Student Recruitment: Navigating the UK Talent Pool

Student Recruitment Students in the library StudySmarter

Student recruitment is a constant challenge for businesses in the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, in January 2022, the unemployment rate had already dropped to 3.5 percent. This was even lower than its pre-pandemic level. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, the last time unemployment levels reached this low level was nearly half a century ago – in 1974! Not only is the unemployment rate low, according to Jisc, the UK recorded the lowest level of 18-year-old school leavers in 2020 for more than 15 years.

Certainly, as an HR manager, recruiter, or talent acquisition specialist, you are well aware of these unique obstacles. They require careful consideration and effective strategies when it comes to student recruitment.

Time to take a look at the most common pain points you are used to experiencing when hiring new graduates and explore practical solutions and best practices to inspire you so that you can take your student recruitment to another level!

In this article we will examine the following topics:

How to increase student recruitment

One of the primary difficulties in graduate recruitment is attracting the right candidates to apply for your vacancies. To increase student recruitment, there are several strategies you can adopt.

  1. You could establish strong partnerships with educational institutions and career service centres to tap into a pool of talented students.
  2. Participate actively in campus events, career fairs, and workshops to create brand awareness and showcase the opportunities your company offers.
  3. Develop attractive internship programs and entry-level positions, providing competitive compensation and benefits while emphasising professional development opportunities.
  4. Utilise social media platforms, online job portals, and targeted advertising campaigns to reach a wider student audience. Utilising digital platforms and social media channels is essential in today’s recruitment landscape. Leverage these channels to showcase your company’s culture and engage with potential candidates. Share stories of successful graduates who have thrived in your business, as well as testimonials from current employees. Engaging visuals and videos can help bring your employer brand to life and make it more appealing to potential candidates.
Apple is an example of a stellar company culture.

Five common student recruitment challenges

Student recruitment comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some common hurdles that companies face when it comes to attracting and hiring students:

1. Competition for top talent

With numerous companies vying for the same pool of talented students, competition can be fierce. Companies must find ways to stand out and differentiate themselves to attract the best candidates.


Develop a strong employer brand that highlights unique selling points, offers attractive benefits and growth opportunities, and communicates a compelling value proposition to stand out among competitors. Increase brand awareness through targeted marketing campaigns, campus visits, career fairs, and partnerships with student organizations. Leverage social media platforms and online channels to reach a wider student audience.

2. Attracting the right fit

Finding students who align with the company’s culture, values, and requirements can be difficult. It’s crucial to attract candidates who not only possess the necessary skills but also fit well within the organisation’s work environment.


Clearly define the company’s culture, values, and expectations in recruitment materials and job descriptions. Use behavioural assessments or video interviews to assess candidate alignment with the company’s values and work environment.

StudySmarter offers the possibility to create company awareness from over 21 million young people from all universities, colleges and schools in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Our unique targeting options allow companies to match their requirements with our users. This helps companies create effective employer branding and/or recruiting campaigns – even for niche skill sets. We can show ads to specific students from a specific degree, specific year, and in a specific university.

Another of our solutions comes in the form of a self-service portal which allows companies to display relevant company information to their target group and manage their job listings autonomously. There is a variety of digital placements to (re-)target audiences.

Thanks to our unique targeting options and a potential outreach of over 21 million people, finding the right talent is easy.

3. Shortage of relevant skills

Students may lack specific skills or experience required for certain roles. This skills gap can make it challenging for companies to find candidates who are ready to contribute immediately, requiring additional investment in training and development.


Collaborate with educational institutions to design specialised courses or workshops that address the specific skills required. Offer scholarships or sponsorships to attract students with potential and provide them with the necessary training.

StudySmarter has compiled a downloadable guide for companies and HR departments who are actively recruiting early talent. The guide contains a list of contacts from the top universities in the UK.

4. Timing and availability

Student recruitment often operates within the academic calendar, with specific periods for applications, interviews, and onboarding. Coordinating these processes while aligning with students’ schedules can be complex, especially when targeting students from different universities or locations.


Coordinate recruitment activities in alignment with academic calendars and offer flexible scheduling options for interviews and assessments. Leverage online platforms for virtual interviews or pre-screening assessments to accommodate students from different locations.

StudySmarter can help you identify the right times to recruit recent graduates. Download our recruitment calendar.

