This blog will illustrate how the recruitment landscape is changing and what this means to those looking for graduate jobs. There are a number of different drivers affecting your chances and creating a bottleneck by the time you come to graduate.

Smaller Budgets

Recruiters now have less money to throw around and, as a result, are looking for more financially savvy ways to hire talent. And what better a way to hire the best than to have them actually come in for a short period of time and test them under real-life office conditions to gauge whether they would be suited to a graduate role.

Increased Competition

There are now more applicants for every job than ever before, caused by increasing numbers graduating University, but also years’ worth of graduates who didn’t land a job upon finishing still looking to get hired. If we believe what the media tells us, there are an average of around 80 applicants going for every job.

An Emphasis on Experience

A degree no longer gets you a job. FACT.

Work experience allows applicants to develop relevant skills to help maximise their chances of getting hired. The more experience you have, the more likely you are to be able to answer competency-based interview questions, the more examples you’ll have to demonstrate, and the more ready you’ll be, in a recruiter’s eyes, for the workplace!

The Need to Create Value

The increase in competition has allowed recruiters to emphasise the need for value from any candidate they hire. A graduate position is by no means a 2/3/4 year training programme. Graduates are expected to participate in real-life work, in value-creating projects and performance is scored not only on professional development but on the benefits the organisation has received as a result.

So, what do these forces do? And what does that mean for Undergraduates, Graduates and even those in High School in 2013?

A 2011 Guardian article suggested that a third of graduate jobs are given to those who do internships. Another close source suggested this was closer to 40% or 50%, with graduate recruiters increasingly looking to hire earlier.

Coupled with a need for experience when hiring and increased competition, this is how the bottleneck above is created!

For you, what this means is that, by the time you come to graduate, YOU ARE NOT COMPETING FOR 100% OF JOBS!

The odds are already 1 in 80. And they’re no doubt competitive at the internship application stage, too. However, as you wait, when you let internships pass without applying, you’ll find yourself not only competing with more people but for fewer jobs!

So how can you beat the bottleneck?

The easiest way to beat the bottleneck is to get hired before you enter the final year!

1.     Get to know a company early in your time at University

Attending networking events in your first and second years at university shows you’re keen and opens up opportunities to meet people and ask questions. It also helps you identify early career progression opportunities like insight days and training academies to help you progress your application before they open to general applicants.

2.     Do an internship or work experience with a company

Speaking from experience, the best way to land a graduate role with an organisation is to do an internship. Yes, they’re difficult to get onto. But when you get one, you have a 6-18 week period to show them what kind of work you can do, the type of employee you’d be, and get to know the company very well through meeting and working with the people. A great thing about getting a summer internship is that you can have a graduate job offer before starting the final year and, trust me, it’s a load of pressure off!

Also, think about the first 4 things we spoke about. Internships tick all the boxes!

If you’re an intern with the company, it’s a cheap way for them to assess your capabilities in a job role. They don’t have to make a huge investment in you and if you are what they’re looking for, they don’t have to go through the whole hiring process again. When it comes to internships, even if you aren’t offered the graduate role at the end, it allows you to demonstrate highly relevant work experience, put a role on your CV and LinkedIn profile, and show that you know what is expected of you in the workplace. It also allows you to show, through your work, how you can understand and demonstrate the value you added.

Beating it when you’re graduating is harder, but by no means impossible – the trick is;

3.     Be the best

If you’re applying for graduate jobs having not done any relevant work experience, don’t panic. The easiest way to overcome a really competitive environment is to;

  1. Understand how competitive it is, and accept it!
  2. Use everything you do (Sports, Part-Time Work, Societies and Volunteering, etc.) to your advantage and always think of it in terms of your professional development.
  3. Practice, practice, and when you feel like you’ve mastered every part of the recruitment process, PRACTICE MORE.

I know this part sounds obvious, but thinking about how many people you’re against can easily get you down, particularly if you’re rejected once or twice or more. Remember, only 2% of people who apply get to an interview. This means that if you’re one of them, you’re competing with the best 2% who applied to that job! The key is to be able to accept failure, not give yourself a hard time, adapt and improve.

You’re competing with more people, for fewer jobs so you have to realise that they only way you’re going to get far, never mind get the job, you’re going to have to perform to a really high standard!

The Final Word…

The bottleneck, created by the different drivers in recruitment, is real!

The earlier you manage to realise this, the better chance you give yourself of getting the job you want. Internships and work experiences are not only a great way for you to develop your skills in a relevant position, but looking from an employer perspective, they’re a great way to hire!

Realise that if you’re graduating and looking for jobs, then it’s likely that you aren’t competing for 100% of them, and that you’ll be competing with lots of other very capable candidates. Depending on how you look at this, it can work to your advantage, by helping you realise that in order to get hired, you need to be the best and make the most of the skills you already have!

Chris Milborrow is a Marketing student at Strathclyde University, Bright Futures Strathclyde President and Student Brand Ambassador for the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Scotland (ICAS), who blogs from a student perspective on employability, graduate attributes and important attitudes.