Graduate fairs lose out to web

August 27, 2004

The traditional "milk round" of presentation evenings at which major companies woo final-year students is in its death throes as businesses turn to the internet, it was claimed this week.

Gordon Chesterman, director of Cambridge University's careers service, said that in the past year some universities had seen a 40 per cent fall in bookings from companies seeking to host presentation and recruitment events.

Mr Chesterman, who said Cambridge was not among the worst affected, added:

"There's less emphasis on the face-to-face meeting of students and perhaps more emphasis on the internet as a way for employers to begin to self-select potential applicants. It used to be done through conversation and now it's done over the ether."

He added that UK and overseas research universities were taking a higher profile at careers events to attract students to postgraduate courses.

"Four or five years ago, the postgraduate course providers and research universities had a low profile, but we have noticed that now half a dozen may come along to our careers events, including a collaboration of universities from Australia and Oxford," he said.

"They are getting a little more wily in terms of raising their profile and competing against the alternative of getting employment."

Mr Chesterman's comments about the milk round were echoed by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which agreed that companies were changing their approach, partly because of the cost of events compared with internet recruitment.

Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, said: "There will still be presentations on campus, although employers are very much looking at making them more effective.

But Terry Jones of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services said the milk round was as strong as ever in parts of the UK, although some major City corporations or consultancy firms varied their recruitment year on year in line with the general economic climate.

Mr Jones said: "Some major recruiters are doing more face-to-face meetings with students, but they are doing it in a different way, more informal and chatty - more of a general effort to get their name known on campus."

Paloma Alos of consultancy firm KPMG said all graduate job applications were carried out online, but stressed there had been no shift from face-to-face events.

"We find our events programme is hugely important in raising awareness and keeping awareness at a high level and encouraging people to look at our website and apply."

"We've certainly not decreased any face-to-face activity. The feedback we get from people who apply is that one of the main reasons they did so was after having the chance to speak to our people."

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

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