Graduate Hiring 2018: Going back to the future!

The Australian Financial Review, in conjunction with GradConnection has just published their Top 100 Graduate Employers 2018 feature and having digested its content this morning I thought I would share some observations and key insights of mine.


I somewhat feel like I have gone back in time. Apparently, leading companies are less interested in specific skills and more interested in cognitive abilities and people with an arts background (the ‘A’ in STEAM). There was some surprise in the feature that an accounting firm (KPMG) hired someone with an honours thesis on creativity and drawing in children with autism.
[Tweet “It’s not a shock that arts degrees are highly sought after by grad hirers – it’s standard practise”]
Why is this a surprise? Leading businesses have been doing this for decades. I am an example, a student in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1992!) who joined Deloitte as a trainee Chartered Accountant, within my in-take at Deloitte in London there were people who studied Classics, Zoology, English, Metallurgy, Languages and the more traditional business, economics, mathematics qualifications.
Progressive businesses have recognised the need for diversity in thinking for quite a while now and this is not a new or surprising trend. The world after all is not just ‘ones and zeros’ – it perhaps would be much simpler if it were !

 Most graduates get the company they want

It seems that whilst a competitive process, the majority of graduates were securing a role with one of their preferred employers, which I find surprising. Many graduate hiring programs have 50-100 applications per hire, so the fact that 97% claim to be joining a company that was in their top 3 choices is remarkable. Perhaps grad hiring numbers are on the rise or application rates are falling, it would be interesting to know what was driving this stat.

 Science and Maths falls behind in employment

Given the focus on the importance of STEM qualifications in the past five years I am surprised to see Science and Maths grads were the second lowest group who successfully gained full time employment in 2017 (59%), only Creative Arts was lower. Social Work, Health Services, Tourism, Social Sciences, Psychology, to name a few, all performed better than Science and Maths grads. It would be interesting to understand the volume of grads in each category as well as the % who gained employment. Perhaps the Science and Maths grads needed more ‘A’ – who knows?

 Nearly 1/3 of students rate universities poorly

As a co-founder of The Career Conversation, a mobile first platform for Career Advice, Career Management and Coaching services, I was interested to read that nearly 30% of graduates believe that their university did not prepare them well for job search.
[Tweet “Why do so many students feel unprepared for graduation? And what needs to change?”]
With university funding increasingly being tied to student employability, this is clearly something that needs improvement in the coming years. As labour markets tighten and competition for the best graduates increases, universities are going to really need to improve the performance of their graduates in the recruitment process itself. The assessment of graduates by corporates is becoming quite an art and students navigating the minefield that is a graduate hiring process really need some professional support either from their university or companies like mine.

 What businesses are falling behind?

I am not overly surprised by the companies profiled in the top 10 of the top 100 listing. The rating is based on ‘GradConnection engagement’ with employers during 2017 and those at the top of the list are renowned for being the largest graduate hirers in the country.
There are a couple of surprises though, the ones that caught my eye were Aldi (#6), Mars (#13), Reece (#29), I am delighted to see Reece in the top 30, they are a client of my consulting business, TQSolutions, and are a hidden gem of a business. Whilst these three firms performed well, others were surprisingly low, NAB (#16), CBA (#19), Telstra (#23), Macquarie (#26), Australia Post (#41), BHP Billiton (#43), Woolworths (#49).
It is also worth noting the sizeable drop off in ‘engagement’ outside of the top 10. PwC has engagement of 5.01% (#1), Accenture 3.2% (#2) and ANZ 1.92% (#11).

 Diversity hire goals fall short in some sectors

It was also interesting to see the split in preferred sectors of employment between males and females. Most of my clients at TQSolutions are intent on hiring 50:50 male to females in roles such as graduates to support corporate diversity and inclusion targets or objectives. This is going to be tough for many as sector popularity differences continue to be acute. Engineering related sectors are most popular for males (28.9%) relative to females (8.7%). Accounting, Finance & Commerce is next popular for males (24.3%) relative to females (32.5%). Information Technology is closer with popularity of 5.3% for males and 3.8% for females.
It is clear from these stats that companies striving for gender balance in Engineering related roles will really struggle to hire females whereas the opposite may be true for hiring activity in Accounting, Finance and Commerce.
[Tweet “Employers will always prize interpersonal, communication, and motivational skills first”]
Finally, I would like to wish all aspiring graduates well in the coming months as hiring programs and assessment centres kick off in earnest. The process students have to go through to obtain a graduate role is arduous and I would argue more complex and personally daunting than many hiring processes for executive roles in corporate Australia where some light resume screening, a couple of hour long interviews, and perhaps a reference check or two will suffice.
Whereas graduates face lengthy application forms, online assessments and profiling tools, neuro-science based gamification exercises, group exercises including ‘escape rooms’ (IBM) and jigsaw puzzles (Accenture), video interviews, AI bot screening applications and eventually some good old face to face interviewing. It amounts to a significant investment in time and energy, especially if a graduate is targeting multiple companies.
With all this in mind, I go back to my first point (1) above…I don’t actually think corporates have changed what they are looking for since I was a graduate 26 years ago. Employers want the same attributes now as they did then, teamwork (71%), cultural fit (67.4%), interpersonal skills (63.7%), communication skills (62.8%) and motivational fit (59.3).
It is up to us as parents, and our schools and universities to not lose sight of this and potentially reduce how much is focused on academic grades and the selection of certain courses that will lead to specific jobs. I still maintain the greatest benefit of study and university is teaching yourself how to learn effectively and to work with a diverse group of people regardless of the subject or course you are on.
Image: Shutterstock

This article first appeared on LinkedIn on the 11th of February, 2018

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