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What are the odds of getting a graduate job?

Jaymes Carr

The AAGE Employer Survey reveals the industry competitiveness of graduate recruitment – just how likely are you to get into a graduate program?

Why graduates need all the help they can get

Founded in 1988, the Australian Association of Graduate Employers (AAGE) is a volunteer-led organisation that brings together major Australian organisations that hire graduates. These organisations include Allens, ANZ, Australian Taxation Office, BDO, Coles, Deloitte, LendLease, MinterEllison, PwC, Rio Tinto, Teach for Australia, TechnologyOne, and Westpac Australia. Since 2002, the AAGE has published an annual report that uses statistics provided by member organisations to paint a vivid picture of the economic landscape that awaits graduates.

The most recent report—The AAGE Employer Survey 2019—received responses from organisations across a range of industries: 29 per cent from the government, 13 per cent from banking and finance, 11 per cent from IT hardware and software, 9 per cent from accounting and professional services firms, and the remaining 38 per cent from a broad selection of other industries. Taken together, the results are particularly striking when it comes to the key question of how likely graduates are to secure a job after graduating. Spoiler alert—it’s a competitive market, with graduates unable to risk not doing all they can to prepare an outstanding application: and, to do so, they’ll need all the help they can get.

May the odds be ever in your favour

It was already clear that, in most cases, the number of graduate applicants for entry-level positions in some industries far outstrips the number of available positions. However, the AAGE report shows, with hard data, just how competitive the application process has now become across all industries. The most applications were submitted to businesses in the accounting and professional services industry, with the average organisation receiving 5,949 applications for 225 job openings. The next most popular industry was engineering consulting, with employers receiving an average of 4,387 applications for 139 job openings.

At the other end of the spectrum, law firms received an average of 251 applications for 54 job openings. Across all industries, each employer received an average of 1,940 applications for 59 positions or 33 applications for each role.

Of course, the best measure of the difficulty of securing a role in a given industry takes into account the number of applications and the number of available positions to generate a measure of how many graduates compete, on average, for a given position. This reveals fast moving consumer goods to be the most competitive industry, with 173 graduates vying for each role. In mining (assuming all applications are of equal merit), graduates have a 1 in 61 chance of getting a job; in roads and transport, a 1 in 54 chance; in IT software and hardware, a 1 in 46 chance; and in the banking, financial services, and insurance industry, a 1 in 43 chance.

Conversely, the least competitive industries were law (1 in 5), consulting (1 in 17), and accounting and professional services (1 in 26). A summary of the results (across all industries) is shown below:

Unknown supply, unpredictable demand

Interestingly, there is no clear relationship between the competitiveness of an industry and the likelihood proportion of applicants who ultimately receive and accept an offer. For example, in the FMCG industry, with 173 applications per role, the acceptance rate was only 86 per cent. Similarly, despite 26 applicants vying for each position in the engineering contractors industry, some 39 per cent of them declined a job offer.

However, considered across all industries, the AAGE reports suggests that most graduates who receive an offer do go on to accept it. Certainly, by that point, candidates are no longer competing with all applicants, but only with those who make it through initial stages of the application process. Here, too, the numbers are telling: on average, 37 per cent of applicants for a job make it to the first round (usually an interview); 20 per cent of those applicants make it the final round; and 44 per cent of final round candidates receive an offer, 88 per cent of whom choose to accept it. This means that approximately three per cent of the total applications (across all industries) result in a candidate being offered a graduate position.

The hard work of securing work

Unfortunately, for most graduates, the numbers above create a high-pressure and unalterable context in which the only practical option is to submit a strong application anyway and then do their best to shepherd that application through the selection process. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to boost your chances of receiving an offer. First, however, it helps to understand the nature of the process to which you must commit yourself.

According to the AAGE, the application process is most likely to take between two and four months (this covers 76 per cent of employers). However, there is a tendency for a drawn-out application process, with 54 per cent of employers taking more than four months instead of the planned length of two to four months.The good news is that only ten per cent of employers take up to six months, and only five per cent take more than six months.

Interestingly, regardless of how long the application process is, employers tend to be quick when it comes to making offers to successful candidates. About 46 per cent make an offer within seven days of the final assessment, with only seven per cent taking more than a month.

Naturally, you may wonder what the application process is like at your target employer. Your best resource for answering that question is the GradAustralia employers directory: search the employer in question, navigate to the grad reviews section, and then click on ‘recruitment’. There, you’ll find the inside scoop, as provided to us by graduate insiders. Otherwise, as a general guide, consider that, according to the AAGE guide:

'Graduates who are recruited to fill a specific role that require in demand or technical skills are three times as likely to complete their application process in up to a month (21%) compared to those who are hired to be part of a leadership program (6%) or perform graduate tasks (7%)'.

In other words, the more specific the role, the shorter the process of filling it.

Gaining an edge as a graduate

At this point, you may feel disheartened. After all, the findings of the AAGE report are unambiguous: securing a graduate position is tough, perhaps tougher now than it ever has been, requiring successful candidates to be not only talented, determined, and well-prepared, but patient. However, there’s a happy flipside to the challenges that graduates must face: in a crowded labour market, extra credit accrues to those candidates who are able to distinguish themselves. Indeed, the larger the crowd, the greater an achievement it becomes simply to stand out from it.

That’s where we come in. Browse our site for more application tips!