5. Mismatched expectations

Students may have unrealistic expectations or misconceptions about the job or company, leading to dissatisfaction or attrition. Clear communication and managing expectations are vital to ensure a positive experience for both the student and the company.


Provide comprehensive and transparent job descriptions, including details on responsibilities, growth opportunities, and company culture. Conduct thorough interviews and provide realistic previews of the role and work environment to manage candidate expectations effectively.

Understanding and addressing these challenges can help you develop effective strategies and initiatives to enhance your company’s student recruitment efforts and attract the best-suited candidates for your organisation.

Building effective student recruitment strategies

To overcome the challenges of graduate recruitment, it is crucial to develop well-defined strategies that align with your organisation’s goals and values. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Targeted campus recruitment

Engaging directly with universities and colleges is an effective way to tap into a pool of talented graduates. Establish partnerships with career services departments and participate in career fairs and campus events. Offer internships, sponsor student clubs, and host workshops or presentations to create brand awareness and establish relationships with potential candidates. By proactively engaging with students during their education, you can cultivate relationships early on and increase the likelihood of attracting top talent.

Graduate development programmes

Implementing structured graduate development programs can significantly enhance your recruitment efforts. These programs provide recent graduates with the training and support they need to transition smoothly into their professional roles. Design a comprehensive program that includes rotations across different departments, mentoring opportunities, and regular check-ins to assess their progress. By investing in their growth and development, you not only attract top talent but also retain them in the long run.

Employee referral programmes

Leveraging your existing employees can be an effective strategy for graduate recruitment. Implement an employee referral program that incentivises employees to refer talented individuals they know. Offering rewards for successful referrals can motivate employees to actively participate in the recruitment process and tap into their networks. Additionally, employees who refer candidates are more likely to provide accurate insights into the organisation’s culture and requirements, leading to better matches between candidates and roles.

Utilising digital channels

In today’s digital age, utilising online platforms and channels is vital for successful graduate recruitment. Develop a user-friendly and mobile-optimised career website that showcases your company’s values, available roles, and application process. Optimise your website and job listings with relevant keywords to improve your search engine rankings and attract organic traffic. Leverage social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, to promote your employer brand, share job openings, and engage with potential candidates. Engaging content, such as blog posts, videos, and infographics, can help build credibility and attract the attention of graduates.

Exploring different paths: Apprentice recruitment

Exploring fresh talent pathways beyond the traditional campus recruitment cycle can yield impressive results. If you want to hire young talents, one option that is gaining traction in the United Kingdom is the apprenticeship model. Offering an array of benefits, apprenticeships provide a dynamic balance between vocational education and practical experience.

Considering apprentice recruitment can propel your business to the forefront. The benefits of apprenticeships for employers are manifold, from invigorating your team with fresh perspectives to nurturing in-house talent tailored to your specific business needs. Embracing apprentice recruitment also demonstrates your commitment to the growth and development of young professionals, which can significantly boost your brand image and reputation. Moreover, integrating apprentices into your workforce can foster innovation, productivity and adaptability.

Best student recruitment campaigns

To inspire your graduate recruitment efforts, here are some best student recruitment campaigns from leading companies in the industry:

Google’s internship programmes

Google is renowned for its successful internship programs, which attract top graduates from around the world. They offer a range of internships across various departments, providing hands-on experience and exposure to cutting-edge technologies. Google invests in their interns by offering mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and engaging projects. By providing valuable experiences and fostering a supportive environment, Google not only attracts talented graduates but also cultivates a pipeline of future employees.

Student Recruitment Screenshot of Google's career page showing options for students StudySmarter
Google has a dedicated space in their careers page for students.

Why we love this

  • Access to top talent: Google’s internship programs attract top graduates from around the world, allowing the company to tap into an unlimited pool of highly skilled and motivated individuals.
  • Talent pipeline: By offering internships across various departments, Google cultivates a pipeline of potential future employees who have already gained valuable experience and familiarity with the company’s culture and work environment.
  • Innovation and fresh perspectives: Interns at Google are exposed to cutting-edge technologies and engaging projects, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the company. This contributes to Google’s culture of innovation and helps drive the development of new products and services.
  • Employer branding and reputation: Google’s successful internship programs contribute to the company’s strong employer brand and reputation. By providing hands-on experience, mentorship, and networking opportunities, Google positions itself as an attractive employer, further enhancing its ability to attract top talent in the competitive job market.

