“What do graduates want?” – a graduate’s perspective

14 April 2022

Recently Bright Network released their report on ‘What do graduates want?’ for 2022/3.  As a recent graduate, I was interested to learn more about what 14,234 graduates thought!

First up, I was surprised that only 60% of students are planning on starting a graduate job straight after graduating.  Are graduates still concerned about entering the job market?

Yet there’s a rise of 16 percentage points when asked about how confident they are about securing graduate roles this year than in 2021.  And those from Black Heritage backgrounds are more confident than the student population as a whole regarding getting a job.

We only have to look back at last year’s result and see how confidence has grown. In response to the same question during Covid, graduates seemed to have lost a lot of confidence in the job market with 33-39% of respondents feeling confident between April 2020 and January 2021 down from 57% in January of 2018 and 2019.

So confidence levels are rising – and we’re also seeing another positive sign.  The majority of students are being selective about their applications and only applying for programmes that are strongly related to their interests and future careers – over 50% of students apply for up to 6 graduate programmes and internships, whilst under a quarter applied to over 16.

What about background?  Is this affecting student confidence?  Whilst the percentage of Black Heritage students that agreed to having felt that their background has hindered their work or study applications is concerningly high (43%), I am surprised that more than half of this number (24%) is also true of individuals who were privately educated.

Surprisingly, more respondents from private schools believed that the competition for internships was a barrier to them securing one than that of their state-school counterparts.

Maybe we are finally seeing a re-balance on the social mobility front.


Remote vs In-person

I am slightly surprised that remote work is preferred by many graduates (91% interested in having flexible working) looking for their first job, because personally I find that being in the office the majority of the time is preferable for a few reasons; being new to the company I find it much easier to get guidance when in the office, and being in the office is of course much more sociable than working from home. This being said, I really appreciate having the flexibility when necessary, and working from home the odd day can be a welcome change especially before I moved and was having to commute for over an hour each morning.


Moving to London

Having just moved to London for a job myself, I am not surprised that 53% of respondents would like to work in London for their first job. There are a few likely reasons for this, with the salaries, progression opportunities and social life most likely being the main reason for many graduates; however, the constant relocation of individuals into London has made certain factors such as finding affordable accommodation in the city very difficult.


Diversity perception

When asked ‘Are there any sectors which you perceive as lacking diversity and inclusivity?’ the sectors rated at the worst were Banking & Finance, Technology, Engineering, Construction & Manufacturing and Law.  This is despite so much work being done in these sectors to address these issues; maybe there’s been more focus on words than actions!


Candidate experience is all important

Whilst the prospect of a more exciting role would be the #1 reason to turn down an offer or renege on one; the experience during the application process is the reason for 15% of applicants considering turning down the offer. And a staggering 88% of graduates would consider reneging on a job offer if the experience is poor!

I wholeheartedly empathise with this. Having recently been job-hunting, I understand that the degree to which you are made to feel comfortable by the interviewers (and the way they communicate with you before and after) has a huge influence on your decision, especially if you are torn between two positions.



Word of mouth is still a big factor in recruitment: in fact 82% of respondents admit to talking to their friends and peers about their careers, discussing both their current jobs and those that they are applying to. Not only does this help the individual to recognise how they feel about the position, but it also spreads brand awareness and trust. I experienced this when I applied for my job at 106; my housemate at the time (in another city) mentioned that she had previously been to a few of the company’s events, and this in itself made the company stand out to me.

Graduates believe that having a 2:1 or above in their degree is the most important thing to employers and related experience second, whilst employers place these factors as the 6th and 11th most important things respectively. Employers are most interested in applicants who have a passion for the business and are resilient.  But I wonder how much employers are swayed by relevant experience?!


Salary and the cost of living

With the price of living constantly rising, it is no surprise that 59% of respondents said that they would be more likely to apply if the salary is listed on the application. Meanwhile, 27% said they would only apply if they knew the salary and a mere 14% said that they would apply if they didn’t know the salary. This being said; graduate salary expectations have not increased in the past few years, and after dropping into the £25k range in 2021, it has bounced back to exceed £27k – which is where we were before the pandemic.


This is my first blog for 106; watch out for more blogs from me on student marketing and comms in the coming weeks and months.  Bye for now!

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