During the pandemic jobs were put on hold, graduate contracts were withdrawn and there were fewer graduate opportunities to apply for.  It was a tough year (2020/21) for students graduating from university, and even tougher for those of a similar age without a degree. The number of applicants per vacancy went up dramatically, resulting in many students deciding to stay on and study for a masters while COVID-19 and the associated economic slowdown eased.  

This year has been completely different. It’s widely accepted that we are now in a candidate driven market: with vacancies increasing, salaries rising, candidates reneging offers as employers struggle to fill roles. 

What does this mean for recent graduates still looking for a job? What does the forecast look like for 2022/23?  Given the political/economic landscape, is the candidate driven market likely to continue?  

Read on for some of Futureboard’s insights.

Are we in a candidate driven market?

At the graduate level, we are certain that we are in a candidate driven market. The demand for graduates and junior talent has increased this year; according to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) vacancies have been 20% higher than in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.  The number of job vacancies in the wider job market rose to a new record of 1.3m across the UK in March to May 2022.  The ISE also reports salary increases, unfilled roles and an increase in candidates reneging offers.

Our clients have made a notable shift this year to focus on what they can do to attract candidates as they have seen application numbers drop, particularly for less desirable functions or geographic locations. This has meant extending application deadlines, more proactive search, flexible start dates, flexibility on starting salaries and more openness to explore candidates from varied academic backgrounds.  

What does it mean for you as a job seeker?

In simple terms, you have more choice. The power has shifted from the employer to the job seeker/graduate, this means you can be more selective about which roles to apply to and which roles to accept.  You have negotiating power.

According to a recent article in Bloomberg, UK 2022 graduates will compete for jobs with salaries 7% higher than their equivalents last year, although each role is still very competitive, fighting off an average of 35 applicants to secure a role.  We know from experience that unfilled roles at a more experienced level, has a positive, trickle-down effect on graduate vacancies – large employers look to expand their graduate intake to compensate for gaps at more senior levels.  

If you are a computer scientist from a high-ranking university or a data scientist with an interest in artificial intelligence, chances are you might not have noticed much of a difference in the market from 2019 to now.  There are certain scarcer skillsets that have been consistently in demand, even in 2021, however, if you are one of those people, you will now be able to really focus on what company you see yourself in, what culture is a best fit for you and really explore the wider benefits a potential employer can offer you.  This is a good market to step back and really evaluate what you want before jumping into something too quickly.

If you are late to apply for graduate roles, don’t worry, there’s still lots available. Companies are still hiring over the summer for this year’s intake, or for deferred starts, which indicates how difficult employers have found hiring graduates this year.  BP, PwC, Cap Gemini, BT, KPMG TikTok and Amazon are still actively recruiting graduates.

Looking ahead…

What do we think is likely to happen over the next 12 months? Well, the war in Ukraine, ongoing issues relating to Brexit, the change in Conservative leadership does not make for a positive forecast for the UK economy. The pound has weakened, interest rates are up, and many financial institutions are suggesting that the UK may be heading for a recession.  This of course is likely to have a direct impact on the job market, and in turn on the graduate job market.

That said, we may not see an impact on numbers until the hiring year 2023/24.  A survey by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) and Handshake revealed that 47 per cent of organisations that employ students and graduates are intending to increase the number of hires they make in the next 12 months.  That’s good news for the class of 2022 and 2023.  In previous recession years, we saw a slight delay in the decrease of vacancies at the student level.  In 2007/2008 we also saw a steady demand for the scarcer skillsets. We think that’s very likely to be the case in the next few years, especially as the UK focusses on developing itself as a skilled economy.

In summary, if you are graduating in the next few years, your job prospects are likely to be good to great; good for graduates from non-STEM backgrounds and great for those individuals from STEM subjects as employers seek to fill talent gaps.  Our best advice for all students is make sure you use your time wisely at university – study well, but also get involved in extra-curricular activities and seek out useful internships during your breaks. Regardless of academic background, it’s important to build soft skills in addition to acquiring knowledge as part of your degree.

If you are someone looking for a job and want to chat about your options, feel free to follow Futureboard on social media or to get in touch via kb@futureboardconsulting.com.

Thank you for reading!