Connecting students with bosses

Singapore’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers survey measures the jobseeking habits of students and the employer-branding efforts of recruiters to the benefit of both parties

THE Singapore’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers survey provides a valuable link between local graduates and employers. Besides offering employers insight into students’ job-hunting preferences and habits, the survey, administered by GTI Media Singapore, encourages students to think hard about their future careers.

Says Mr Isaac Hee, publisher at GTI Media Singapore: “The survey results give students an idea of what they and their peers are saying about job-hunting. “It also helps in employer branding, acting as a benchmark of how well employers are positioning themselves to students.” Launched in 2010 in Singapore, the survey — the Graduate Barometer designed by German institute Trendence — already runs in 28 other countries including Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In Singapore, it targets the three big universities — National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Nanyang Technological University — alongside smaller institutions like the Singapore Institute of Management.

Up to 85 per cent of these surveys are conducted on the ground at on-campus student events or through a university’s career services arm.

The sample size has also grown from 3,700 students in 2010 to 7,510 this year. The latest survey was administered from February to August, and its results were announced at the Singapore’s 100 Leading Graduate Employers Awards on Nov 16.

The top 10 graduate recruiters this year include PwC, OCBC Bank, Ministry of Education and Deloitte, which have earned their top spots by consistently engaging students on campus, at job fairs and with guest lectures.

“Companies that have been active on campuses really deserve these positions. The more they appear, the more they will be seen and the more people want to work for them,” says Mr Hee.

He adds that the survey, when administered to students, also acts as a career self-awareness test by assessing their knowledge of their chosen field. Says Mr Alex Lim, general manager of GTI Media Singapore: “It’s a wake-up call for students to think about their future job prospects and what they should expect in the market.”

Tracking the numbers

Every year, the Singapore’s 100 survey data, results and key trends are compiled in a handy magazine that is distributed to universities, student organisations and national libraries.

It is another useful guide for both graduates and employers, offering students an overview of the top employers by sector and recruiters an understanding of students’ aspirations. Over the past five years, Mr Hee has picked out patterns in the data that sheds light on the next generation of employees.

“When we ask students what they consider important factors when choosing an employer, they have consistently said that it is the guarantee of good career prospects, personal growth and development, and being appreciated at work,” he says. “It shows that graduates want to grow alongside a company and be recognised for their part in its growth story,” he adds.

This year’s results also highlight Gen Y’s moral and ethical considerations when it comes to looking for an employer. About 69 per cent of students expect employers to promote equality and diverse hiring practices, and 71 per cent list moral and ethical standpoints as important factors when they choose a job. In addition, 55 per cent of students say that it is more vital for them to feel fulfilled at work than to earn a big pay cheque.

On the leading employer rankings, companies from the financial and banking sector dominate — a situation that Mr Hee attributes to the industry’s aggressive branding and wider array of job openings.

But the landscape is changing. “In the past five years, a lot of non-finance companies have realised that they are losing graduates to finance firms. “So though they have been more stoic about branding in the past, they are now trying to liven things up,” he says.

Future outreach

Since its launch, while growing in sample size and outreach, Singapore’s 100 has also gained the trust of graduates and employers alike. Says Mr Hee: “We have anecdotal evidence that once companies attach our award’s identifiers to their branding, they see a sharp increase in the number and quality of candidates.”

Next year, Singapore’s 100 plans to target more students, according to Mr Lim. “Our core mission is to marry students’ specialisations to their eventual jobs, and we hope to reach out to more and more students,” he says. In the long run, Mr Hee also hopes to see the employer branding market here grow and mature.

He says: “What our market needs now is a few wild-card employers — the ones who will be more gung-ho about shaking up the market, demanding the best talent and graduates, and going out to get them.”