What is graduate employability?

By Rohan Holland on September, 9 2021

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Rohan Holland

Rohan is a graduate recruitment and development specialist. With extensive experience managing graduate programs and professional resourcing roles in organisations including BP, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, Rohan has worked throughout Australia and abroad. He has a passion for sharing graduate program insights and coaching graduates to be better prepared for the recruitment process and the study to work transition.

What is graduate employability? The wave of discussion around graduate employability has been proliferating over the past year or two. As a result, there has been ongoing dialogue within universities, colleges, and schools about what it is, what challenges it creates and, importantly, how to tackle it. While the problem is quite complex, understanding what it actually is from an employer's point of view is very simple.

First of all, to clarify things, I'm not a university academic, an institutional careers practitioner or a labour market expert. Instead, I am a specialist graduate recruitment and development professional from the industry who is passionate about student employment outcomes (whether at school, college or university level) to ensure students get the job they want and successfully navigate the study-to-work transition.


Graduate (or student) employability can be broken down into two key areas:

  1. Recruitment Process - understanding what an employer is looking for, key competencies and values, and knowledge of the stages of the recruitment process (for example - online application form, psychometric testing, video screening and assessment centres). If students aren't aware of the stages involved and what is being measured, how can they be their best?
  2. Study-to-Work Transition - the 'soft skills' an employer wants in a graduate where they are equipped with the relevant skills successfully make the critical step from student to employee. Interestingly, having managed numerous graduate programs first hand, it is glaringly obvious that new graduates rarely think about how they will approach the workplace, successfully navigate the organisation and relationships and, most importantly, manage their own 'personal brand.'

To illustrate what I mean, let me share an example. I stand in front of student groups regularly. I often ask the question: "who knows what a behavioural interview is?" Almost always, there will be only a few hands up. This is particularly disturbing given that more than 80% of graduate employers in Australia use interviews in their graduate recruitment process. 


So, what is the answer? I firmly believe it comes down to one key element - industry engagement. This doesn't necessarily mean changing the careers department structure. Still, it does mean being proactive in involving and engaging graduate employers and/or specialist providers to share knowledge and expertise with students. For example, suppose a university, college or school has access to how employers assess and recruit and what is expected from an individual transitioning into the workplace. In that case, we are setting up more students for success.

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