the battle for graduate talent hasd never been fiercer

The competition for top graduate talent has never been higher. According to a new report, The Must-Know Student Recruitment Trends in the UK for 2019 candidates on average, apply for graduate schemes with 29 different UK employers. As a result the number of applicants per graduate scheme has reached an all-time high with companies within the financial and professional services sectors having to deal with over 250,000 applications and other sectors typically receiving applications from 50,000 graduates.

The new study reviewed anonymous application data from 3.8 million candidates applying to graduate programmes across the finance, government, professional services, advertising, engineering and retail industries*.

According to the report competition is not just tougher for the recruiter, but also the candidate. Three quarters of students are interested in graduate programmes but only one per cent of graduates applying for schemes within finance, advertising and professional services and major retailers were hired in 2018, falling from two per cent the previous year.

These falls can in part be attributed to the fact that 2017 saw the first drop in graduate recruitment in five years (4.9 per cent) and the biggest since 2009. With fewer graduate jobs to go for, graduates are applying for more than twice as many positions compared with 10 years ago in the hope of increasing their chances of being hired.

Charles Hipps, Founder and CEO at Oleeo, comments,

As the chances of reaching the offer stage falls and the number of places available on most graduate schemes decreases, it is clear that graduates are becoming worried about their future prospects. It’s no wonder that many are responding to this by increasing the number of roles they apply for. This is creating a big challenge for recruiters – who are facing larger volumes of applications to deal with.This has left employers in a race against time; they must not only go through all of these applications to find the right quality talent who will fit with their business, but they must secure these graduates ahead of everyone else.

Oleeo’s research highlights some areas where employers could easily make improvements, for instance nearly a third (30per cent) of all graduates abandon the recruitment process mid-application, finding it too lengthy.

However graduate recruiters are making gains in other areas. The gender gap has closed significantly – 58 per cent of all graduate scheme hires were male versus 42 per cent female in 2018. This compares to 69 per cent male and 31 per cent female the previous year. The public sector is the best performer, achieving 50/50 gender equality. The engineering, retail and advertising sectors are still struggling with gender bias – with 70 per cent of graduate scheme places going to men.

Race equality has also improved, with the proportion of black candidates being hired doubling over the past 12 months. However, this group does still only accounts for six per cent of total hires. Asian applicants also saw a rise in hire rates in 2018, increasing from 13 per cent to 16 per cent.

*by Oleeo, in collaboration with Universum


Interested in talent management and the future of work?  We recommend the Talent Management and Leadership Development Summit 2019 and Future of Work Summit 2019.





Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

Aphrodite has had a variety of high profile industry clients as a freelancer, and previously worked for a number of years as an Editor and Journalist for

Aphrodite is also a professional painter.