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UK — Graduate job seekers lack confidence due to increased competition

09 February 2010

Research carried out among 300 graduates and current under-graduates by Alexander Mann Solutions, the provider of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) services, reveals that competition for graduate roles is set to be tougher than ever in 2010 as more than half of graduates from 2009 join the hunt for jobs alongside the class of 2010. This increased competition seems to have hit 2009 and 2010 graduates' confidence, leading to less targeted applications and a willingness to apply for positions outside of their preferred field.

The study, entitled The Emerging Talent Index, found that of the students that graduated from university in 2009, just 24% have been working in a role that requires a degree since leaving university. More than half (53%) of the 2009 graduates surveyed are planning on applying for graduate positions this year. 63% of those set to graduate in 2010 are also applying for graduate roles (compared to 50% of recent graduates in 2009), leading to far greater competition for positions than in previous years.

This increase in applicants seems to have dented graduate job hunters' confidence with only 26% of those surveyed confident of finding a graduate position this year. Perhaps because of their experiences last year, 2009's graduates are the least confident. Just 22% are confident of finding a position this year. These low confidence levels appear to be reflected in graduates' approach to job hunting with one in five (18%) of 2009 graduates applying 'for any job'.

The trend is not limited to the applications stage of the process with two thirds (64%) of graduates admitting that they would hedge their bets by accepting more than one job offer: either by picking their preferred option nearer the time or accepting an offer and continuing to look for an alternative. This could cause significant problems for graduate recruiters.

Clodagh Bannigan, Head of Client Services at Alexander Mann Solutions, explains "the lack of confidence in today's graduate marketplace means that jobseekers are increasingly likely to formally accept multiple offers and then make their final decision just before their joining date. This is, perhaps, understandable in the economic climate but it represents a real challenge to employers. Organisations must factor in this kind of behaviour and ensure their strategy will not be adversely affected by applicants dropping out late in the day."

The research also asked graduates which sectors they perceive as offering the best opportunities to university leavers. The public sector was identified as the area that offers the best opportunities, with nearly a third (30%) ranking it as the top sector. Financial services and banking fared much worse, being ranked lowest by 28% of respondents.

Clodagh Bannigan continues "the fact that graduates still consider the public sector to be an attractive destination for university leavers, despite the current economic and political uncertainty, is certainly encouraging. The ability to attract the best graduates is a crucial advantage for any organisation and something that public sector bodies need to prioritise if they are to successfully manage the changes they will be facing over the next few years."

"More worrying is the damage that the recent economic crisis has had on employer brands in the banking and financial sector. Employers in this industry have been scrutinised heavily in the last 18 months and this has understandably impacted on their reputations amongst graduates. Businesses in this sector will be able to repair their brands over time, but should be a great concern to organisations that have traditionally been very attractive to university leavers and steps should be taken immediately to restore their standing."



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