Education to Employment Education to Employment

Who are graduate employers?

In this section, you will find information about the features of graduate employers in Australia; the processes they use to find and develop their graduate recruits; and get the inside view on what they are looking for in their recruits. We also check out what graduate employers have available specifically for graduates with disability and how graduates and graduate employers can find each other.

This section will be particularly useful for graduates with disability wanting to know more about their prospective employers and how to promote themselves during the competition for a graduate job. Disability employment services might also find these facts useful when getting to know more about graduate recruitment processes and what Graduate Employers are looking for in recruits.

What do we mean by 'graduate employers'?

A graduate employer is an organisation which specifically sets out to recruit graduates with tertiary qualifications relevant to their industry.

Graduate employers are a diverse group of small to large employers from a huge range of industry sectors. Industries where you can find graduate employers include:

  • Agriculture
  • Building and construction
  • Commerce
  • Education and training
  • Engineering
  • Health and community Services
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology and telecommunications
  • Law and the legal system
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and communications
  • Public Policy
  • Resources and energy
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Transport

On average graduate employers surveyed in 2009 employed 1.6 Full-time Equivalent staff specifically devoted to recruiting graduates and associated activities (source: 'AAGE Employer Survey 2010: Executive Summary'). More than half of graduate employers also have a graduate program to support and develop their graduates on entry operating for 2-3 years (source: 'AAGE Employer Survey 2010: Executive Summary').

To get a closer look at which employers have graduate recruitment, check out the Australian Association of Graduate Employers' website (or AAGE, a not-for-profit body which represents graduate employers and has over 300 members across Australia). Another great place to find graduate employers is the Australian Graduate Careers publication 'Graduate Opportunities' or 'GO' online. It gives a list of graduate employers, including a comparison of a range of employer features, including those with a specific program for graduates with disability.

What are graduate employers looking for?

First of all, graduate employers are looking for recruits that will operate on a higher, professional and technically skilled level suitable for their industry. Although graduate employment may start in an entry level position, the graduate will be expected to perform more technical, analytical and expert tasks within their role, compared to non-graduate employment.

Recent surveys of graduate employers showed that they are also searching for graduates who:

  • have excellent interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills above all other skills and attributes;
  • are the 'right' fit for the specific industry and jobs being filled;
  • show an employment history in their resume indicating previous work experience;
  • re likely to stay with the employer for the long-term;
  • demonstrate enthusiasm and initiative; and
  • have a positive attitude.

(Sources: 'AAGE Employer Survey 2010: Executive Summary' by Australian Association of Graduate Employers; and 'Graduate Outlook 2009: A Snapshot' by Graduate Careers Australia)

Challenges for graduate employers

Graduate employers face different challenges depending on their industry and needs. Getting to know what's going on in recruitment within the field your targeting is important.

Recently graduate employers said that their biggest challenges when recruiting graduates are:

  • Getting a sound return on the level of money invested in graduate recruitment (in 2009 surveyed graduate employers spent an average $6300 in recruitment and selection costs per new recruit) and development (more than 20% of surveyed employers spent over $10,000 per graduate in training and development);
  • High attrition rates which result in 1 in every 10 graduate recruits leaving within the first year and almost 50% leaving within 5 years; and
  • Competition from other organisations to recruit graduates (particularly in industries with skill shortages) to the extent that 89% of surveyed graduate employers cited competition as one of biggest single challenges in graduate recruitment with 31% stating they were unable to recruit the number of graduates needed.


(Sources: 'AAGE Employer Survey 2010: Executive Summary' by Australian Association of Graduate Employers; and 'Graduate Outlook 2009: A Snapshot' by Graduate Careers Australia)

How and when do graduate employers recruit

Graduate recruitment happens in different ways. Check out these facts to show just how many ways there are to find out about graduate positions:

In 2009, university graduates who had found full-time graduate employment within 4 months of completing their course first heard of the vacancy through:

  • Advertisement on the internet (over 20%)
  • Family or friends (about 14%)
  • University career service (Just over 10%)
  • Approaching the employer directly (About 10%)
  • Newspaper ads (7%)
  • Career Fairs or other employer info sessions (over 6%)
  • Work contacts or networks (6%)
  • Being directly approached by the employer (6%); and
  • Other university staff, such as faculty or lecturing staff (over 5%).

(Source: 'GradStats: Employment and salary Outcomes of Recent Higher Education Graduates' No. 14, December 2009 by Graduate Careers Australia).

This shows how important it is to look for graduate employment through more than one source, including family, friends and other networks.

