Student recruiting trends report by WCN and Universum sheds light on major challenges faced by employers looking to meet mounting candidate expectations

The recruiter battle for the strongest graduates is becoming so intense with students more empowered than ever before – making engagement and candidate experiences the top recruiter priorities for 2018, according to two industry leaders.

In a study of almost one million applicants and excerpts of responses from almost 40,000 business students across  four international regions.[1], leading global talent acquisition software provider WCN and employer branding thought leader Universum have compiled ‘The must know student recruiting trends for 2018.’

The report offers factual insights into why attraction and engagement are key to hiring the best future leaders and empowering them to choose where they start their professional careers. Based on the analysis conducted by WCN, the following global conclusions can be reached:

Competition is tougher than you might imagine – Across the applications reviewed for high-volume recruiters, we saw an average of 50,000 students applying for graduate/campus programs (which have several different positions available across businesses rather than just management traineeships). Of those applying, only approximately 2per cent make the offers stage, whereas an average of 70per cent of candidates find themselves screened out from the start

Fallout rates are big so engagement is king – Decline, withdraw and renege rates vary across the world but a universal finding is that from the thousands applying, the numbers falling into one of these three groupings are consistently in the hundreds – further proof of the frantic competition inherent in graduate hiring and the need to work harder in engagement and hosting events dedicated to nurturing in the process.

Diversity continues to be a big challenge in student hiring – Female applications underwhelm male applications in quantity but females are more successful than men at receiving offers. Research by WCN and University College London shows that even in blind screening, the language used to answer questions can influence invites to interview and more can be done to help recruiters understand how to break unconscious bias traits.

Working Abroad is a booming area amongst graduates – Despite ever-changing political climates, more and more overseas students are applying for roles outside of their country of nationality looking to experience work in different offices and nurture their desires to travel. The numbers securing roles varies but are prominent in the UK despite the Brexit vote, whilst large numbers of UK applicants are finding success in APAC offices and Canadians cross the border to work in the US.

The prominence of elite universities is also a mixed bag – Whilst analysis of US data shows less leaning towards students with Ivy League backgrounds, UK data shows a bigger leaning towards Russell Group universities despite criticism from social mobility lobbyists.

Gaps in ethnicity still exist – There is a gap in roles being filled by Black and Hispanics across all regions which could be eased by more diversity focus – particularly in the US and UK where the proportion of roles filled are significantly lower than applications received.

WCN Founder & CEO Charles Hipps comments:

“The findings in this study, coupled with the perspectives provided by Universum, show just how intense student recruitment is becoming around the world. Mounting competition is ramping up business pressures to recruit faster and be more agile but employers also face the threat that increasingly it is students who hold the power in determining which business is the best fit for them.

“This report clearly demonstrates the need for recruiters to expand sources, find diamonds in the rough and improve diversity in a hugely competitive landscape. Engagement is key to this and recruiters really need to be thinking about how to accelerate their commitment to hiring superstars by personalising approaches to candidate nurturing so that you can vie to be faster than your competitors.”

Universum Managing Director for Americas, Jonna Sjövall comments:

“Our research shows that students indeed have more options than before – they are both indicating a broader interest for different industries and employers as well as assessing their personal fit with the values of their future organization”,

“Fair and friendly trumps elitist and competitive for sure. Graduates want to know if they can be themselves at work and are asking for transparency both in terms of the recruitment process, selection criteria and the culture”, she continues. “This makes it even more important for recruiters to be good at fine-tuning their communication with a diverse talent pool.”


[1] Universum Talent Research was conducted between October 2016 and March 2017 – the number of respondents for business students in each region are as follows: 1,771 – Hong Kong, 2,715 – Singapore, 8,677 – UK and 26,809 for the US.





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.