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what job hunting graduates can expect in 2019: a look into the crystal ball

What lies ahead for your job hunt in 2019? Your questions answered

Brexit, virtual reality, tricky interview questions and finally, a salary – but how much? We look into the TARGETjobs crystal ball to predict what could be in store for your graduate job hunt over the next twelve months.

What lies ahead for your graduate job hunt? With so much political uncertainty in the air, making predictions for 2019 seems particularly risky. Nevertheless, we’ve peered into the future and summoned some insights from employers and researchers to answer six key questions you’re likely to ask yourself as you set about getting your career off the ground in the new year.

1. How will Brexit affect my job hunt in 2019?

No one can say for sure how Brexit is going to affect the graduate job market, especially as it isn’t yet clear what form Brexit is going to take. However, generally speaking, as far as graduate recruitment is concerned it’s business as usual. As the What do graduates do? report published in autumn 2018 puts it, ‘the UK graduate labour market is yet to have experienced any deep and significant impact from Brexit or from international trade disputes’.

The impact of Brexit may as yet be unclear, but what is certain is that you are likely to come up against stiff competition for graduate roles, especially for places on graduate schemes with big multinational employers. On average, according to a membership survey carried out in 2018 by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), which represents many large companies, each graduate vacancy attracted 41 applications. Consumer goods employers were the most competitive of all, attracting 204 applications per vacancy.

Nevertheless, in some areas, employers find it difficult to recruit graduates with the skills they want. These shortage areas include specialist engineering, IT, and construction, according to the What do graduates do? report.

You can give yourself a head start by registering with TARGETjobs and filling out your profile, if you haven’t done so already. This means employers can contact you directly about vacancies you would be a good match for. Do your research into employers and different career areas, and make sure you don’t miss out on applying for any graduate opportunities that appeal to you.

2. Will I ever get a graduate job?

Not if you don’t keep applying! If you’re in your final year, the prospect of fitting in graduate job applications alongside studying can be daunting. It’s best to take a strategic approach, focusing on doing fewer applications well rather than trying to fire off as many applications as possible. Remember you need to tailor each application for the employer.

One of the biggest favours you can do yourself is to understand how to translate your experience of part-time work, studying and extracurricular activities into the kind of soft, transferable skills that employers are looking for, such as communication, motivation, time management and so on. This will underpin how you present yourself in your applications and interviews, and will enable you to show that you match the skills required for the job.

A good starting point is our advice on ten skills that will get you a job when you graduate. We’ve also put together a series of articles on different skills and competencies ranging from motivation and resilience to problem solving, to explain how to show employers your strengths.

Perhaps you’ve decided to put off the whole graduate job hunt thing for a bit longer and take some time out? Are you considering working abroad, perhaps as a TEFL teacher? Use our advice on planning a gap year and working abroad to help you. Our TEFL teacher job description explains what TEFL teaching involves and how to qualify.

What if you’ve already graduated? Our advice on how to structure your job hunt if you’ve already finished university will help you keep going until you succeed in getting the job you want.

3. What are employers looking for?

Recruiters tell us that motivation is hugely important to them. They want to be sure that you’re genuinely interested in the role and the employer, and you’ll need to have done your employer research to convince them.

According to the ISE survey, most employers set minimum requirements for entry. More than half (58%) of ISE members surveyed used degree classification, and 15% used A levels. Many, though not all, graduate recruiters ask for a 2.1. However, a significant minority – 19% – choose not to set any minimum requirements.

Employers also love candidates with work experience, and they are particularly keen on recruiting their own interns into graduate jobs. This has been a trend in recent years and is set to continue in 2019. According to the ISE report, in 2018 employers rehired an average of 52% of their interns.

4. What can I expect from the graduate selection process in 2019?

Most employers now use online applications as part of the recruitment process. They are aware that the recruitment process can be time-consuming for applicants and many are currently trying to speed it up, so you might find that the application form you are asked to complete is very short, and you might not be asked to attach a CV.

Many graduate employers now use video interviews. Candidates sometimes find these challenging but, on the plus side, you can fit them in at a time that is convenient for you. Assessment centres, which used to last a whole day, are also getting shorter.

Employers typically use online ability tests at an early stage in the recruitment process and there is a trend towards using online games as part of this. You could also encounter a new twist in games-based assessment: the virtual reality test. This is not yet in widespread use, but we expect more employers to adopt it over the next twelve months. It involves wearing a virtual reality headset to immerse yourself in various simulated situations to which you have to respond.

5. What kind of questions should you expect in your interviews?

Whether it’s a video interview, phone interview or face to face, chances are the employer will use competency-based questions. These involve asking for examples of a particular skill or competency. According to the ISE report, 79% of employers said that their approach was competency-based. However, the majority of employers combine more than one approach, so you might well find yourself facing questions that focus on your strengths, values and technical skills as well as competency questions.

6. Where are you likely to work after you graduate and what will you earn?

The average graduate starting salary edged upwards in 2018, increasing by 2.9% from £21,776 to £22,399, according to the What do graduates do? report. This may be because the number of graduates emerging from UK universities has fallen slightly over the last few years, which means that employers are competing for a smaller pool of talent. The average graduate starting salary in the ISE report was higher, at £28,250, as you might expect given that ISE members include many big graduate recruiters that tend to pay higher salaries.

Your starting salary will vary considerably depending on what you do. Our advice on what you could earn in different careers identifies the sectors with the highest starting pay.

Unsurprisingly, London is the UK’s biggest hotspot for graduate recruitment. According to What do graduates do? the main locations of employment for 2017 graduates outside London were Birmingham, Glasgow, Hertfordshire, Kent, Leeds, Manchester and Surrey. You can find out more about the proportion of graduate jobs based outside London from our advice on where in the UK you are most likely to get a graduate job.

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