What students really want to know about graduate jobs

23 Feb 2018 By Matthew Searle

Are they worried about the impact of Brexit on your organisation, or do they just want to know what it’s like to work there? Matthew Searle puts you in their shoes

As we head towards the Easter break after an exceptionally busy spring term of brand, attraction and outreach activity on university campuses, for many heads of student recruitment, it’s time to begin to review and plan for next season’s hiring campaign.

At Henley Business School, we’ve been pulling together key insights from our student events that will be helpful in providing food for thought as you start to plan to recruit the class of 2019.

So, what have we found out? Our recent Monday Night Employer Panel series attracted more than 300 students, ranging from first year undergraduates and postgraduate students to those studying for an MBA. These Q&A events with panellists from various industries have allowed us to unearth exactly what it is that students want to know about prospective employers. 

We discovered that the areas of most interest were:

  • Day-to-day – a typical day in the job, business culture, role challenges and highlights, candidate expectations.
  • Career advice – routes into specific industries, career paths, graduate schemes vs entry-level roles, pros and cons of small and large companies.
  • Core competencies – ideal personal and professional attributes.

Students were between six and seven times more likely to ask questions on the day-to-day elements of a role than the impact of Brexit on an organisation. They wanted to know about what the panellists liked just as much as what they disliked, and what the challenges were in the companies they worked in. 

They also valued genuine career advice nearly three times as much as airing concerns about whether robots might take over their future jobs. One of the most popular questions was for the employer representative to share their first step into their industry of choice, especially for those who lacked work experience.  

It was also 15 times more likely that a query came up about what competencies and behaviours employers were looking for than asking about starting salaries. 

On the back of this research, what should you consider in your planning over the summer?

  • Choose your campus ambassadors carefully and make sure they can represent your organisation and its values in the best possible way. 
  • Consider making ‘a day in the life’ videos featuring your recent new joiners and sharing them on your website and social media. 
  • Back up your online marketing and brochures with a strong campus presence to give students a chance to get to know some of your current recruits.
  • Involve your performance managers in your marketing too. They’ll be able to authentically explain what competencies they look for in new hires from their first-hand experience.
  • Follow up with students you meet at campus events with an invitation to attend an open evening at one of your offices.      

While social media, eye-catching websites and glossy brochures give future recruits general information about what’s involved in a role, students will gain the most valuable insight by engaging face-to-face with those working in an organisation. It gives them the opportunity to really understand what they’d be doing on a day-to-day basis, which our research shows is what they want to know above all else. 

For me, the key when recruiting is to really bring your roles and organisations to life. 

Matthew Searle is head of relationship management in the careers and professional development team at Henley Business School. Find him on Twitter at @mattjksearle

Addled by apprenticeships? Stumped about students? Read People Management’s guide to entry-level recruiting in the March issue, or online here

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