How to stand out in a shrinking graduate market

How to stand out in a shrinking graduate market

Thursday, 22nd of September

How to stand out in a shrinking graduate market

The graduate employment market has always been competitive, and for the students graduating in the coming years it’s only going to get harder.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) recently announced the first drop in graduate vacancies in four years. Blame the referendum, the apprenticeship Levy or the lack of opportunity on the market as a whole, but one thing is for sure: recent graduates and final year students won’t have it any easier than their peers before.

In this ultra-competitive graduate market, how can you get ahead of competition?

Well, just editing your CV and cover letter won’t cut it. In a time when 80% of students leave university with a 2:1 or a first class degree, CV’s and academic grades are hardly a differentiator.

Instead, the real secret lies in your capacity to play – and dominate – the new graduate recruitment game.

This new game is based on the candidate’s knowledge, more so than ever before. Naturally, you need to immerse yourself in information about the job role, the company itself and broader industry knowledge.

But, crucially, this new version of the graduate recruitment game is centred on the applicant’s knowledge of the recruitment industry as a whole. When searching for jobs, ask yourself: Who is recruiting graduates? When are they recruiting? What does their recruitment process look like (the number of assessment stages, the type of assessment methods etc.)?

Why is this necessary? Because you can only master a process you understand in the first place!

A good understanding of what the rules are keeps you abreast of what is happening in the industry – and these rules are changing quite frequently. For example, did you know that KMPG have reformed their graduate recruitment process from three assessments over several weeks to a one-day-only session? Or that Goldman Sachs is replacing face-to-face on campus recruitment with video interviewing? Hundreds more companies are similarly amending their entry-level requirements and processes every quarter.

Yes, going into such depth will take a lot of your time, and you might think that it is too much to ask for when you have to make 20 applications and go to two interviews a day.

But I would encourage you to give it a go if you really want to stand out from other grads. Here’s two simple things you can do to boost your chances:

  • Guide your search by the quality vs quantity rule. Only apply to the companies you’d REALLY like to work for and make sure you undertake in-depth research before applying).

  • Ask the people around you – ask more senior graduates about the company you want to work for, use Linkedin and industry events to speak directly with professionals already in the role you want and call on to agency recruiters - they can be a great source of knowledge and normally provide lots of insight not only into the company you are interviewing with, but the recruitment market as a whole.

These simple steps will help you create a plan to prepare, boost your confidence and help you keep stress under control.

Wouldn’t you feel better if you were familiar with the traits your dream company prioritises in applicants? Or if you knew how many other grads were going for the same role? Or if you discovered other companies that were recruiting people with your skillset? Or, perhaps most importantly, what other graduates are doing to secure their first roles in the same industry?

Luckily, we can help guide you through this new recruitment process – and help land you a job at the end of it. We’re offering students the chance to win a one-to-one career mapping session with one of our consultants this autumn. All you have to do is fill in this super short survey about what undergrads and recent grads what to know about the recruitment process. Good luck!


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