More than half of graduates who left university last summer or earlier are still looking for their first graduate job, according to a report from recruitment agency Manpower.
The study of 2,140 UK companies and supplemented with an online survey of 813 graduates found 28 per cent found work within three months and a further 12 per cent within the year.
But a significant proportion – 54 per cent – were taking longer than a year to secure that first graduate job.
The research also showed a clear discrepancy between the expectations of employers and graduates towards the skills needed for work, said Manpower.
Just over half of graduates felt they were entering the workforce with the necessary skills, while only 37 per cent of employers were satisfied new graduates had the right skills for the job.
Employers in the community and social sector were the most optimistic, with 46 per cent believing graduates had the appropriate skills, compared with only 25 per cent within the manufacturing sector.
The report also revealed that, in spite of concern at the levels of graduate skills, just 13 per cent of UK employers had a graduate training programme in place.
Greg Teare, operations director at Manpower, said: "Given that we still have a relatively buoyant employment market in the UK, it is surprising that so many graduates are still seeking their first graduate-level job.
With a gap between the skills levels of graduate jobseekers and the skills levels employers expect, graduates may need to look to alternative means of gaining the skills necessary for their chosen career, particularly as few companies provide graduate training programmes," he added.
Temporary work could be a great way of gaining experience and developing both career-specific and wider skills, Teare advised.
"It's also a great way to experience different working environments across a variety of industries to gain some valuable insights into which field of work will most appeal to you in the longer term.
"For many job seekers, temporary work often translates into permanent work with that employer or with another employer."
The research also details that employers and graduates are equally realistic when it comes to how long new graduates will stay in their first job.
A total of 29 per cent of employers expected graduates to stay between one to two years compared with 20 per cent of graduates.
Three in ten graduates don't know how long they will stay with their first employer, and less than one in ten (nine per cent) expect to stay for five years or more.
Medium or longer-term staff loyalty is clearly no longer a reality with only five per cent of employers expecting new graduates to stay beyond the five year mark.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: "The transition into employment for graduates is clearly more difficult and uncertain than for previous generations pointing to the need for graduates to be better prepared to manage the transition while in higher education."
Internships and work experience offered graduates an invaluable opportunity to learn the workplace skills that employers were looking for, he added.
A study earlier this year by student accommodation provider Unite found an increasing number of students were gaining work experience during their years of study, with many making the most of the temporary work on offer during the holidays.
The survey showed that 53 per cent of students were now working during university holidays, rising from 48 per cent in 2004.