Ernst & Young’s graduate recruitment campaign

Ernst & Young (EY) is recognised for its innovative and targeted graduate recruitment campaigns. They leverage various channels, including social media, online platforms, and campus events, to engage with potential candidates. EY focuses on showcasing their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and career progression, which resonates with graduates seeking inclusive work environments. By promoting these values effectively, EY has successfully positioned itself as an attractive employer for graduates.

Student Recruitment Screenshot of EY career page StudySmarter
In their careers page, EY focus on showcasing their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and career progression.

Why we love this

  • Access to diverse talent pool: By focusing on diversity and inclusion, EY’s campaign attracts a wide range of candidates from different backgrounds and experiences. This expands the talent pool available to the company, allowing them to benefit from diverse perspectives and skills.
  • Increased candidate engagement: By leveraging various channels and platforms, EY’s recruitment campaign effectively engages with potential candidates, attracting their attention and generating interest in the company’s opportunities.
  • Enhanced employer branding: The campaign highlights EY’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and career progression, positioning the company as an attractive employer for graduates. This strengthens EY’s employer brand and helps differentiate it from competitors in the recruitment market.
  • Positive impact on talent retention and development: By showcasing their commitment to career progression, EY’s campaign attracts graduates who are seeking opportunities for growth and advancement. This helps in retaining top talent and provides a strong foundation for talent development within the company.

Unilever’s Future Leaders Programme

The Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP) is a development initiative offered by Unilever to identify and nurture talented individuals who have the potential to become future leaders within the company. The programme provides participants with a comprehensive learning experience and exposure to different aspects of the business. Through mentorship, training, and challenging roles, the UFLP aims to accelerate participants’ career progression and develop well-rounded leaders who can contribute to Unilever’s growth and sustainability goals.

Student Recruitment Screenshot of Unilever's Future Leaders Programme page StudySmarter
Through their UFLP programme, Unilever aims to develop well-rounded leaders who can contribute to their growth and sustainability goals.

Why we love this

  • Talent identification: The programme helps Unilever identify talented individuals with the potential to become future leaders within the company.
  • Retention of top talent: Providing comprehensive development opportunities through the UFLP helps Unilever retain talented individuals who are eager to grow and advance their careers within the company.
  • Boosted employer branding: Unilever’s commitment to talent development can enhance the company’s employer brand, making it an attractive company for top talent seeking growth opportunities and a clear development path.
  • Competitive advantage: Developing a pool of talented and well-prepared future leaders through the UFLP gives Unilever a competitive edge in the market, as it can leverage their skills and expertise to drive innovation, growth, and sustainability initiatives.

Deloitte’s interactive career pathway feature

Deloitte has developed an interactive career pathway to showcase the power of storytelling through personalised experiences. The graduate site of Deloitte is filled with engaging videos and written content, presenting a wide range of career journeys that previous graduates have experienced within the company.

They have recently installed a new feature – a quick and engaging quiz designed to assist prospective graduates in finding their ideal fit within Deloitte’s graduate program. These questions are crafted to enable graduates to showcase their personality while considering their working style and preferences. Based on their responses, the quiz will provide them with the most suitable roles within Deloitte.

Student Recruitment Deloitte career page for students StudySmarter
Deloitte’s interactive career pathway allows for more personalised experiences.

Why we love this

  • Personalised experience: It offers a personalised experience to users, allowing them to explore career pathways tailored to their interests and preferences.
  • Its storytelling approach: Through engaging videos and written content, the feature showcases a wide range of career journeys, helping users understand the different opportunities available within Deloitte.
  • Increased user engagement: The interactive nature of the feature enhances user engagement, making the career exploration process more enjoyable and immersive.
  • Improved recruitment process: The feature streamlines the recruitment process by matching prospective graduates with the most suitable roles, resulting in better alignment between candidates and positions.

Stay agile and adaptive to boost your graduate student recruitment

As we’ve discussed, graduate recruitment can be a challenging process. However, with the right strategies and approaches, your company can successfully attract and hire top talent. By developing a compelling employer brand, implementing targeted recruitment strategies, leveraging digital channels, and considering best practice examples, your company can overcome the pain points associated with graduate recruitment.

Remember to stay agile and adapt your strategies based on data-driven insights and industry trends. By continuously refining your approaches and seeking out innovative solutions, you can effectively attract the best graduates to drive your company’s success in the competitive UK job market!

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