PathMotion recently carried out a survey of 2,384 students across the UK, to learn more about which factors have the most influence when choosing an employer. The results provide valuable insights into how students and graduates prioritise the elements of an advertised job.

Even in an increasingly competitive job market, candidates are not ready to compromise on finding a job that they will enjoy and find rewarding. The top 3 factors cited in that regard were (i) the nature of the work, (ii) the way they are treated by their employer as well as (iii) the career progression opportunities.

They are, however, willing to work hard and make sacrifices in order to get ahead. For example, only 1 in 10 students cited “work life balance” as a top factor.

Nature of work
The nature of the day-to-day work was the most commonly cited aspect, with over 44% of those surveyed raising this point. Graduates are keen to express their abilities when asked what attracts them to a job:
“Whether I would be able to use my skills and knowledge effectively, and to good use. Also, a job of interest that I could see myself being happy in.”
– Student, University of Hull
Many students were particularly looking to avoid jobs which they perceive as being tedious. Negative sentiment such as the following was prolific in the responses:
“Job that would require monotonous tasks every single day that seem to have no greater significance in making the world a better place.”

– Student, Imperial College London

Feeling valued as an employee
The treatment of employees by an organisation is a serious concern for prospective candidates. They are weary of feeling insignificant in a large organisation:
“Being treated as an individual, being allowed to work with a degree of independence yet with clearly outlined job role and expectations.”
– Graduate, University of Southampton

Career progression
Ambitious graduates are constantly looking at the horizon, and expect to be able to rise within an organisation. This factor was raised by over one third of those surveyed. Students look for:
“Relevance to my desired career path and provision for personal growth and development in the organisation.”
– Student, University of York

Fears included being stifled by inflexible organisation structure:
“Rigidity or overly hierarchical management structure, no opportunity for professional growth…”
– Student, Cambridge University

Salary, purpose and reputation
The question of salary wasn’t as commonly raised as may have been expected, but was still significant with almost 1 in 3 students citing this as a top factor. Similarly, the purpose of the organisation and reputation were highlighted by around a quarter of students and graduates.

Other factors
The factors which didn’t receive as much attention were work/life balance, employee’s profile, job description and the application process. Perhaps the most surprising result here is how few students raised work/life balance as an issue. This is an indication that students have accepted that they need to be willing to make sacrifices in order to succeed in their early careers. However, many were looking for regularity to ensure that they could make the most of any free time that they had available:
“Totally unpredictable hours. I understand that the client work that attracts me so much demands a degree of flexibility, but I do like to be able to plan at least some of my own life outside my work.”
– Graduate, Oxford University

About the survey
• Number of respondents: 2,384
• Respondents from UK top 15 universities: 35%
• Number of universities: 100+