6 Top Graduate Employability Issues

May 31, 2020

The competition for graduate jobs is fierce. As there is an overabundance of academically qualified graduates entering the graduate job market each year, employers are placing more emphasis on identifying and hiring the most workplace-ready candidates. 

These are graduates who have not only excelled academically but who have developed both hard and soft skills and can demonstrate how they have acquired them. 

Here at Graduate Coach, we have been coaching students and graduates for over a decade. During this time we have gained several insights into the main graduate employability issues and how to overcome them. 

In this post, we will outline 6 of the main graduate employability issues and explain what students and graduates can do to improve their employability and subsequently their career prospects. 

#1: Too much emphasis on academics 

A few years back, achieving a first or upper second class degree in an academic subject, from a prestigious university was enough to stand out from the crowd. 

Schools, sixth forms, universities and parents place a lot of emphasis on students achieving academic success. However, a degree alone is not enough to impress graduate recruiters. 


A minimum of a 2:1 degree is required by many graduate employers, but thousands of applicants will meet this criterion. 

Whilst a good degree from a good university looks good on paper, employers are extremely interested in candidate’s extracurricular activities and work experiences. 

In fact, several of the larger graduate employers in the UK such as professional services firm PwC have removed academic entry requirements, demonstrating how much value they place in what graduates can offer beyond a good academic record. 

Many bright graduates experience graduate employability issues such as finding it difficult to get their first job due to the fact that they thought their degree would be enough to convince a recruiter to hire them. 

Tip for students and graduates – ensure that you get good graduates, but also consider the fact that there are thousands of other graduates with the same academic credentials as you. Focus on what makes you unique outside of academia. This is what will make you stand out in the competitive graduate labour market. 

Photo by malcolm garret from Pexels

#2: Candidates lacking work experience 

One of the main graduate employability issues is that many students progress through their university life without getting any work experience. 

Graduate recruiters are tasked with the challenge of identifying candidates who:

  • Will be a great cultural fit and thrive in the company
  • Have the skills and competencies to excel in the role
  • Genuinely care about the company and what it is trying to achieve
  • Have the ability to learn quickly and acquire new skills 

It is not an easy feat to sift through thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of applications to find ideal graduates with great potential. 

Graduates who have gained work experience in the form of short placements, internships, placement years or even shadowing will find it much easier to navigate their job search. 

This is because they will be able to draw on their experience to give evidence of their skills and competencies. 

Their achievements in the workplace will also help recruiters to get a sense of the candidates potential. 

Having experience will strengthen your candidacy throughout the entire graduate job application process. From having an achievement-based CV to being able to articulate your competencies confidently in interviews. 

#3: Lack of adequate careers advice  

Whilst all universities offer careers support to university students, it would be near impossible to give every student adequate careers advice. The advice from university careers centres is usually generic and not tailored to each individual student’s needs. 

Furthermore, many university students do not visit the career centre during their studies. 

This creates graduate employability issues as candidates leave university lacking direction and an understanding of what it takes to be highly employable. 

Here at Graduate Coach, we help students and graduates to boost their employability and land a good graduate job. We achieve this through career coaching, interview coaching, workshops, books and online courses. 

Further resources: 

➡️No idea what to do after uni [Here’s what to do]
➡️Confused about career after graduation [Help is here] 
➡️Help I’m struggling to find a job after university 
➡️1 year after graduation no job – what should I do 

Graduate Employability Issues graphic

#4: Not being taught how to interview 

There is an art and a science behind performing highly in interviews. 

Without being taught how to interview well, most graduates gradually get better at interviews over time, after being rejected several times. 

When graduates get rejected time after time whilst searching for a graduate job, it takes a toll on their self-esteem and confidence. Many graduates even report feeling depressed after graduation for this reason.

Graduate recruiters are seeking candidates who are able to confidently articulate their employability skills, experience and knowledge. It is a common misconception among graduates that their degree will impress recruiters. This is far from the truth. 

Resources: 
➡️ Why do I keep failing interviews? 
➡️Feeling sad after interviews: Dealing with post-interview blues

#5: Misunderstanding the nature of the graduate job market 

90% of graduates studied non-vocational subjects. Another misconception among graduates is that they will find a job in the field that is related to their degree. 

For example, many history graduates hope to find employment in a role related to History, or English Literature grads hope to find a related role. 

However, most graduate schemes and jobs do not specify a specific degree. 

The future of the graduate job market 

The demand for digitally-skilled graduates is increasing in the graduate job market. However, university courses have remained largely unchanged. 

Regardless of what you studied at university, it is worth developing your digital, IT and technology skills in order to boost your employability. 

➡️ How to help graduates launch their digital career

#6: Graduates not securing graduate-level jobs 

Whilst it is a sobering statistic, only 52% of graduates end up in a graduate-level job. The rest become underemployed working in jobs that do not require a degree. 

This is one of the top graduate employability issues. The root cause is the overabundance of academically qualifies graduates that enter the job market every year. 

How we help people to overcome these graduate employability issues 

We help graduates to discover their career path by determining their: 

  • Graduate job typology 
  • Hard and soft skills
  • Interests and career ambitions

Once we have determined the above, we then identify some suitable graduate job roles. Then we prepare the candidate for the graduate job application process. 

This involves crafting an achievement-based CV, writing effective cover letters, interview training and more. 

We encourage students to use their time at university wisely by taking every opportunity that they can to improve their employability skills. Gaining work experience is a great way to boost employability. As well as completing internships and placements, employers will also be interested in candidate’s extracurricular activities such as fundraising and being a part of a university society. 

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