Competition for graduate jobs has never been so high, with employers this year receiving on average 91 applications for every graduate vacancy.
The average number of people interested in each graduate job posted by firms that responded to the Institute of Student Employers’ Student Recruitment Survey 2021 was up by 17% year-on-year.
The number of applications per vacancy reached the highest number since 1999, when the ISE began collecting data.
Despite the current high demand for talent at most levels, with vacancies topping one million in the summer, the graduate jobs market has not been so buoyant. Although the number of graduate jobs on offer increased by 9%, according to the ISE, vacancies have still not returned to pre-pandemic levels and recent university leavers have been competing for positions with those who graduated in summer 2020, when many organisations cut their graduate intake.
Graduate roles in retail, FMCG and tourism have been particularly popular, with each job receiving 182 applications on average. Competition for jobs in health and pharmaceuticals (155 applicants per role) and financial and professional services (118 applicants), has also been high.
ISE CEO Stephen Isherwood said the survey’s findings highlighted the genuine struggle for graduates to find work during the pandemic.
“There are more people looking for the security of a graduate programme, and this year’s cohort is competing with unemployed graduates from last year and those who did a masters degree,” he said. “Despite employers wanting more young people than last year, there just aren’t enough roles and we’re not yet back to 2019 levels.”
Isherwood predicted that pre-pandemic levels of graduate hiring would return next year.
Despite the slowdown in graduate hiring, the number of student internships offered by employers surged 23% and work placements increased by 7%. On average, 83 students applied for each internship and 82 applied for each work placement.
Other entry-level job opportunities such as apprenticeships were less competitive, with employers receiving an average of 67 applications per apprenticeship vacancy. The number of school leavers hired by the employers surveyed increased by 14%.
Starting salaries for both graduates and school leavers had increased. The typical pay for graduates rose to £30,500 in 2021, up by £833, while school leavers saw average pay increase by £1,039 to arond £19,000.
The ISE’s survey received 177 responses. The organisations collectively employed 45,312 university graduates, school and college leavers, interns and placement students in 2021.