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Feeling depressed about your 2:2 degree? Get over it, employers have.
Last month, accountancy firm Ernst & Young, one of the UK’s biggest graduate employers, announced that they were to scrap a requirement of at least a 2:1 from its graduate application process. The company claimed there was no evidence that academic success at university was linked to achievement in professional assessments.
Instead EY is to use its own “strengths-based approach” and numerical tests to assess potential recruits.
“We found little link between previous success at university and future success in professional qualifications,” says Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent, on their decision.
The firm’s new hiring process follows a trend among recruiters. Fellow auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has also stopped using A-level grades as a guide of who to hire.
So with degree grades no longer reliable indicators of your suitability to a job, the days of distinguishing between a 2:1 and a 2:2 could soon be over. But is thisreally the death of the dreaded Desmond?
Got a 2:2 degree? Don't panic – here's how to still get a good job
Unfortunately large companies such as EY and PwC are in the minority. It therefore might not be wise to give up entirely on your university studies and become blase about how your degree grade might turn out.
“It’s too early to tell if the number of employers not using degree grades to distinguish between candidates is increasing,” claims Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of GraduateRecruiters.
“Our annual survey will be published in September, but our current data shows that three quarters of employers are still looking for graduates with a 2:1 degree classification.”
Capp, an agency which advises corporations on talent management and hiring practices, is helping to remove the degree grade barrier for the next generation of graduates. The firm boasts Nestle, PwC, Amazon and Standard Chartered among its clients and was behind EY’s decision to drop degree grades as an application requirement.
Gurpal Minhas, head of customer solutions at Capp, explains that for many clients the degree grade did not necessarily predict high performance and professional success.
“Many organisations are considering the impact of purely screening out applications based on degree grades,” says Minhas. He says that companies are now shifting their mindsets to focus more on behavioural characteristics such as “customer service, drive and passion”.
“Historically recruiters have used a degree grade primarily to draw a line in the sand in order to manage the number of applications they receive,” explains Dan Hawes, co-founder and marketing director of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. He read business studies at Brighton University and after four years of study he missed the 2:1 by a percentage point (1%) and got a Desmond.
“The danger is when recruiters become lazy in their criteria and that is when companies need to question whether they could use other techniques to select graduates,” Hawes adds. He claims few employers are relaxing their approach to degree grades because of policies aimed at improving diversity.
It will be interesting to see how many graduates without 2:1s actually receive job offers
He says: “It will be interesting to see the outcome and how many graduates without 2:1s actually receive job offers.”
Minhas explains that the current challenge for companies is that it can be difficult to distinguish real talent. Many young people are now so canny to the standard job interview questions, which commonly focus on strengths and weaknesses, that employers find it hard to tell the difference between their ideal candidate and one which is simply good at interview technique.
This conundrum has led Capp and its clients to develop strengths-based assessments. But what does this mean? “The assessments are not always about past performance but potential,” Minhas explains. “For instance, imagine you are a graduate sitting in a taxi with a client that you haven’t met with before. How would you react, what would you do? A first class degree won’t necessarily tell you how to behave and interact [in that situation].”
And what advice does a talent consultancy have for those graduates who might be despondent with their degree award?
“Put it into perspective,” says Minhas. “It’s not the be-all and end-all. [Qualities such as] motivation and drive cannot be measured through a degree. Understand what your strengths are. Why are you particularly passionate about something? What else can you deliver to an organisation? What else interests you?”