Students often find the recruitment process for graduate jobs complicated and lengthy, with insufficient communication or feedback. They emerge with a feeling of not having been looked after (or loved) enough, according to a survey recently carried out by recruitment specialists Work Group using the student database.

The survey, which was unveiled at the quarterly TARGETjobs Breakfast News event in London last week, also highlighted the potential cost to employers of running a recruitment process that students perceive as unsatisfactory. One in ten students surveyed said they would turn down a job offer if they felt their experience was poor.

Students were generally happy with employers’ campaigns on campus, but were much less impressed with the next stage, from initial attraction to recruitment. They expected the hiring process to last no longer than four to eight weeks and thought it should consist of no more than three phases – application, interview and assessment centre. They also wanted to receive feedback and regular communication, and to be given a much clearer understanding of what was expected of them when they started work.

At the Breakfast News event, keynote speakers Professor Robert Shaw from Cass Business School and Nimai Swaroop from RBS group stressed the importance of managing the relationship with candidates throughout the hiring process.

Chris Phillips, publishing director at GTI Media, said, ‘It’s more important than ever for recruiters to build deep relationships with appropriate candidates from an early stage and to be constantly available to them. And with mobile and social media advances, they have the tools to manage good relationships with them and to compete for the top 10 per cent of students that seemingly all top recruiters are after.’

From the employers’ point of view, assessing applications and identifying the best candidates is an enormous task. The most recent edition of biannual survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) found that in the 2010–2011 recruitment season, AGR members received on average 83.2 applications per vacancy, the highest ever.

This average figure masks significant variation between different career sectors. The most popular graduate sectors, in terms of applications per vacancy, were:

* Investment banks or fund managers (232.5)
* Energy, water or utility companies (187.8)
* Fast-moving consumer goods companies (137.5)
* Construction companies or consultancies (129.9)
* IT and telecommunications companies (129.5)

Perhaps surprisingly, accountancy and professional services firms (53.5) and consulting or business firms (31.3) received below the average number of applications.

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