Graduates applying for jobs will find the task far more difficult if they have no previous work experience, with two-thirds of employers saying candidates with no experience are "unlikely to be successful" during the selection process and "have little or no chance" of being offered a position on their graduate programmes.
According to research released today by High Fliers, at least half of entry-level vacancies advertised this year by City investment banks and law firms are likely to be filled by graduates who have already completed work experience with the employer.
This warning of a challenging entry process for graduates offsets the other more positive findings in the research, which surveyed 100 major graduate recruiters in December 2010. Promisingly, many respondents predict an upturn in their graduate recruitment this year.
Graduate recruitment is forecast to increase by 9.4% in 2011 across respondent organisations, following a rise of 12.6% during 2010. This follows drops of 17.8% in 2009 and 6.7% in 2008. Three-fifths of respondents expect to recruit more graduates in 2011 while a quarter plan to maintain their intake at 2010 levels.
Accountancy and professional services firms plan to hire almost 10% more graduates than in 2010. There will also be increases in graduate intake at investment banks (up 12.2%) and high street banks (24.8%).
Minister for universities and science David Willetts responded to the findings, reiterating the importance of work placements and internships: "Whilst we welcome signs of an improvement, the job market remains competitive for new graduates, as it does for everyone, and graduates need to work hard to maximise their chances of success.
"Internships are an important way of young people getting into the professional jobs market. This is a route being followed by increasing numbers of graduates and - as part of our programme to get Britain working - we continue to encourage employers to offer work experience and internships to help graduates develop valuable skills and boost their employment chances."
Graduate starting salaries in 2011 are expected to remain unchanged from 2010 levels, at a median of £29,000. Salaries increased by 7.4% in 2010 and 5.9% in 2009.
A quarter of graduate programmes will pay new recruits more than £30,000 when they start work and seven of the respondents are offering at least £40,000 to this year's graduate recruits.
The most generous average salaries are offered by investment banks (£42,000), law firms (£38,000) and oil and energy companies (£32,000). Perhaps unsurprisingly, public sector employers are offering the lowest average graduate salaries (£22,200), followed by retailers (£24,000) and engineering and industrial companies (£24,500).
Research on graduate recruitment and selection is available at XpertHR.
For more information on salaries, see XpertHR's salary surveys.