I’m taking a break from International Relations and realpolitik this week to address something that’s on all our minds – not being unemployed. As we chase those spring weeks, internships and grad-jobs, I can’t help but feel that there is a general consensus about how impersonal and off-putting applicants find the whole process.  As I sit down to write, I am still undecided as to what disenfranchises me most: the lengthy, repetitive registration process being repeated for each and every employer, or is it those PWC personality tests?

On average they say the graduate application success rate is less than 10%. So to have a reasonable chance of landing a job you actually want, you’d need to send off at least 20+ applications. Each application requires you to complete a lengthy registration process, a custom cover letter, numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning assessments. There are then employer-specific assessments, such as the case-studies for consulting and e-tray exercises for the Civil Service. PWC has now thrown an app into the mix, because you know, nothing says millennial like another ‘app’.

Remember Angry Bird? Bet you never thought that would crop up among the seemingly endless bells and whistles grad-scheme applications include. To be fair, it doesn’t. But Skyrise City and Firefly Freedom are two ‘games’ which join the latest trend in graduate recruitment. You flick some rocks at a jar, inflate a few balloons et voila – a lengthy six-page personality report that has calculated your EQ and social-awareness. So, in short, before you have any human contact with your coveted employer you’re looking at over five hours per application, a few grey hairs, and an algorithm-based shrink you didn’t ask for.

In an era when we are spending tens of thousands of pounds on our higher education in order to (we are told) gain access to these jobs, one would hope that the employers might invest in developing a more effective, and less patronising, process. To paraphrase a candid HR executive, she described forcing hundreds of thousands of indebted graduates to jump through hoops left-right-and-center to land a junior-level job as necessary overkill to filter the high numbers. The problem then is the monopoly these few firms have over the graduate labor market. It enables them to reduce skilled and talented graduates to a candidate number. The solution is to break the monopoly and force reform. Having worked in both, from my experience, you will learn infinitely more working in a rapidly growing SME than you will at a junior level in a bureaucratic corporate structure, that and entry-level salaries are relatively similar across the board – so why waste your time? We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that we are only chasing big names because of the employability bias that exists in our society. By conforming we only perpetuate the problem and reduce our potential to being forced into the shapes and moulds of Skyrise City and Firefly Freedom.

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