Another critical thing to remember is that any formal graduate recruitment almost always starts before the end of the year. Formal graduate programs tend to recruit in the first half of the year before the year the graduate will start employment. For example a graduate employer may advertise in March 2010 their recruitment program vacancies for 2011. So graduates who start to look for employment at the end of their course have possibly missed a large portion of the opportunities available.

Formal graduate programs within an organisation usually combine a full-time position with structured mentoring and professional development. Programs range between 12 and 24 months long, including either one single role or a rotation through various roles within the organisation.

Here are a few other ways that graduate employers offer work experience to students or graduates:

  • Internship: supervised work placements in an industry relevant to the area of study. Arranged between the education provider, employer and student, internships can range from a few weeks part-time to multiple semesters full-time;
  • Mentoring program: teams a student with a professional from their area of study, providing the student with industry knowledge, insight and career progression advice; and
  • Vacation work: course-related work (usually paid) undertaken by students at the end of their second year of study over the holiday period.

(Source: Graduate Opportunities 2009 online at Graduate Careers Australia)

Graduate employers will recruit graduates using usual staff selection processes, some of the processes you will come across in graduate employment include:

  • Recruitment agency: a third party organisation engaged by an employer or job seeker to facilitate a job match;
  • Job Interview: a standard element of the employment selection process involving a question and answer session by an employer or recruiter to assess applicant skills and qualities. It may be conducted one on one or with a panel of interviewers; either over the phone or face to face, or in a group environment;
  • Written application: a usual part of recruitment processes which require the applicant to respond in writing to advertised selection criteria. It is now common that these applications are submitted electronically via email or an online recruitment process;
  • Psychometric assessment (or 'motivational fit'): test used by employers to assess a candidate's abilities, personality, motivations, values and interests;
  • Assessment centres: collection of tests and exercises designed to simulate an employer's business environment. It is used to help uncover applicants with the most suitable personal attributes, problem solving skills and general aptitude. Common activities include role lays, group discussions and psychometric testing.

(Source: the above definition of terms are adapted from the 'Graduate Opportunities 2009 GO!' publication)

Making the connection

There are various ways for graduates and employers to find each other. The Internet is a very common place for graduates to look for graduate opportunities, but we know that a great deal of graduate to employer contact starts through other sources. Here are some examples of how to find each other:

Career Fairs

Career Fairs are a great way for graduates and employers to meet each other and for graduates to find out about what employers in their sector have to offer, processes for recruitment and timeframes. Career Fairs are events for graduate employers to display to students and graduates their graduate work opportunities, including any development and/or work experience programs they may have available.

Many Career Fairs happen on campus but others can be in a community-based venue. Career Fairs can be either general and involve employers, students and graduates from all sectors, or can be very specific to a particular institution and/or discipline. Generally Career Fairs start to happen in March and go through to August each year; keep an eye out for when one is happening close to you. Career Services are an excellent way of getting details of upcoming Career Fairs.

Employment and Career Services

Each university, TAFE and some RTOs have Career Services available to their current students and often to recent graduates. These services provide career counselling and advice; assistance with job applications and resumes; and linkages between employers associated with specific course areas and students. They also advertise work experience and/or graduate employment opportunities. Career Services get to know graduate employers well and are a great way for students, graduates and employers to exchange information.

Government funded disability specific employment services such as JobActive Australia and Disability Employment Services are also in touch with local employers and help them by providing advice on how to recruit people with disabilities. Making contact with one of these services can be a great way for a job seeker to get to know employers who are interested in employing graduates with disability; and employers to get to know prospective recruits with disability.

Direct Contact with Employers

The GradStats 2009 from Graduate Careers Australia showed that over 16% of graduates and employers found each other through ways other than advertising a vacancy. Students and graduates with disability may find it very valuable to make personal contact, either through phone or email. Remember that the first impression can be a lasting one, so students and graduates should take a formal and professional approach and be prepared with specific questions and a copy of their up-to-date resume.

Where the employer is aware that the student or graduate has a disability, this could be the starting point of a conversation between prospective employer and recruit to talk about the affect of the person's disability at work and possible workplace adjustments.

For an employer it's a great opportunity to promote to the graduate the flexible and inclusive work practices at your organisation. For the student or graduate, this is a chance to demonstrate your people skills, enthusiasm and initiative. It may even be the first time you need to address any hesitations from the employer about your disability in the workplace. Be prepared with pre-considered things to say that are friendly and still get the message across that you can do the job.