The UK’s top employers are still far too focused on hiring graduates from universities which have the highest percentage of students who attended private school, a damning new study has discovered. Evidence also emerged that talented candidates are being rejected for graduate roles because they are not the right ‘fit’ or they are dressed a certain way. But things are changing, with Graduate Fog’s sponsor Grant Thornton leading the way on progress.

A new social mobility index for employers, compiled by the Social Mobility Commission in partnership with the City of London Corporation, found that the top 11 universities with the highest entry grade and biggest proportions of privately educated students get more visits from employers than all other British universities combined (!), and some companies simply do not recruit candidates who did not attend an elite university.

And snooty attitudes from recruiters are still too common – as anecdotal evidence accompanying the index revealed that one candidate was rejected for a graduate role at a bank because his tie was “too loud”, a sign that he was not the right “fit” for the firm.

Happily, there are signs that things are changing, as more employers wake up to the fact that improving the diversity of their workforce makes sound business sense.

Almost one in five employers sets targets to hire and promote more candidates from poorer backgrounds to try and diversify their workforce.

And Graduate Fog is proud to announce that our long-time sponsor Grant Thornton topped the index as the employer with the most commitment to hiring and promoting employees from a mix of backgrounds. The firm recruits using aptitude tests rather than A-level grades or degree classifications, pays travel expenses for candidates to attend interviews, and offers a salary advance for new recruits to buy clothes for work. 

Sasha quote

Sacha Romanovitch, the professional services firm’s pioneering chief executive, said:

“It is not about saying we don’t want to take people who have had advantages. You had a situation where all of the large organisations in the UK were fishing out of the same small pond. Often the candidates were then holding down three or four offers and then deciding which one they were going to go for at the last minute.

“Our productivity as a country is way below what is should be and we konw we have thsi really big untapped talent base of people who aren’t being given opportunities.”

Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who chairs the Social Mobility Commission, said:

“Improving the UK’s dismal social mobility record requires new action by employers and not just governments.

“It is very welcome that more employers are changing their workforce strategies to ensure tehy don’t lose out on talented people from less privileged backgrounds.”

The social mobility index ranks employers according to steps they take to attract and promote staff from poorer families, based on voluntary submissions from 100 organisations. It is believed to be the first such table compiled anywhere in the world and will be published annually from now on.

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