The intense competition is detailed in a new report, The Graduate Market in 2012, which says applications for graduate posts at the UK’s leading 100 employers starting in 2012 have risen by 19 per cent so far compared to 2011.
Some firms have even reported double the usual volume of applicants in the early part of their 2011-2012 recruitment campaigns.
Forty-eight graduates applied for every entry-level job at those 100 firms voted ‘the best to work for’ in 2011, according to market research firm High Fliers Research, but this ratio is expected to rise significantly this year.
The firm surveyed some of Britain’s biggest graduate employers, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, BP and IBM, as well as public bodies such as Teach First and the Civil Service.
It found the number of vacancies for graduates will rise for the third year running in 2012 – up by 6.4 per cent on 2011 – but numbers remain 6 per cent below pre-recession levels in 2007.
With 50,000 more graduates set to leave university in 2012 than five years ago, competition for jobs advertised on the ‘milk round’ will be increasingly fierce.
There will be more opportunities at engineering and industrial companies, IT and telecommunication firms, high street banks, investment banks and retailers, the report says.
Graduate recruitment in the public sector is also set to rise by a fifth – an additional 500 posts on 2011 – partly because of the expansion of the Teach First scheme, which is set to hire 1,000 graduates for the first time in 2012.
Almost half of employers said they would recruit more graduates in 2012 while a quarter said they would maintain 2011 levels.
However, the number of entry-level roles for graduates is 6 per cent lower than in 2007, despite a 2.8 per cent rise last year and 12.6 rise in 2010.
The companies surveyed in the report also warned graduates that their chances of success were limited unless they had completed some form of internship or work experience.
Half of all firms said it was unlikely they would employ someone without any work experience, the report says.
“New graduates who’ve not had any work experience at all during their time at university have little hope of landing a well-paid job with a leading employer, irrespective of the academic results they achieve or the university they’ve attended,” said Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research.
The report states that the average graduate starting salary at top 100 firms will remain at £29,000 for the third year running.
That compares to an average £20,000 salary for all university leavers, according to figures released in June by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.