Graduate employment prospects: High Fliers survey

You might have heard on the news recently that graduate recruitment is set to rise in 2014, and that your chance of employment after you finish your degree is the best that it has been for 4 years. This data is from the High Fliers report, and in this blog post our Careers Advisor, Laura Blackledge, explains what those figures could mean for you and your success in obtaining a graduate job.


In 2013 more than 18,000 final year students from thirty of the UK’s leading Universities chose the Times Top 100 employers. The High Fliers survey aims to explain what these most popular employers plan to do; from potential recruitment, to which universities they will target with their graduate schemes. In this post I will discuss the findings of the survey and suggest ways to use this information to increase your employability after graduation.

The good news

Graduate recruitment is at a seven year high – beat that recession! This suggests a return to pre credit-crunch levels of graduate employment. Even better: The University of Leeds is one of the ‘Top 10’ most targeted Universities by these graduate recruiters.

Compared to last year there are an additional 1200 graduate vacancies available this year, with the largest growth areas likely to be in the public sector, accounting firms, investment banks and engineering organisations.  This suggests a higher level of confidence in UK financial institutions and a positive response to the government’s push on STEM subjects and retaining these skills in the UK.

Who is recruiting?

The largest individual graduate recruiter is Teach First with 1550 vacancies followed by PwC with 1200 and Deloitte with 1000.  While these large numbers look promising, it is important to note that it is not all positive. For example, Deloitte have reduced the number vacancies on offer compared to last year. In previous years some employers have overestimated how many graduate vacancies will be made available, only to have to reduce the number of vacancies later in the recruitment season.  Without the vacancies provided by Teach First, the report takes on a different slant – graduate recruitment within the Top 100 employers seems fairly static.

How can you make the most of this record number of vacancies?

More than one in three vacancies will be filled by graduates who have already worked for an organisation through any type of work experience paid or unpaid.  Over half of recruiters involved in the High Fliers research feel that graduates with no previous work experience are unlikely to be successful during the selection process.  I feel the message to take home from this is that work experience is key to success in graduate schemes.

Aside from this, leading employers actively market graduate vacancies here at Leeds using campus career fairs, local recruitment presentations and advertising through the Careers Centre vacancy system.

There is a great deal of positive news regarding graduate employment for 2014. Equally, the number of applications to graduate schemes is far greater than the amount of graduate vacancies available with these employers. If you are seriously interested in such employers it is essential that you target your application for each individual opportunity and that you can explain your interest and motivation for that role with that specific company. Think quality over quantity when it comes to applying for these schemes.

What if you don’t want to work for a large employer?

The Careers Centre advertises graduate vacancies from over 3000 unique employers. There’s no reason to be confined to the top graduate recruiters: Small to Medium Enterprises, or SMEs  (organisations employing fewer than 250 people) employ 60% of the UK work force and are responsible for nearly half of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Whether you would like to work for a large corporation or a local SME is down to personal preference but you can find out more about the differences between the two in our previous blog post.

Work Experience

There are more than 11,000 paid internships and work placements available for first and second year undergraduates this year. Does this mean that employers are realising that the most successful recruits are those with commercial awareness? Work experience can help you to decide which career areas and employers you are interested in. By having this ‘try before you buy’ experience you can remove any doubts or uncertainties you may have about the suitability of the career or employer you have chosen.

So, what if you don’t have work experience?

If you need work experience to bolster your existing skills check out our vacancies system. Come to the Careers Centre drop-in for help and advice on your CV, application form, covering letter and interview techniques. We can also help with your job search techniques and networking skills. Who do you know that can help you reach where you want to be? Try to expand your network, use LinkedIn, visit some of the networking events run on Campus, check out the Leeds Network to gain employment and experience tips from successful Leeds graduates. Visit the Careers Centre to increase your chances of success!

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