A graduate ‘must have’: The work experience problem

Most graduate recruiters consider work experience one of the most important factors on a graduate CV, according to new research.

Almost 80 per cent of graduate recruiters consider work experience one of the most important factors on a graduate CV, ahead of degree level, the relevancy of the course, or the standard of university, according to new research.

The study by Pareto states 77 per cent of graduate recruiters place work experience as one of the most important factors on graduate job applications, two in five considering the level of the degree into recruitment decisions and only 7 per cent factoring in the standard of university.

Only a demonstrable skill set (87 per cent) was more sought-after than work experience, with evidence of communication, problem-solving and leadership being the most desired by recruiters.

Aspects recruiters would be happy to compromise on include any evidence of travelling or information on sports club memberships and societies, despite their potential to demonstrate desirable skills such as initiative (sought by 38 per cent of recruiters) or leadership (41 per cent) respectively.

The research also reveals that 47 per cent of recruiters will skip straight to the work experience section of a candidate’s CV or application. Only a quarter (27 per cent) would first look at the education section, and despite looking for applicants to demonstrate a certain set of skills, only one in ten recruiters would look there first.

Suzie Berry, head of candidate experience at Pareto, says, ‘While the emphasis placed on work experience clearly outweighs that of any other aspect of a graduate job application, the opportunity to develop skills that translate to the workplace through education, training and other extra-curricular endeavours should not be dismissed.’

When asked to give candidates one piece of advice when applying for graduate jobs, 80 per cent mention the word ‘experience’. But the opportunities for students are not necessarily available. In 2016, the top 100 biggest recruiters of graduates offered over 14,000 work experience places among them, which equates to less than one place for every 30 students in UK.

Berry concludes, ‘Work experience is clearly a ‘must-have’ for most graduate recruiters, as it shows a familiarity with the workplace and a drive to seek experience outside of a candidate’s university studies. But when work placements and opportunities are at such a premium, there has to be an allowance that some candidates have lesser access to the experience employers are seeking’.

Further reading on recruitment

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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