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Trends in graduate recruitment in retail and sales

Discover the latest in employment trends in the diverse and growing sector

A healthy level of opportunity is expected in graduate recruitment in the retail and sales sector in 2015.

Projected growth and increased focus on graduate recruitment means employers are expected to increase their intake for those coming out of third level, according to the Graduate Recruitment and Employability Survey (2013-14) conducted by AHECS.

50% of employers surveyed said they expect to increase recruitment in the coming year, while only 16% predicted a decrease.

“The company is in growth, so I would expect the graduate job market to grow with it in the coming years”, said a leading employer surveyed.

Due to the many and varied functions of positions within Sales and Retail companies, graduates are recruited from a range of disciplines. All employers surveyed said they hired Commerce and Business Studies graduates, while courses as diverse as graduates Arts and Humanities, Engineering, and Food Science and Technology have been brought on board.

Employers also expressed a willingness to hire across degree levels from those with level 7 ordinary degrees to postgraduates.

Relevant work experience

In terms of important criteria, having relevant work experience is seen as most important. Even if a degree programme doesn’t offer formal work placements, students need to complete some type of relevant work in order to move into graduate jobs after college.

Employers said a relevant degree and strong academic results were also important, while they highlighted potential employees must prove their strong employability skills. The onus is on the student to prove these skills during work placements and through extra curricular involvement, for example in societies in college.

Teamwork is the most important skill according to employers. “No matter what the role, in the end it is all about dealing with people”, said one leading employer.

80% of employers also said having a positive attitude was very important, while they advised that students work on self-management and project management skills, which generally are lacking in graduates.

Employers also outlined several specific recommendations for graduates hoping to move into this sector. They emphasised how important a positive attitude is saying it must be developed through your studies in terms of meeting deadlines, asking questions and engaging in activities.

Also, foreign languages are a valuable asset in the sector and trends suggest they are becoming more important especially for employers with global bases and international clients.

Strong IT skills, especially in excel and powerpoint are advantages with many employers pointing out that these skills are not sufficiently taught in universities, while a even a basic knowledge of current affairs and its impact on business is an advantage.

In terms of other recommendations, employers said graduates should learn how to sell themselves when making an application.

Download the AHECS Graduate Recruitment and Employability Survey2013 here