Employers are being urged to target second-year undergraduates after research shows that fewer final-year students hunt for jobs.
The study by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit shows that only 7 per cent of students look for a job at the start of their final year, and nearly half claim they will leave it until midway through.
The survey of 1,200 students also finds that nearly a fifth plan to look for a job in the summer after graduation and 11 per cent will leave it until they return from travelling.
Mike Hill, chief executive of Careers Services Unit, urged employers to develop work experience programmes for second-year students.
He said, "Through targeting second-year students, companies will beat the final-year rush and give themselves a larger pool of talent to choose from.
"Also, by getting second-year undergraduates into work experience the students have the advantage of finding out about the organisation and its culture. If the employer is happy with the student it is able to beat its rivals by offering a job."
The Careers Services Unit research was launched at the Association of Graduate Recruiters annual conference in Wales last week and Hill urged employers to form a closer relationship with university careers services.
"If careers services staff are aware of an organisation, it will help the employer when students go to them for advice."
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said, "If the final-year recruitment percentage is correct then employers will have to review their recruitment processes.
"I am a great believer in student work experience. Undergraduates get an insight into the world of work and it improves their future job prospects. Employers get to promote their organisation to students and build up a relationship with individuals.
By Paul Nelson