I’ve worked in the Emerging Talent market for a number of years and the question of how to compete to ensure a graduate accepts your job over a competitor’s offer is a perennial one. However, a recent survey report from Milkround revealed some surprising – and concerning – statistics about how current graduates handle job offers and how we might need to pay more attention to our offer process.

Over 5,300 current and recent university graduates were surveyed and one of the most surprising findings was how comfortable they are declining – and even reneging on – job offers. 34% of graduates had declined a job offer, almost a 16% increase since last year and nearly a 10% increase when considering those who had declined two or more offers. The decline rate rises to 72% for those who received an offer after having completed an internship, which is a staggering number, especially when considering that over just over half of those who completed an internship received an offer. The top two reasons for declining offers ranged from believing they lacked the skills required for the job (58%) and deciding the role wasn’t for them (19%). Most employers assume that salary is one of the key factors in a decision but these figures tell a different story; salary as a reason for declining is less than 7%.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that 30% of graduates had reneged on a job offer once they’d accepted – and over 70% believed reneging was acceptable! Employers might typically presume that a candidate would only decline if they thought they had a better offer elsewhere but almost two-thirds said their reason was they didn’t know how to decline the offer: a sign of a lack of confidence perhaps in how to navigate new workplace environments.

So what does this mean for employers? There is the obvious cost impact of having invested large sums of money in comprehensive attraction and recruitment campaigns. Having to go to market again to fill one or more roles in a short time (given most campaigns have one fixed start date) is an unwelcome position to be in for any employer. It is naturally a candidate’s market at the moment and with graduate numbers in the UK on a decline, this isn’t a situation that is likely to change anytime soon. Therefore we need to give careful thought to how we can influence these numbers in a positive way....

  • Pre-offer:

Are the job descriptions easy for young job-seekers to understand? Frequently these are put together by senior stakeholders who are all too familiar with the intricacies of a role and often forget that their role descriptions are sometimes not so obvious for those with limited work experience.Does your assessment process allow candidates a realistic job preview? There are many ways to optimise an assessment process to ensure candidates gain as full an understanding as possible about what the role entails, which would naturally help reduce the number who decline because even after completing assessment processes, they feel they aren’t the right fit for such a role

  • Offer process:

Graduate will often have a number of offers to choose from. Allowing a candidate time to digest your offer and come back with questions before you press for a decision can help ease the pressure and ensure that any decision they make is more likely to be one they won’t want to change.Do you know if your candidates are interviewing elsewhere? Asking if they are and how far along they are with their process will give you an indication of where their thought process might be in relation to your offer. It might also give you an insight in to how you might want to better position your offering...

  • Post-offer candidate engagement:

There is often a disconnect between how well an employer believes they have engaged with a candidate and how that candidate perceives the relationship. Candidate engagement shouldn’t stop once you’ve secured an offer. Invite your candidates in to meet people and ask questions, meet the team. Helping them feel part of the team before they even start will help to build the relationship. This will make their first day less daunting and can help build their confidence before they start in the role.Setting up communities so graduate intakes can get to know each other in advance can also help create bonds and a sense of belonging before the start date. For those moving to a new city, it can be particularly helpful to share advice and support.

Competition will always be there in the graduate market but recognising that we can’t be complacent once an offer has been made, far less accepted, can hopefully help us be more proactive in building relationships with our recruits and not leave them in limbo over the summer between offer and start date!

Written by Caroline Beaton, Client Relationship Director