Even if you've decided which field you'll like to work in, every employer appears to have their own ideas and quirks about what kind of graduates they want to hire and how they go about hiring them. Research their career pages, their company profile on LinkedIn and try a few google searches on them as an employer to decide if their employer brand, ethos, job opportunities or recruitment methods are a turn on or a turn off.
Do you know people who already work there? Ask them what it's really like to work there. Is this a place that you can see yourself getting great training, competitive working conditions and benefits, being able to make friends, enjoy interesting challenges and a good chance of progression to more challenging and responsible roles? It's an important decision that can affect the rest of your life so it pays do your homework properly.
Britain's Top Graduate Employers
The Times publish a list every year around September of the 'Top 100 Graduate Employers' which makes for an interesting start. However, this list is compiled using research with 16,000 students graduating that year by asking the question "Which employer do you think offers the best opportunities for graduates?" We're not fully up to speed with their methodology, and no offence to the undergrads they asked, but how meaningful is this really? What makes PwC number 1 and the Arcadia Group number 75? The number of places? The perceived quality of their training scheme? Starting salary? Salary progression within 3 years? What they say in their brochure or on their website? The friendliness of their Recruitment Fair reps and the quality of their stand freebies? How much they spend on campus or recruitment advertising? Whether they take out an ad in a league table? The quality of their hiring process? The retention level of graduates within their first three years of employment? Their record on hiring minorities and women? Their CSR credentials? Brand kudos on your CV? How clued up on the real metrics in this area are the respondents in the survey?
We much prefer The Guardian's brand new UK300 survey which seems to be based on a bit more than brand recall! It only seems to have profile links to those companies that paid for a profile though.
By all means look very carefully at all of these employers, because they do undoubtedly offer real opportunities, but don't ignore non-UK firms or other key organisations in the sectors that these lists cover i.e. Accounting & Professional Services, Armed Forces, Banking & Finance, Charity, Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Consulting, Consumer Goods, Engineering or Industrial, Investment Banks, IT, Law, Media, Oil or Energy, Public Sector and Retailing. A quick check of the tables will show up some interesting anomalies. For example, in The Times' list the Army and The Royal Navy appear in the Top 100 but not The Royal Air Force? There may be a perfectly good reason for that but we don't know what! The grad scheme may be just as good but offers less actual individual placements? Check out our version of the top employers table here.
It's tough but not impossible
Every year in the UK around 330,000 students graduate, collectively, the Top 100 offer about 20,000 places, The AGR (Association of Graduate Recruiters) are said currently to be predicting a drop of 7% in vacancies but research company Highfliers report an increase of 17.9%. A massive 78% of employers now insist on a 2:1 degree and there are roughly 70 applicants for every place (again, other surveys put it higher than this). It's tough out there people, so cover all your bases and don't just go for the well known companies.
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