Should You Consider Hiring Graduates with a Third?

By Career Savvy

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With an average of 85 applications for each graduate vacancy, the job market is tough enough for young people. But for those who have left university with a third in their degree subject, it can be a seemingly impossible task to secure employment, even after the news that third class degree graduates will be offered bursaries to plug skills shortages in teaching. But whilst employers fight and scrap over the graduates who have sailed through university with a first or 2:1 in their subject, could they be missing out by ignoring the rest of the graduates?

The Upsides

So where’s the logic behind this? Surely graduates who do better in their degrees are, well, just better candidates?

It might not be necessarily true. There is the school of thought that graduates who end up with a 2:2 or a third may actually be more well-rounded individuals than those who excelled at university. And after all, although academic excellence is always likely to be something that’s highly-valued in the workplace, surely having an employee with better people skills is in many ways more useful to employers? Of course, not everyone who achieved a first is going to be a social recluse, but it’s not totally unfair to say that those who didn’t fare so well in their discipline may well have indulged in a few too many ‘extra-curricular activities’ whilst at university…

Those with a 2:2 or a third are likely to find it more difficult to secure a job after graduating- and that’s to be expected. But the lack of attention that is paid to this section of the job market makes these young people undervalued, yet without competition for their services, they are more likely to be a loyal hire once they are in a job.

As Rory Sutherland commented in The Spectator earlier this year, there’s no correlation to suggest that graduates with a 2:1 or a 1st perform any better in the workplace than other graduates- and ‘if anything the correlation operates in reverse’. Although some young people may not perform to their capabilities over the course of their education, it’s not necessarily an indicator for their performance at work- particularly if they are extra eager to impress because of their gratefulness for securing the role in the first place.

The Downsides

But we’re not quite saying you should all rush out and start employing these graduates just yet. There are some drawbacks to the unconventional idea.

Certain specialised subjects are likely to require only the best-performing graduates, for instance. Jobs in disciplines such as IT, Maths and Engineering are likely to have less focus on people and workplace skills, and more focus on the skills that have been gained from a degree. Hiring a graduate for an IT firm with a third in a related discipline probably wouldn’t be the wisest move!

It could also be argued that employers tend to hire the highest-performing graduates because, naturally, they’re the best candidates for the role. They have already shown that they can apply themselves to their work and have been suitably rewarded with a high mark in their discipline.

The Verdict

It may well be unwise and unfair to totally disregard a certain sector of the job market, even though they are still university graduates. Employers have previously bemoaned the lack of workplace skills held by graduates- so one solution to this may well be to widen the net and go for candidates who may be, on paper at least, more well-rounded and balanced employees.

Image credit: Flickr / BdwayDiva1


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