Rise of the graduate brat


Faced with an ageing workforce, British employers are falling over themselves to woo new graduates. But in the process, they risk creating a generation of demanding, poorly behaved, job-seeking brats.

Latest figures from the UK's Association of Graduate Recruiters show that, despite dire predictions of graduate shortages, two thirds of hiring managers expect to fill all their graduate vacancies this year.

The number of graduate level positions has risen for the fourth year in a row, with salaries for new graduates rising by 2.4 per cent to an average of £23,500.

But speakers to the association's annual conference this week have also painted a picture of employers all too happy to bend double for graduates, in the process damaging the employer/graduate relationship.

Sophie Best, graduate recruitment adviser at consultancy Watson Wyatt Worldwide, warned that because communication was now so instant and casual, a minority of graduates were more inclined to fire off inappropriate emails or share a whole recruitment process on a blog.

Moreover, even when they did turn up to assessment centres, they sometimes spent their time swearing or texting or talking on their mobiles.

"I had a couple of candidates last year who kept changing their requests. First they wanted to move from Reigate to London, then they changed their start date," she said.

While it was a minority who behaved in this way, Best stressed, if employers constantly gave graduates the impression the employment world revolved around them, they could inadvertently make it much harder for graduates to understand the harsh, competitive realities of the working world.

Recruiters were also becoming much more concerned about the threat of legal action being taken against them if they turned a candidate down or said something they did not like, or even for such trivial things as not sending their expenses on time.

"Graduates are less in awe of organisations. They see them on campus so much. At Cambridge you sometimes get something like 96 companies a week on campus. What's needed, perhaps, is a charter or contract laying out what each side can expect," she said.

The next big recruitment challenge for employers was to find a way of getting their presence felt on social networks without completely alienating their audience, argued Cathy Hyde, head of graduate services at recruitment firm Bernard Hodes.

The AGR poll found that an average of 29.2 applications was received per vacancy by AGR employers, a slight increase on last year.

And two thirds said between 91 per cent and all of its recruits from last year were still with the organisation one year on, an increase on last year's 64 per cent.

Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive said the relative conservative rise in graduate salaries was perhaps a signal that graduate salaries were now seen as already competitive, compared with non-graduate entry level jobs.

"Encouragingly, recruiters are more optimistic about any potential shortfall in filling their graduate level roles than they were earlier in the year. This perhaps indicates that graduates are realising that academic achievements are not enough to secure a position, and are focusing on developing softer skills such as team-working when applying for graduate-level positions," he added.