Graduates demanding more from employers

Today’s graduates want more from work than just the pay cheque

Remote working, better holidays, continuous professional development are more important to graduates today than gimmicks such as foosball tables. Photograph: iStock.

Remote working, better holidays, continuous professional development are more important to graduates today than gimmicks such as foosball tables. Photograph: iStock.


With Ireland currently the fastest-growing economy in the eurozone – a trend that is expected to continue, graduates are in prime position to snap up the jobs needed to sustain this growth.

Demand for recent graduates is at an all-time high, according to the Hays Ireland Salary and Recruiting Trends 2018 report published earlier this year.

The report notes the strongest demand in technology and life sciences, with the construction sector starting to return to rude health since the downturn.

Looking at the expected salary levels in those fields, recent technology graduates can expect to earn between €30,000-€55,000 a year, while those in life sciences can expect to earn €25,000-€50,000 a year.

Managing director of Hays Ireland Mike McDonagh says it’s a “great time to be a graduate”.

“It is going to be very competitive for organisations to get and hang on to talent. People graduating now are very discerning and it is easy for them to see what organisations are like to work for and they have unprecedented access to online review sites and social media,” he says.

“It’s interesting to see as the economy has improved how the CAO options have changed in tandem. There’s probably still not enough students choosing IT and science but it’s good to see more students picking engineering and construction courses.”

McDonagh says the emigration of qualified engineers during the recession means Ireland is now on the back foot, with a shortage of experienced engineers.

And while salaries are improving for graduates and the number of job opportunities increases, today’s graduates are thinking about more than just the pay cheque, unlike previous generations.

“This generation of graduates are looking for very different things to previous generations and it’s not the clichéd things like perks or bean bags or free beer. It’s very much about what sort of training and development they are going to get, if they will receive mentoring and what sort of things the company does around the area of corporate social responsibility,” McDonagh says.

And it’s not just a better work-life balance graduates are seeking; many of them don’t believe in staying with a company for more than five years, never mind a lifetime.

“People are not going to stay in a job for 10 years as readily as they would have done five or 10 years ago. That mentality is dying out as people no longer feel like they need to cling to their jobs for dear life as they may have done during the recession,” McDonagh says.

“The job for life is gone as careers become multi-faceted – this generation will have three or four careers in their lifetime and several job changes as they will be working for 50 years or more as life expectancies continue to improve,” he says.

“Companies may not accept or like this attitude of graduates being more footloose but they need to understand it and make greater effort to hold on to them and make their workplace as attractive as possible,” he adds.


And even when graduates move on or before they even go to work for a company, they are quick to do their research and leave feedback about a company online.

A former employee documenting their bad experience with the company can lead to a negative perception of the company, says McDonagh, and that is something employers need to be aware of.

“Again, if they move on, companies want them to say they had a positive experience, because this generation are the first to go online and review companies. Whether the person stays six months or three years, employers need to ensure graduates have a good experience because their opinion will count.”

He says companies now need to tell graduates what they offer beyond salary, in order to entice them.

“Companies trying to seduce graduates have to be clear about the added value they bring to the graduates of 2018. They need the ability to tell that story really effectively otherwise they are going to get gazumped by other organisations who don’t just focus on salary but the work-life experience they can offer this age group,” McDonagh says.

“For the past two or three years, the balance of power has really swung towards graduates, particularly in the big urban centres such as Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Galway. Graduates can’t necessarily pick and choose jobs at whim but they certainly have more options than in recent years compared to when we saw organisations closing or cutting back on their grad schemes,” he says.

McDonagh says increasing rents and a lack of housing may lead to employers increasing starting salaries for graduates in order to retain them or to keep them in the major cities.

“It’s difficult to find people as there are more opportunities but you need to pay the good salaries as rents have increased in all urban centres, Dublin in particular,” he says.

“These people are just out of college so companies need to be cognisant of that as they face higher rents and costs of living. While I’m not aware of any company that has specifically increased their salaries due to rent hikes, it is possibly something they will need to look at if the crisis continues,” he adds.

McDonagh says flexibility will make companies more agile and appealing to this generation.

“Remote workers who choose their own work hours can be as productive as those working nine to five. Tech companies and the multinationals have the infrastructure to make it a reality and have a more flexible culture. There are large swathes of society who don’t fit into nine to five – particularly parents or people studying on the side for example,” he says.

“Gimmicks such as a foosball table, free food or a fridge full of beer – these are all things that looks good on the surface but students see it is not all it is cracked up to be. Things that are much more important to the graduates of today are things like remote working, better holidays, continuous professional development, social and corporate responsibility and having purpose rather than feeling like a cog in a wheel.”

Average graduate salaries according to Hays recruitment

Life science/pharma: quality control €25,000-€30,000, R&D engineers €30,000-€38,000

Construction/engineering: €28,000-€30,000, but surveyors earn €30,000-€35,000 (up 10 per cent on same time last year)

Accountancy: training schemes still coming in at €19,000-€21,000 basic salary (+ education support)

IT/financial services sector: €30,000

HR: €27,500-€35,000

Administration/standard graduate schemes: €22,500-€27,500