A staggering 57 percent of UK employers report they are hiring fewer graduates this year compared to previous years, according to a new study by specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters.

This trend is putting a significant strain on the job market for young professionals entering the workforce.

The impact on graduates is stark. Sixty-two percent of recent graduates state they are struggling to find relevant professional positions.

Over half (58%) describe their job search as ‘extremely difficult,’ with 18 percent reporting it has taken them more than six months to find a position, and 44 percent still without a job.

Decline in Graduate Positions

Recent figures from Adzuna highlight a nearly one-third drop in graduate positions across the UK, double the decrease seen in overall job vacancies. This adds to last year’s reports of a contraction in graduate jobs alongside stagnant entry-level pay.

Habiba Khatoon, Director of Robert Walters UK, explains, “Graduates across the UK are experiencing considerable roadblocks when looking for jobs right now. When economic conditions get tighter, company graduate intakes will inevitably reduce or, in some cases, be put on hold altogether.”

Khatoon warns that employers might be saving on headcount costs now but could face talent bottlenecks in the future, leading to higher competition and costs for specific roles, similar to what was observed in the period following Covid in the accountancy and legal sectors.

Hiring Priorities Shift

Despite Gen-Z expected to make up over a quarter (27%) of the global workforce by next year, 57 percent of UK employers are reducing graduate hires. Among these, 26 percent are hiring ‘a little less,’ and 31 percent ‘a lot less.’ Reasons cited include tighter hiring budgets (39%), reduced capacity for training (25%), and a shift towards hiring more senior talent (22%).

Graduates Feeling the Pinch

Graduates are feeling the brunt of these changes. Only a minority (10%) find their job search somewhat easy, and a significant portion is struggling to secure positions in their field of study. As Khatoon notes, “With the economy still sluggish, many employers are holding onto their existing workforce, but students are continuing to graduate at the same pace, leading to a consistent funnel of graduates vying for a shrinking pool of positions.”

Employer Expectations

As the influx of graduates continues, employers are raising the bar for entry-level roles. StandOutCV recently found that over half of entry-level positions now require an average of 2.7 years of prior experience. Despite this, employers prioritise a willingness to learn (72%) over being a team player (14%), prior work experience (10%), and academic experience (3%).

Future Outlook

Khatoon remains cautiously optimistic, suggesting the scales will balance over the coming months. She offers three top tips for graduates to improve their job search success:

  1. Leverage Social Media and Networks: Utilise platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and personal networks to discover job opportunities outside traditional channels.
  2. Add Value to Your CV: Enhance your CV with recession-proof skills through voluntary work or learning relevant technologies and applications.
  3. Research and Prepare: Stay informed about market trends and key employers in your industry, and thoroughly prepare for all interviews.

In conclusion, while the job market is tough for graduates right now, strategic efforts in networking, skill-building, and thorough preparation can help improve their chances of securing their first professional roles.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.