Written by Gareth Flynn
What do today’s graduates and companies want from each other? I’ve had a read of The Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Graduate Employers 2018 findings, created in collaboration with GradConnection , so you don’t have to. Here’s what I discovered.
STEAM is the new STEM as employers look for well-rounded graduates
Leading companies are less interested in specific skills and more in cognitive abilities, which means people with an arts background (the ‘A’ in STEAM) are getting a look in. This is nothing new. I graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1992 and joined Deloitte as a trainee chartered accountant in London. Alongside me were people who’d studied subjects from classics to zoology.
There was some surprise that accounting firm KPMG hired someone with an honours thesis on creativity and drawing in children with autism. But there really shouldn’t be. Progressive businesses have recognised the need for diversity in thinking for quite a while.
Soft skills are critical to a successful career
At the heart of it, corporates haven’t changed what they are looking for since I graduated. They want teamwork (71%), cultural fit (67.4%), interpersonal skills (63.7%), communication skills (62.8%) and motivational fit (59.3%).
Graduates get what they want
Now this did surprise me (pleasantly). Apparently, the majority of 2017 graduates secured a role with one of their preferred employers. Considering there are often 50 to 100 applications per hire, the fact 97% claim to be joining a company in their top three choices is remarkable. What can this be put down to? Perhaps grad hiring numbers are on the rise or application rates are falling.
Science and maths on the slide
Just 59% of grads in these disciplines gained full-time employment. They were only beaten to bottom spot by creative arts graduates. Which, given the focus on STEM qualifications in the past five years, was interesting. Social work, health services, tourism, social sciences and psychology grads, to name a few, all performed better. To get a better understanding of why, we’d need to look at the volume of grads in each category as well as the percentage in all types of employment. Perhaps the Science and Maths grads needed more ‘A’?
Universities need to step up
30% of graduates believed theirs didn’t prepare them well enough for a job search. With university funding increasingly tied to student employability and labour markets becoming more competitive, universities should do all they can to help their grads stand out during the recruitment process. This includes professional support either from the university or companies such as The Career Conversation, which provides careers advice, management and coaching services.
It’s no surprise which companies fill the top 10 for this, which is based on levels of engagement between employers and graduates through GradConnection during 2017. Those at the top are renowned for being Australia’s largest graduate hirers.
There were some other surprises though: Aldi at 6, Mars at 13 and 29th placed Reece, for example. I’m delighted to see Reece in the top 30, they’re a client of my consulting firm, TQSolutions, and are a gem of a business. Others were surprisingly low, NAB (16th), CBA (19th), Telstra (23rd), Macquarie (26th), Australia Post (41st), BHP Billiton (43rd) and Woolworths (49th).
It’s also worth noting the sizeable drop off in engagement outside the top 10. PwC has engagement of 5.01% (1st), Accenture 3.2% (2nd) and ANZ 1.92% (11th).
Some gender disparities are hard to shift
Most of TQSolutions’ clients want to hire 50:50 male to female, but gender differences in the popularity of certain sectors make this tough for some. For instance 28.9% of men were interested in engineering related sectors as opposed to just 8.7% of women. In other areas the disparity was less marked, information technology was popular with 5.3% of men and 3.8% of women. While accounting, finance and commerce was more popular with women (32.5%) than men (24.3%).
If you’re a graduate applying to hiring programs or attending assessment centres in the coming months, good luck! The process you’ll go through is arduous and, I’d argue, more complex and daunting than the one faced by more senior professionals.
You’ll have to contend with lengthy application forms, online assessments and profiling tools, artificial intelligence screening, neuro-science based gamification exercises, group exercises including ‘escape rooms’ (used by IBM) and jigsaw puzzles (Accenture), video interviews and, eventually, face-to-face interviews. You’ll be putting in a lot of time and energy, especially if you’re targeting multiple companies.
During the process don’t forget what employers are really looking for (see points 1 and 2). It’s also up to parents, schools and universities to remember that it’s not all about academic qualifications. One of the greatest benefits of study is teaching yourself how to learn effectively and how to work with a diverse group of people, regardless of your specialist knowledge.
Explore The Career Conversation for more help on taking your next step as a graduate.