Winning student votes in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers survey

15 October 2021

We know that the autumn term leading up to Christmas is one of the busiest for those in student recruitment and thinking ahead to February is often that item on the to-do list that gets pushed further and further towards Christmas… 

So we wanted to lend a hand by writing a quick guide to planning and delivering your January/February/ Spring/ TT100 campaign. So here goes:

Here’s a quick reminder of what the survey is all about. In the pre-Covid era, the TT100 survey, which culminates in a ranking of the Top 100 of Graduate Employers annually, would take place face-to-face on-campus surveying approximately 20,000 students across some 35 universities. For the purposes of the rankings, students are asked one simple question which is “Which employer do you think offers the best opportunities for graduates?”

So here’s our thoughts on making your campaign work for you: 

Understanding what is meant by the “best” 

For some graduates, this means the highest number of roles; and associating this with their “best” chance of securing a role. For others it may be salary and benefits, training, location or most diverse and inclusive organisation. We know that the top 5 decision making factors across all audiences are, according to High Fliers 2021:

  • Being challenged and stretched
  • Having a good social life through work
  • Giving something back
  • Having genuine responsibility
  • Being part of a structured programme

Is it a vanity project? 

What is the real reason for the project?  

Does being in the ranking mean that you attract better students?

Does being in the rankings support students with their decision-making and therefore, it’s a useful marketing tool (with over half million copies being sold/ distributed annually)?

Do you want to be there because you know that under-represented audiences take a lot of steer from the TT100 rankings and therefore being in the top half of the list makes a difference in attracting diverse students?

Of course, for many employers, this whole process of surveying students occurs after application deadlines have passed – and there are concerns about managing candidate disappointment – and this can stop them investing in Spring activities.  We have seen clients successfully use the data capture elements of their Spring campaigns to support talent pipelining of first- and second-year audiences for future recruitment rounds. 

A creative concept aligned to your main campaign or stand-alone?

This is an interesting dilemma. There are arguments for both. On the one hand, by closely aligning your campaign and messaging with your main student marketing, there could be more of an impact on brand recall. Don’t advertisers talk about the Rule of 7 – you have to see something 7 times before the message gets through? 

On the other hand, the field period for the TT100 is 2-3 weeks (end of January onwards) and is a moment in time. There is therefore the opportunity to do something surprising, unexpected, and out of the ordinary for your student brand that will be memorable for that same period. 

Whatever you decide on, your campaign needs to have resonance with your overall employer brand. For example, what does playing mini golf or the great sweetie giveaway or handing out cup-cakes have to do with your financial services graduate brand? 

We also have seen a lot of Spring campaigns in our time and there are a few rules that we try to abide by in terms of the concept: 

  • Is it easy to engage with/ in?
  • Will it engage those who wouldn’t normally engage with your brand? 
  • Is it memorable? 
  • Is it clear in its messaging (i.e. that the brand offers the “best” graduate opportunities because of xxxxx reason)?  
  • Is it shareable? 

To campus or not to campus in Spring 2022? 

The reality is we just don’t know what the Winter months will bring in terms of Covid statistics and the impact on campuses across the UK. But we do know that it is more likely than not that a blended approach to both academic teaching and careers information are here to stay to some degree. For brands, in-person campus activities offer a huge opportunity as a channel with more brands than not being cautious about the health and safety of their teams (understandably). We predict, from several conversations with Careers Teams, that there will be a higher chance that employers can access campuses compared to this autumn during Spring 2022. 

A blended approach 

Students have missed seeing brands on-campus but we know that digital during Covid has proven that we can reach a far wider, more diverse audience online. Ensuring that your Spring activity is a blend of both face-to-face and digital elements will maximise your success. 

Data capturing those that you have engaged with on-campus can be off-putting to some students but for those who do provide their data, there has to be something of value in return either financially or educationally. 

Social campaigns give the safety of anonymity for students and may get you a higher number of entries (we have seen numbers from c 1500-3000 across Instagram and Facebook competitions) and the rewards here don’t necessarily have to be as high value. 

Thinking about who will physically deliver the campaign?

For our clients we see a blend of all of the following:  

  • Using your team – students are always keen to see current/ past trainees as well as the recruitment team (who are often needed to answer those difficult questions) 
  • Using alumni of the university – to create that sense of possibility (‘If they can, I can too’) and to provide a safe space to ask questions. 
  • Using Campus Brand Managers – a great way to access specific courses and groups of students and who can be well briefed to create the link between the activity and voting. 
  • Using micro student influencers – having your brand and your campaign endorsed by fellow or past students with micro followings can amplify the reach of your campaign. 
  • Student Unions and Societies – to promote your events and activities and a useful way to access hard to find/ engage groups of students. 

Setting realistic expectations

In 2021 16,000 students completed the High Fliers interview online with over 1500 company names being mentioned. The number one slot went to Civil Service Fast Stream with only 6.4% of the overall votes i.e. just over 1000 votes across 32 Unis (c 31 votes per Uni). The results are kept a tight secret with brands not being told exactly how many votes they each achieved. However, statistics would show that the difference between brands in the mid-table will be somewhere between 20 and 100 votes overall. 

The opportunity to rise in the rankings with a strong Spring campaign concept is there for the taking in 2022, as many of the volume recruiters continue to take advantage of digital-only campaigns. Stealing a mere 6 votes from each of the 32 campuses could see you rising by as much as 10 places. 

We hope that this article gives you some food for thought and if you would like to have a chat about your approach to Spring campaign planning, then don’t hesitate to drop the 106 comms team a line or email me directly at Thank you.

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