What graduates and students want from employers – how to stand out from the crowd

Students and graduates today are a discerning bunch and if you think the simple offer of a job is good enough, well think again. Just because youth unemployment is up and jobs seem scarce doesn’t mean they’ll take anything, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t market yourself as the golden egg of employers. Following up on what employers want, we decided to take a sneak peek into the inner workings of our candidates’ thoughts in order to work out what makes them tick. We don’t just mean what interests they have or their skill sets, but what it is in a job that ticks all of those little boxes and makes them hit that apply button.

  1. Industry

What your company does and what it represents is important to entry level job seekers, and so it should be. Almost 20% of our candidates consider the industry of the company hiring to be the most important reason for applying for a job and even voiced the need for entry level roles and internships in their chosen industry of interest. For most people, being excited about the industry is integral to job satisfaction which in turn helps to gain a long term, loyal employee.  

If your industry is not the most exciting one out there, fear not. There are plenty of ways you can boost your image. Discuss how the industry is adapting to the ever changing face of this continually progressing world and what you’re doing to keep up. Expand upon how your company might be at the forefront of it and what your contributions are – don’t look like you’re stuck in last year but like you’re already living in the next one.   

What graduates and students want from you


University graduates have had a long 3/4 year slog through exams, essays, balancing work commitments, and often living between two locales. At the end of all this they don’t want to be short changed with a dead end job that goes nowhere and will never challenge them again.

We understand that not all companies and organisations can offer the fast paced progression that large global conglomerates can, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a role that will allow them to gain valuable experience. Make the focus of the job description about how it will challenge them everyday and provide valuable experience to boost their careers. Their desire to progress in the workplace illustrates that they are willing to work hard. One of our employers saw Tara’s, one of our successful candidates, potential and now works for them full time – “I got a 4 month internship through the website, which led to the company offering me a permanent contract. I’ve just celebrated my one year anniversary here and I have learnt so much. Students and graduates, just like Tara, want employers who will invest in their career development because they want to invest themselves back into the right company. Organised, rotational graduate schemes are a great way to show that the graduate will be given structured, effective training and that will improve their skills. Acknowledge and play up your desire to invest in entry level talent – they’re fast learners that don’t throw away knowledge or take an employer who appreciates their input for granted.

At the end of the day this will add value to a company that sees their potential for professional progression – these are traits that shouldn’t be squandered or overlooked by a lack of experience current students and fresh graduates might have.

3. Wage

This is a tricky one because you can only offer what is within your company budget and what you believe the role is worth, but guaranteeing a fresh graduate at least the living wage for the area they will be working in is a good place to start. Most graduates and students are not in the financial position to take on a low salary job or do an unpaid internship – offering an expenses only or a salary below the living wage will set you back in the number and diversity of applicants your job posting will receive. It was clear from our survey high quality, well educated students and graduates naturally gravitate towards companies that reward them for their work and in the long run will add more value to your organisation. Offering paid internships and entry level roles ultimately will attract a wider diversity of applicants, and won’t instantly alienate a whole section of the community. The intern or graduate will be truly dedicated to their role, your company, and will be much more valuable to you. They are more likely to view the job as long-term and not just another role that’s a means to an end. You will reap the rewards of this in the long run in terms of return investment and minimal staff turnover rates.


Young people today care about who they work for, what they do, and especially the company’s reputation. This means marketing and celebrating what is unique about your company culture whether it is your charitable initiatives, office environment or highlighting your cutting edge ideas. Students and graduates, much like everyone else, want to fit in and get along with the people they work with and for. Company culture is not just the corporate image you project online but it is also reflected in your interview technique. The interview is a candidate’s first view and perhaps the only view into your company – candidates are trying to impress you but don’t forget you also need to impress them! One graduate from our survey exemplifies the importance of this, “The CEO was very rude and totally put me off the job from his very negative interviewing technique” the interviewer lost a candidate simply on a bad first impression, a potential disaster if it was the individual you wanted to hire. Creating a desirable corporate culture is a great way to attract the right students and graduates especially if you are looking to turn an internship into a permanent position – if your most recent intern had a great time working for you then they will definitely want to sign that long term contract! High turnover rates are costly and can damage your company’s productivity – being able to turn your interns into long term, dedicated employees can be an ideal recruitment method.


It’s more than just the job spec

Writing a good and compelling job spec needs to go beyond just outlining the responsibilities of the role, listing the educational requirements, and focusing on previous experience; you also need to sell yourself and your company. Much like how you would market your company to a customer, you should also market the role to your applicant demographics and sell yourself to attract the right calibre of candidates. Applications, jobs, and employee relations are a two way street – remember the role and your company are being just as harshly judged from the other side of the table.

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