Quality over quantity is key to finding graduate employment

The latest advice for the graduate still searching for that top graduate position is to focus on quality over quantity. I couldn’t agree more. Submit fewer but better applications with a stronger focus on what you have to offer.

It is advice that should be welcomed by the bewildered graduate who has submitted countless applications but is yet to land that top job.

The man behind it is Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), who has said that a lot is made of getting a university degree while “most candidates fall down at the application stage”.

Help to find graduate employment

Clearly, then, the ability to put together a good application is the job skill graduates need help with most but who is teaching them? Not the universities for sure.

We have said over and over that getting a job is a learnt skill and graduates need to be taught how to do so. It is a travesty that this is not taught as a matter of course as part of a university degree.

The need for graduates to be taught how to get a job is clear from the AGR’s latest report. It shows that an incredible 67% of recruiters with unfilled vacancies have not been able to fill positions because of the poor quality of applications they have received.

The report itself paints an optimistic picture of graduate recruitment, showing that all sectors are recruiting and that 55% of unfilled positions are as a result of companies increasing their graduate intakes.

The majority of these positions are in IT, electrical engineering and general management and they span the UK with many unfilled vacancies outside London.

Graduates sell themselves short on job applications

Stephen said companies are failing to find the right candidates because graduates are not taking enough time over their applications and thus not representing themselves in the best possible light.

Granted, many of these application forms are lengthy and graduates understandably are trying to focus on making as many applications as possible in an attempt to increase the odds of landing a job.

But the report highlights the need for graduates to step back and think carefully about how they are presenting themselves – after all, one good application is clearly better than several poor ones.

“First impressions really do count,” Stephen said in response to the report, “and in most cases the first impression an employer receives is a CV or job application.”

He says graduates should do proper research on the sectors and roles they are applying for, “tailoring each approach to show why they want that particular job and what relevant skills they can offer an employer”.

Job advice for graduates

That is certainly the advice we give. A graduate is more likely to get an interview if he or she spends the larger proportion of time on making sure his or her experience is relevant to what the employer wants rather than, as Stephen says, taking a “scatter gun approach” to finding a job where the information shared on the application form is made too general.

In graduate recruitment quality wins over quantity every time so it makes sense to spend more time on getting one application right.

It will also pay dividends at the interview stage. The graduate who has spent time researching a company will find it easier to relate his own experience to the position, answer interview questions and to ask better interview questions too.