Graduates securing multiple job offers

A SAGEA survey shows that recruiting patterns for graduates are largely unchanged.

Organisations are recruiting graduates on a similar level to last year, according to the South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) Employer Benchmarking Survey 2021, which took place between March and June 2021.

The research, which is based on responses from 73 of the leading graduate employers in the country, also found that the Covid-19 crisis led to considerable change in the graduate job market, as employers reassessed their recruitment needs and shifted to fully digital campaigns.

The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey 2021 questioned 2,256 new or future employees about job hunting and the job market. The research showed that candidates made an average of five or six applications and most had secured multiple job offers – despite the pandemic and economic constraints.

Employers, meanwhile, noted that thousands of applications were received for graduate roles but there continued to be a shortage of candidates with the right skills set or qualifications.

Candidates who started their job hunting by their first year at university were most likely to secure a graduate position with their top employer of choice. By comparison, students who waited until their final year before starting their job search were the least likely to have received a job offer from one of their top three employers.

Cathy Sims, executive director for SAGEA, said, “Competition for these roles is of course extremely stressful, and many students are sending out panicked applications for any open vacancy. However, the best candidates tend to focus their job hunt and many will end up having multiple job offers from which to choose, so employers have to work very hard to help ensure these candidates feel connected to both the role and the organisation – that is harder than normal as employers currently have to utilise virtual recruitment and selection methods, often not seeing a candidate in person prior to offering a graduate position.

“Employers who are performing well are typically engaging in meaningful, authentic conversations with job hunters via a variety of channels and at multiple times,” she added.

Take-aways from the surveys
Highlights from the SAGEA Employer Benchmarking 2021 include:

  • Just over a third of employers were primarily recruiting graduates to fill roles that require in-demand or technical skills. Similar numbers confirmed that graduates were hired for entry-level roles, and that some would progress to manager level. Just over 30 percent stated that graduates were hired to be part of the leadership development programme.
  • Accounting and professional services firms were the largest recruiters, with half of all vacancies. Other major recruiters were banking and finance organisations and consumer goods companies and retailers.
  • The most vacancies were found in audit, more than two-fifths of total vacancies.
  • The median number of graduate vacancies was 24, which is similar to previous years.
  • The median graduate starting salary was R220,000, unchanged from last year’s survey.
  • The highest starting salaries were for investment analysts, actuaries, quantitative analysts, lawyers, and several engineering positions, with median starting salaries of at least R370,000.
  • Three-fifths of organisations have seen their recruitment budget reduce compared to last year, with half suggesting it had decreased considerably.
  • Two-thirds have run fewer events compared to last year and attendance levels have been mixed.
  • A fifth of those candidates who submitted applications were successful in reaching the next stage of the selection process and there were fewer reneged offers compared to last year.

Highlights from the SAGEA Candidate Insights 2021 include:

  • The most popular areas were auditing, technology, legal and consulting.
  • Six universities with the highest attendance levels accounted for more than two-thirds of all survey participants.
  • Most candidates did not think the government was handling the pandemic well, but they were positive about the steps their universities had taken to manage the impact.
  • 37 percent felt the pandemic had made it harder to know which employers have graduate vacancies, while nearly a third said it was more difficult to have one-to-one conversations with employers and felt it was harder to get a clear understanding of the culture.
  • Over half of the candidates were going to be working in Johannesburg, while a sixth had secured positions in Cape Town.
  • About 44 percent expected to stay with their first employer for more than five years.
  • There is overwhelming support for graduate employers to return to university campuses for their future recruitment campaigns, with 82 percent saying they thought employers should use a mix of in-person on-campus recruitment events and online recruitment promotions.