In the year of Brexit, the Auger review, political change and so much more uncertainty, it's difficult to forecast exactly what is going to happen in the graduate recruitment market in 2019, writes Rebecca Fielding, managing director of Gradconsult
That said, it's still interesting to try and guess - so here are my four predictions for the graduate market in the year ahead.
1. The number of graduate jobs won't dramatically fall - yet
A lot of students, universities and graduate recruiters I speak to are concerned about the UK economy in the year of Brexit and the impact this will have on graduate recruitment numbers. When you look back at the two most recent recessions in the early 2000s and in 2008/2009, the number of Institute of Student Employers (ISE) graduate vacancies did certainly drop. And if we hit a recession post-Brexit it seems likely we will see the same pattern repeating.
But there is typically a lag of one year between the economy hitting recession and graduate hires falling, so I predict 2020 will be the year we see a dip, rather than this year, which is already well underway with the hiring cycle. Moreover, lots of lessons have been learnt by organisations in the previous recessions about the negative long-term employer brand and talent pipeline impacts of dramatically reducing graduate hires, so I suspect any reduction will be more moderate than the 2009 effect. But do I think a dip is coming? Probably yes.
Year,Graduate vacancies 2000,14681 2001,17890 2002,15742 2003,11012 2004,13924 2005,16900 2006,21157 2007,20413 2008,23727 2009,12650 2010,17920 2011,21507 2012,21194 2013,18913 2014,22076 2015,24126 2016,22960 2017,20641 2018,17667
Data from AGR/ISE Summer Survey 2000-2018
2. Certain sectors will be untouched by recession
There are areas of key national skills shortage where I believe demand for graduate hires will remain untouched by any recession, namely:
- software engineering
- marketing (especially digital marketing)
- quantity surveying
We simply don't have enough graduates to fill the vacancies we have in these areas of the UK economy (if all current physics final year undergraduates became physics teachers we would still have teaching vacancies) so hiring levels will be insulated from any recession - continuing to offer up many wonderful opportunities to current students.
3. Recruitment methods are changing
While graduate recruitment is generally innovative, some recruitment methods remain well-entrenched and ubiquitous across the sector - application forms are one such method. They are still used by over 77% of ISE members and many outside of the ISE as the initial screening tool.
But this appears to be changing, with recruiters citing the lack of predictive validity (ability to do the job well), the cost/time involved, candidate experience, new technologies and diversity all being key drivers to the change.
I predict 2019 will be the year we see more and more graduate recruiters moving away from application forms and towards a range of new methods such as games, situational judgement tests and video interviews as their initial screening method.
4. The advent of radical honesty in employer branding
For years graduate marketing has been the art of spin, trying to 'sell' organisations and careers to graduates in a positive light. But with the increasing visibility of the reality of roles (through WikiJob, LinkedIn, Rate my Placement and Glassdoor, for example) employers have had to change their tone of voice and approach.
Employer branding is becoming more authentic, increasingly involving current graduates in social media interactions and marketing campaigns, to talk more honestly about the downsides and challenges in their chosen career, as well as the positives. This can only be a positive thing all round - more informed candidates are more likely to make good choices about who and what to apply for, thereby leading to fewer, better applications for employers to manage and hopefully better retention figures in the long term.
And with more employers across the sector moving to a more refreshing 'radical honesty' approach to their recruitment marketing, I think we may see much more of it in the year to come.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of HECSU/Prospects
Also in this series
- What does 2019 hold for the UK graduate labour market? by Prospects' head of higher education intelligence, Charlie Ball.
- Graduate employers optimistic for 2019 recruitment by Tristram Hooley, chief research officer at the Institute of Student Employers.
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