Why Don’t Graduates Get Jobs?

Estimated reading time: 6 mins

The Recession has created massive competition for the fewer jobs that become available, and it’s graduates that are paying the price. Lack of experience in industry seems like an obvious reason why graduates are not offered job placements, but surprisingly, this is not the primary reason (according to a survey of 200 recruiting managers in the US, UK and South Africa).

I recently polled 200 recruiting managers for their opinions on why graduates don’t get jobs. I was amazed at the results – as you will be. Lack of experience IS NOT the main reason. Here are the TOP 5 reasons why:

  1. Anti-social tendencies – according to the poll, anti-social tendency is one of the top 5 reasons why employers are not giving graduates a start to their career. One recruiting manager, ‘Big’ George Papadopoulos in London, UK, said that “… when I get a bunch of graduates together, it is often like being on the set of Jackass .” The opinion is that graduates have been so used to living without the constraints of organizational standards that their behaviors often conflict with corporate norms. This is a big risk for recruiting managers, and they would rather stay away. It wasn’t just behaviors; many respondents cited problems with dress standards, even in the more ‘liberal’ of organizations. Some mentioned ‘highly inappropriate t-shirts’ and ‘shocking hairstyles’.

    What can be done? If you are a graduate currently struggling to gain employment, is it possible that you exhibit anti-social tendencies that might offend others? In a world of free-speech and liberal attitudes (for the most part) changing yourself to ‘conform’ might seem a backwards step but I wonder if trialling changes as an experiment would pay off? This is a personal thing, but take note what recruiting managers are saying.

  2. New-skool vs old-skool – over 50% of recruting managers polled described situations where graduates could not integrate well into environments that could be described as ‘behind the times’ in some areas. In other words, those organizations who were not at the leading-edge of technology adoption, e.g. in the use of social networking. It was said by several respondents that ‘digital natives’ face big challenges when working inside an organization that is not as technically dynamic as that in their university.

    What can be done? If you’re a student who takes current technology trends for granted, then it’s possible that you will face organizations who haven’t caught up yet. This is the reality of the business world. In these instances, I think you have a choice whether to wait and find an organization that does use digital technology in their core business, or join a lagging organization and use your influence and experiences to help them move on and adopt, at a risk to yourself that they will always be behind the times. This is your choice.

  3. Your mobility – I was somewhat surprised by this one. Over 30% of respondents said that in these times, training and development budgets must yield the greatest value to their organizations. This should have always been the case, but in tought times,training budgets have been severely cut. The result: employers are reluctant to train and develop graduates who become increasingly mobile towards other employment. It’s a case of confidence (or lack of ) in graduates’ commitment.

    What can be done? If you’re a graduate who has dreams of hitting the big-time, then beware of the signals you may be giving away during your interviews. Employers want to see commitment for their training investment. You need to demonstrate that you are fully committed to your potential employer (in the mid-term at least) to avoid a rebuff.

  4. Communication – the ‘language of youth’ has always been a step apart from that of the older generation. When this language is used in interviews, it often leads to confusion! It’s a simple fact that recruiters struggle to understand graduates who use this language. Marion, an IT recruitment manager in Fresno, CA, described a situation like this: “In an interview once, a graduate talked with such slang that I had to frequently ask for clarification about what was said, even on the simple stuff. It took me over 10 minutes to understand what subjects the graduate had studied. In an organization, this kind of language creates major communication gaps and would be entirely disfunctional.

    What can be done? Perhaps a simple one to fix (perhaps not, but it’s something that can be learned). In interviews, use language that is simple and slang-free. The oldies won’t understand you otherwise. (OK, this maybe their problem in fact, but it’s your livelihood and future prospects you are putting on the line if you don’t!)

  5. Commitment to yourself – this is perhaps a tough one where there is no easy solution. Respondents with many years of experience in employing graduates told of their stories where they had secured hot young recruits who could really hit the big time, only for the recruits to leave shortly afterwards once they realized the industry ‘wasn’t for them’. Truth is, many people turn away from the industry that they have studied in once they realize that it wasn’t what they expected. This was a problem in the 80s and 90s when IT graduates entered an industry that had moved on from the subjects they studied. There were not graduate courses on the Internet at that time.

    What can be done? My take on this is that this is the right thing to do. If you’re a graduate disengendered by the industry you had passion for as a student, then you’re much better to move on than prolong your misery. If you haven’t yet begun your career in your chosen subject, then I recommend that you take an internship to gain experience and learn about the industry to see if it suits you, or connect and network with people who are already working in the industry to learn what it is really like.


So many grads dreams have been shattered when they discovered that the employment opportunities they expected to come to THEM haven’t appeared. If jobs do materialize, they’re often the jobs that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can walk in off the street and begin. It is a heart-break!

I’ve found this really great book called College Grad Job Hunter: Insider Techniques and Tactics for Finding A Top-Paying Entry-level Job which is an expert guide on starting your career with the job you expected to land, before you graduated. It’s over 300 pages, and it’s jam-packed with the kind of advice I think adds value – not just the stuff you can view for free in blogs. The ‘insider techniques’ focus on building your resume, your job search and interviewing, and it’s all in-depth and throughly laid out.

Are YOU a Graduate Struggling to Find Employment?

Do you recognize any of these observations in yourself? Or maybe you don’t, and you’re STILL struggling to get that first job of your career. Leave a comment to tell us about YOUR story…

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7 thoughts on “Why Don’t Graduates Get Jobs?”

  1. These are really hard times for new graduates to find jobs. In the mean time they can go for part time jobs. Working for only a few hours in a week is not such a bad idea for a jobseeker. It will help them evaluate the new job and will help in enhancing their skills. They will get into the working of the management and it will help in the long term. The part-time job may become a full-time one in future.

    1. Hi Mitch – great attitude: if we can’t get a full time job then at least a part-time job gives us an income, but not just that, experience too. The secondary effect is access to new opportunities, contacts, and increased profile. Increased confidence, too!

    1. Hi Bas

      That’s certainly true in the UK. When I graduated I moved to London because that was where most IT jobs are. I didn’t really want to move, but I guess I had no choice!


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