top 5 were:

1. Resilience
2. Emotional intelligence
3. The ability to work effectively in a remote environment
4. IT/digital skills
5. Data handling/analysis skills


Compared to last year’s survey, around 10% more employers said they are worried about the prospect and impact of an economic recession.

The ISE remains optimistic, however, that bringing large numbers of young people into the labour market each year will continue to be a priority. The annual survey continues to demonstrate that employers recognise the benefits that this injection of new talent brings.

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