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How graduates look for jobs

August 2018

Many employers fail to match their recruitment campaigns with graduates' preferred methods of looking for jobs - making use of the data could ensure vacancies are advertised more effectively

Popular methods of job hunting

The most popular way graduates found jobs in 2017 was through recruitment agencies and recruitment websites, followed by employer websites and personal contacts, according to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.1

Only a small percentage used speculative applications and newspapers.

The majority of graduates did not find jobs directly through social media. Instead, they used social media to find specialist recruiters and individual employer websites where they then browsed and applied for jobs.

 , Percentage of graduates who used this resource
Recruitment agency,21.5
Employer's website,17.3
Personal contacts,16.5
Already worked there,15.3
Your university/college,7.9
Social media/networking sites ,3.9
Other university/college source,2.9
Print media,2.3
Speculative application,1.9

Differences for professional-level jobs

When it comes to finding professional-level employment, the data shows that graduates behave in a slightly different way.

Most graduates in professional-level roles found their jobs through a recruitment agency/website (20.5%) or an employer websites (17.8%).

They were more likely to get a job through their university or college careers service (10.2%) than those in non-professional employment (1.7%). They were less likely to use personal contacts (13.7% compared with 24.1% for graduates in non-professional roles).

Patterns by age group

Further changes in how graduates search for jobs are visible when broken down by age group. The most popular resources used for each age group in 2016 were:

  • 18 to 20-year-olds - recruitment agency/websites (25%)
  • 21 to 24-year-olds - recruitment agency/websites (23.3%)
  • 25 to 29-year-olds - employer websites (21.2%)
  • 30 to 39-year-olds - already worked at company (25.8%)
  • 40 years and above - already worked at company (30.4%).

It is common for students in the last age group to study part time (49.9% in 2016/17) and then continue to work for their employer after graduating.

How recruiters advertise jobs

There are some notable differences between the recruitment methods used by employers and the resources preferred by graduates.

Many employers rely on word of mouth and personal contacts (79%) while fewer make use of advertising on their own website (54%) and social media channels (46%).

Recruitment method,Percentage use
Word of mouth or personal recommendations,79
Placed adverts on your own website using internal resources,54
Placed adverts on social media using internal resources,46
Another form of paid-for recruitment service, including the press,44
Government recruitment sevices of scheme,38
School, college or university job fairs or careers services,19
Paid someone to place adverts on your website or social media,10

Source: IFF Research, UK Employers Perspective Survey 2016

This is in contrast to graduates, whose favoured resources in 2016 were recruitment agencies and general recruitment websites.

One potential reason for the discrepancy is that word of mouth and advertising on their own website is more cost effective for small businesses with limited recruitment budgets. Larger employers with bigger budgets tend to advertise across multiple channels and reach graduates more easily.2

Recruitment campaigns are more likely to be effective if employers take note of where graduates most often look for jobs.


1 DLHE data provides information on the various resources students use to find employment six months after graduation. This part of the survey is optional so the results are an indication of graduate behaviour.

2 UK Employer Perspectives Survey 2016, IFF Research.

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