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What’s New in this year’s Cibyl Graduate Research Surveys

14 / 10 / 2021Dasha Karzunina

Every year Cibyl surveys over 100,000 students across the UK and Ireland on their career aspirations and employer destinations of choice. For each new academic year, we update the questions we ask to keep our fingers on the pulse of what people are thinking and feeling. Here’s a summary of the updates for this year.   

What’s new for employers? 

Last year we were focused on helping employers deal with the initial COVID crisis, transitioning to a virtual work environment and managing changing student demands. This year, we’re focused on facilitating a smooth transition out of the pandemic and adapting to the new world of work, as well as having a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion. 

Student values 

We know that students are paying more attention to employer culture, wellbeing support and company values. Gen Z are heavily focused on their personal interests and the purpose of their work over status and salary. As such, they are likely to look for employers who align with their personal values. To reflect this, we have added a new question on students’ personal values. Capturing this data will enable employers who use our research to understand and target students that align with their company values. 

Barriers to virtual engagement in the era of Zoom-fatigue  

It’s clear that virtual engagement, work and recruitment is here to stay; we know that a significant number of employers are planning to keep their attraction and assessment activities almost entirely virtual. So this new question looks at ways of preventing virtual fatigue by making online events more engaging as well as exploring the barriers to online engagement for some students. This will provide employers with much-needed insight on how to keep virtual events accessible to all and how to keep attendance high. 

How can assessment methods be more inclusive? 

The data has repeatedly pointed to the fact that there isn’t a single perfect way to assess everyone, and that assessment methods need to be tailored to support a candidate’s unique needs.  

As such, we’ve been collecting data on which assessment methods cause candidates the most anxiety for a few years now and know that, for example, Black students are more likely to drop out of a recruitment process if it includes verbal or numerical reasoning tests. However, this is the first year we’ve added an open text question on ‘why’ specific ways of being assessed lead to drop out. It will help us understand what’s putting students off, the biases and perceptions they have about those methods and how they can be supported to overcome their fears and succeed. Recorded video interviews are a good example of a controversial method of assessment. On the one hand, it’s an incredibly efficient way of assessing a large number of candidates quickly, on the other hand, we know that it’s the least favourite way for students to be assessed. However, if we understand why students dislike it so much, employers could look at making these methods more enjoyable and inclusive, by adding a touch of personal interaction for example. 

What will happen to career fairs going forward? 

For a long time, people have questioned whether the career fairs format is here to stay, and whether they are an effective way to engage students. But students consistently tell us that they expect to meet employers at career fairs and would like to continue to have that option.  

The pandemic has of course changed everything, with careers fairs either going virtual or in a few cases, being cancelled altogether. The data clearly points to the fact that the initial experience of virtual careers fairs has been mixed, with 59% of students wanting to go back to the in-person version and wanting to meet employers again. The new question in the survey is therefore looking at how employers might best take the careers fair proposition forward post-pandemic. For example, should careers fairs be organised specific to a university, to a subject or country-wide? And should they be in-person or online? Do different student groups have different preferences? How can employers use this information to allocate resources wisely in 2021/2022? 

How to run diversity initiatives - do students want to be targeted on the basis of their identity? 

Numerous graduate employers across a range of sectors are running diversity and inclusion initiatives, sometimes general, sometimes targeting specific student groups. Yet the question remains whether students from minority groups like to be targeted on the basis of their identity, and if not, how would they like employers to engage with them so that it’s clear the business is actively inclusive to students from their background? 

Our surveys have always been focused on helping employers diversify their early careers attraction and recruitment campaigns. And while it’s clear that action is needed, this year we’re focused on understanding what really works, and the impact diversity events have on students from minority groups and on everyone else. 

How to engage younger years: the value of internships 

As well as a shift to more diversity and inclusion events, there’s been a shift to engaging students a lot earlier in their career journeys. Employers are increasingly recognising the benefit of building their brand with students from their first year of university (and possibly even before that). Because we survey across all year groups, employers can dissect any section of the survey by their target student group to better understand the whole student journey.  

A great way to keep younger students engaged is through tangible work experience opportunities and internships prior to graduation. And in order to help employers position their internships, we’ve added a new question looking at exactly what it is that students are looking to get out of their internships, and how this might differ by year group and background. 

Supplementary market intelligence  

Cibyl employer reports will now include additional market intelligence to supplement the survey data. Group GTI’s careers and opportunities site, targetjobs, engages over 1.5m students a year. This generates insights into students’ career behaviour, which can then be matched with their intentions as communicated in the survey. For example, a student might be focused on their ideal employer/sector when completing the survey but, in reality, applies to a wide range of sectors in order to secure an opportunity. Likewise, while many students might be interested in a specific sector like Tech, there might not be enough opportunities for everyone and hence we might see more students applying for jobs in the Finance industry, etc.  

This supplementary insight provides employers with a more complete picture of students’ intentions as well as behaviours when it comes to careers research and applications, so that all questions can be answered from a single source. 

What’s new for universities? 

At Cibyl, we partner with universities across the UK to ensure our sample is representative of the UK student population. In return for supporting our survey, universities receive a tailored report showing their results versus the national average. As such, there’s a set of questions in the survey tailored to careers service professionals, providing them with valuable student feedback.  

Work-based learning  

Increasingly, careers activities and programmes aren’t standalone initiatives organised by a university’s careers service, but instead are activities embedded into the curriculum. As such, students are gaining employability skills without necessarily connecting that to the efforts of the careers teams. This year we’re looking to capture the impact of these efforts, by listing examples of different activities students may have engaged in, in addition to the usual services, to see if they’ve found them useful. 

What’s getting in the way of students accessing careers support? 

Each year and across all universities, there’s a significant proportion of students who say they haven’t engaged with their careers service yet. This year, we’ve included an open text question to understand what’s getting in the way of students engaging and what else universities can do to raise awareness, facilitate engagement, and make their services more relevant.   

Why are students selecting postgraduate degrees over graduate jobs? 

Following the pandemic, 16% of students said they are more likely to do a postgraduate degree as a direct result of Covid and its impacts on the job market. To explore this further, this year we included a new question on why some students perceive postgraduate degrees as more attractive than graduate job opportunities. This will help universities understand how to position their postgraduate programmes to make them more attractive in the current market. Employers could also learn from this in understanding what students think they might get from a postgraduate experience that they’d struggle to get from employment. 

We hope you like the new insight we’ve included in the surveys this year and that you tune in to our upcoming webinars to stay up-to-date with student opinion!  

About Cibyl 

Cibyl is Group GTI’s market research consultancy. Cibyl research is used by employers across the UK to align their attraction and recruitment campaigns to the student voice. It is also used by universities to understand their students’ career aspirations and learn how best to support them on their career journeys. 

Contact if you’re interested in purchasing our research. 

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