Martin Birchall: Look on the bright side... this year's graduates are at least applying for vacancies

Related Topics

Today's lurid headlines from the Association of Graduate Recruiters paint the bleak picture that those leaving university this summer have little or no chance of landing an entry-level job.

But are things really that bad for the Class of 2011? It's certainly true that many of the best-known employers have seen a sharp rise in applications for their graduate schemes this year, but much of this actually stems from an increasingly optimistic mood on campus.

During the worst of the recession, many final-year students took the view that it wasn't worth applying for graduate jobs and instead opted for postgraduate study or went travelling instead, in the hope that things would improve later.

This year's graduates have taken a very different approach. An unprecedented number started researching their career options in their first or second year at university and tens of thousands organised work placements during their studies to give themselves the vital CV points that employers were looking for.

By being organised, motivated and focused, an unprecedented proportion of this year's finalists have been able to make early applications to employers and have approached more organisations.

Far from being cowed by a competitive job market, the Class of 2011 has really engaged with the job hunting process and by February had made a record number of applications to employers – an average of seven or eight applications per finalist. It is this surge in interest which has fuelled the increase in the number of applicants per vacancy, rather than a sudden shortage of graduate jobs.

Yes, the demand for some of the most popular roles, in areas such as investment banking, marketing and the media, is unmanageably high. But away from these recruitment hotspots, the odds of making a successful job application are considerably better.

The "Big Four" accounting and professional services firms, for example, are among the biggest recruiters of graduates and have almost completed hiring a total of 4,500 university leavers to start work this autumn. On average, these firms received between 10 and 15 applications for each of their 2011 traineeships and up to a third of applicants made it through to first-round interviews – rather more favourable odds of success than the average 80:1 candidates-to-vacancies ratio would suggest.

The reality is that the graduate job market as a whole is making a good recovery. Vacancies for graduates have now increased for two years running and although recruitment may not be quite back to pre-recession levels, all the signs are that this growth will continue.

Now is the time to provide university-leavers with as much encouragement and support as possible in their search for employment, rather than putting them off applying for work altogether.

The author is managing director of High Fliers Research

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions