The talent of the future: what do graduates expect from an employer?

Every year, around 4.7 million graduates take their first steps on the European labour market. As for businesses: they are always looking for suitable, qualified candidates. Moreover, the competition for available talent is increasing as the baby boom generation retire in the years ahead. Employers who wish to bring the most talented young people on board – and retain them – will therefore do well to gain insights into their expectations and ambitions. Understanding what you are looking for gives you a head start when it comes to attracting their attention and responding to their wishes.

The Centre for Excellence in Strategic Talent Management at Vlerick Business School has conducted its tenth survey of the expectations of young people who are entering the labour market for the first time. 1,052 final-year students at Flemish universities and colleges took part in this trend study, carried out in the spring of 2017. The students concerned had mainly taken subjects which prepared them for corporate life, such as economics.

Download the full research report 'The Career Perspective of Graduates - 2017'.

Download the infographic 'The career perspectives of graduates - 2017'.

Infographic young graduates

1/ High standards

This is what recent graduates expect from their employer:

  • A pleasant and sociable working environment and a good working atmosphere (93%)
  • Training and professional development (83%)
  • The opportunity to capitalise on their strengths and implement them in practice (82%)
  • Career prospects (77%)
  • A high level of variety within the job (77%)

2/ Good work-life balance

74% of recent graduates state that a good work-life balance is important. This translates into the promises which recent graduates are prepared to make to their employer:

  • 67.2% are still prepared to work overtime
  • However, only 16% are prepared to spend more than two hours per day commuting to work

3/ The manager as a coach

73% of recent graduates not only expect regular performance-related feedback from their manager, but also a sign of appreciation. They want a boss who gives them a helping hand when required and with whom they can develop an informal relationship. It is clear that recent graduates would rather be coached than controlled. In fact, 60% of them indicate that autonomy within their job is very important.

4/ Variety is the spice of life

Recent graduates are certainly not job hoppers, as only one in four respondents said they wanted to change employer on a regular basis throughout their career. However, they do appear to regard their first job as temporary. For companies which recruit a lot of recent graduates, this lack of loyalty poses a major challenge in the long term when it comes to keeping them on board.

  • 50% regard their first job as a stepping stone to a better job with a different company
  • Almost one in two plan to spend one to three years working for their first employer
  • 30% are committed to spending three to five years with their first employer
  • Only 2.2% think they will spend more than ten years with their first employer

5/ High level of self-confidence

Recent graduates have a positive image of themselves as future employees. They are full of confidence about their skills and abilities and believe that they are highly employable. They think it will be easy for them to find and hold down a job. We can therefore assume that they will throw themselves into their first job full of enthusiasm.

  • 73.3% say that their skills are at a high level
  • 81.6% find it easy to adapt to changes


1/ How do recent graduates look for a job?

Most of them combine various different channels. These are the top three:

  • Internet and company websites (88.6%)
  • Job fairs (67.4%)
  • Specific vacancy websites (59.8%)
2/ Remuneration

The net salary expectations vary according to the level of qualification obtained (Bachelor, Master, Advanced Master). Across all study levels, recent graduates expect an average net starting salary of 1,824 euros. After five years, this increases to an average of 2,787 euros.

  • Although men expect a higher starting salary than women, this difference decreases after five years.
  • The most important fringe benefits are hospitalisation insurance, a pension plan and paid overtime.
3/ Career planning
  • The top three activities are: keeping their CV up to date, asking others for advice and taking additional training
  • Less than half (42%) have both a clear short-term and long-term vision of where they want their careers to be heading

& Rankings

Equis Association of MBAs AACSB Financial Times