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What the future workforce really wants: 7 takeaways from our graduate panel

What does the future workforce really want? Our employer partners often come to us for advice on everything; from how to target and attract certain candidate cohorts, to what kind of information graduates expect from employer websites, events, job descriptions and beyond. We decided to take a deep dive into these questions and others, and who better to ask than the graduates themselves? Over the last week, we’ve hosted two employer events with panels of four graduates who shared their thoughts on the job search process. In case you missed the events – or want to refresh your memory – here’s our key takeaways.

Debut graduate panel

Takeaway 1: Employers should offer more personalised and relevant information

This point was stressed numerous times from our graduate panel. Candidates are experiencing information overload; and more often than not, they’re not finding the content that they’re looking for. Generally, employers offer a wealth of information about the company, but nothing directly related to the roles, culture or team that they are recruiting graduates for. Candidates want relevant information, they are not interested in biased employee videos about how excellent your company is to work for. They are seeking a personalised experience with information about a specific role, opportunities for progress, the team and social responsibility. This can be done through content and videos that cover ‘A day in the life of…’, events, office tours and even simply showing a few photos of what their desk will look like and who the team is.

Takeaway 2: Culture is the most important factor when graduates look for a job

… but it’s underpinned by salary and brand. Early talent are often asked about the importance of an inclusive, open and diverse work culture versus good pay, but these two things go hand in hand in the minds of today’s students and graduates. According to the graduates on our panel, employers likely won’t have the best company culture if they are not rewarding employees for their hard work. Culture is therefore much more than a ping pong table and a beer fridge; it’s about promoting a healthy work-life balance, being socially responsible, rewarding hard work and offering opportunity for growth.

Takeaway 3: Early talent don’t just want to meet the recruitment team

Because culture is such an important factor for graduates, they are keen to engage with employees outside of the recruitment team in the application and interview processes. By offering candidates an opportunity to meet younger members of the team who are working in similar positions as they might do, the job search experience becomes more relatable and comfortable. Candidates are also keen to meet company directors to get a feel for the people they would be working for – and whether or not these would be directly approachable from their own position in the company. Meeting various members of the team can happen at events, assessment centres or even interviews.

Takeaway 4: There’s no right answer to when graduates want a job offer

Our graduate panel was asked when they would like to receive a job offer and the answer is: ‘it depends’. Our Accounting & Finance graduate said she would have loved to receive the job offer in her first year, while our Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate pointed out that he wouldn’t have known exactly what he wanted to do that early on. All graduates did however agree that it would take a lot of stress out of their lives to at least receive the offer before their final exams. If you are targeting candidate segments on a very clear career path from their degree subject, they’ll likely be prepared to accept job offers earlier than their peers who are studying a broader subject.

Debut insight into the graduate market

Takeaway 5: Students and graduates use events to find jobs

Although this takeaway is not a complete surprise, there’s a presumption that today’s early talent mainly engage and interact online – when in reality the candidates say that they prefer to meet a representative from a company face-to-face before they apply for a job. Meeting a member of the team will convince graduates that it is the right opportunity for them, and it puts a face to the company name. Graduates use events to network with peers and gain an understanding of what others are going through as much as to learn about the company. When you host graduate and student events, make sure the content is personalised to the attendees for the best candidate experience.

Takeaway 6: Employers need to prepare candidates better for assessment centres

Assessment centres are often considered a mystical experience and graduates don’t feel supported enough in the preparation stage. While it’s possible to do research on best interview practices, assessment centres don’t seem to follow one single format and therefore often differ from employer to employer. Before the assessment centre it is key to make the candidates feel confident and comfortable so they can show their best selves on the day. This can be done by providing a clear, tailored overview of what they need to prepare, who they will meet and what they are being assessed on. One candidate from the panel mentioned that assessment centres can be a scary experience if you’re not the ‘loudest’ person in the room. Another lesson is to provide personalised, detailed feedback after the assessment centre – candidates will often have spent days preparing for the event and feel extremely deflated if they receive short, general feedback.

Takeaway 7: Candidates want to be kept engaged after they’ve been offered the job

Entering life as a young professional is (for most candidates) a brand new experience, as many will never have worked in an office before. For that reason, candidates want to be guided and supported before their first day – especially if they are offered the job months or years in advance. This can be done through networking events where they can meet their team and other new starters so they feel a sense of community and inclusion. Graduates also expressed an interest in coming to the office and see the team in action for a few hours to get familiar with the culture and surroundings.

Debut insight into the graduate market

After the graduate panels, we presented an overview of our candidate research, touching on the importance of support and personalisation. Did you know that 49% of candidates aren’t ready to apply when applications open? Get in touch with our team if you want to learn more.


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