Graduate Schemes are damaging your employer brand

Thursday, 22nd August 2019

Guest blog by Tempo

Tempo has set out to understand whether or not graduate schemes are fit for purpose. Are they attracting the best talent for your company? Are they allowing you to tap into a wide pool of talent and get the right talent for your business?

We have pinpointed three recurring key themes within the research. The second theme is around the candidate experience throughout the application process which is deterring talent and damaging an employer’s brand.


Employers are operating in a candidate driven job market. Over recent years due to low unemployment rates and an increasing demand for more niche skill sets, power has shifted towards the candidate and given way to an increasingly competitive war on talent. As employers look to compete for the next generation of talent they must review their recruitment strategies to align them with this shift in power. Focus must be placed on the candidate and their experience throughout the hiring process. Not only to ensure top talent remains in the process but also to manage the integral relationship this experience has with an employer’s brand. With 61% of top graduate employers stating that improving students’ perceptions of their organisation is a key priority while still relying on graduate schemes to attract talent, are graduate schemes really fit for purpose in attracting talent and elevating an employer brand?

Application Process and Candidate Experience

The first point of contact a candidate has with an employer is through their application process. In the context of the shift in power, the candidate experience is therefore increasingly important. A negative experience will result in employers losing out on top talent; Lever states 60% of job seekers have quit an application midway due to its length or complexity, and more than two thirds of job seekers turn down a job if their impression is substandard.

With many top employers relying on graduate schemes to recruit young talent, it is key to assess the impact they have on candidate experience. In our survey of 1,035 graduates, of those who applied to graduate schemes 58% believe the application process is time-consuming and old fashioned, 30% feel that the process is too tailored towards people from certain backgrounds, 47% feel confused by the process and would like more insight into assessments, 25% struggle with a lack of communication throughout the process and 25% feel that the process requires them to over-self-promote or lie.

It is unsurprising that 65% of recent graduates feel that graduate applications are daunting.

These long, complex application processes create a negative candidate experience but also tie into the wider brand of an employer. Applicants see the hiring process as a reflection of the internal culture of the employer; 68% of candidates think the way they are treated in the hiring process reflects how the companies treat its employees. In our digital, hyper-connected era, a bad interaction with an employer can therefore have immense consequences; 72% would talk about it to friends or share their experiences online.

A negative employer brand will not only deter talent; According to MRI, 69% of candidates rank employer brand very important when considering a job offer but employer brand also has a detrimental business impact. Due to hyper-connected environment we live in and the increasing blur between candidate and consumer, a negative interaction with an employer will create a negative perception of that company’s products and services. Virgin Media previously announced that 18% of their rejected candidates were current customers. These candidates’ negative experiences directly impacted Virgin Media’s revenue when a significant amount of candidates decided to cancel their contracts after a bad hiring experience. More than half (51%) of graduates who applied for graduate schemes in the last three years didn’t secure a role. This leaves a huge opportunity for employers to leave a lasting negative impact of their consumer-facing brand.

Graduate scheme application processes have not evolved to appreciate the candidates they are trying to attract or environment in which they operate. Millennials and Gen Z candidates have grown up in an environment where a customer-first experience is a given they are on the lookout for companies who share their values. They want companies that are modern, engaging, interactive and honest. Understandably, when asked what improvements could be made to the application process itself, 38% said better feedback and communication throughout, 36% said it needed to be more personable and inviting, 33% stated more clarity around the process and 31% said more opportunity to prepare.

Read our previous chapter on diversity and graduate schemes here, and stay tuned for our next chapter – Alternative routes into work – publishing 29th of August.