Aware that many potential employers do not check the information, some make bogus claims about their results and extra-curricular activities, the Institute of Manpower Studies was told.
All graduates responding to the survey reported that application forms were the easiest of the selection procedures to fake and employers accepted that graduates can exaggerate their experience and tailor their response to 'look good'.
Organisations, however, still place considerable faith in such forms, the institute says. Such trust is 'unwarranted given the potential inaccuracy of the information', the study says.
The sifting process to arrive at shortlists is often performed by untrained staff under instructions to prefer applications from students from 'old' universities.
Few recruiters know what they mean by 'best' graduates or have a consistent view of quality. 'They focus more on individual institutions or educational qualifications rather than what makes recruits effective in the end,' the report said.
The increasing volume of graduates chasing a diminishing supply of jobs posed major problems for employers seeking recruits most suited to their organisations.
Marie Strebler, of the institute, said: 'Employers who do not make shortlisting decisions on the basis of reliable and valid information will be missing good candidates and shortlisting the wrong ones.
'The recruiters we interviewed believed that the most important aspect of the recruitment process to handle well is to project a corporate image and to establish a personal contact with graduates. Yet the graduates and careers advisers interviewed had limited knowledge about employers' needs and the shortlisting methods used.'
The authors believe employers should be more aware of changes in education and vocational qualifications if they want to shortlist effectively and fairly.
The findings were based on a study of five large recruiters who received a total of 23,100 applications.
Shortlisting The Best Graduates: IMS Report 253; BEBC Ltd, PO Box 1496, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset BH12 3YD; pounds 40.
Leading article, page 13Reuse content