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Will attending a prestigious university get you a better graduate job?

By Chloe Lane

Updated September 13, 2021 Updated September 13, 2021

If your goal is to get a top graduate job, should you be basing your study decision entirely off university rankings? Here’s what some of the top graduate employers have to say.  

No matter how you’re making your decision on where to study, it’s likely you might have glanced at the QS World University Rankings 2022. But how much attention should you pay to these global rankings if you want to secure the best possible graduate job after university? 

While it’s important to consider the university’s ranking, it might be that other factors, such as the location, the course and the university's connections with industry, might be just as important.  

TopUniversities asked several of the top graduate employers whether students attending a more ‘prestigious’ university would make them more attractive candidates and what other factors companies consider when hiring graduates. 

Focus on building skills  

building skills

If you’re looking to work at a top accountancy firm such as PwC, you might want to focus on building up transferrable skills.  

PwC told TopUniversities that, although they couldn’t directly say whether an applicant’s university choice impacted their decision to hire them, they did want to hire graduates who possess certain “desired skills.” 

These skills include leadership, building high value relationships, being able to collaborate effectively and having business acumen. 

Transferrable skills can be learnt both inside and outside university. Students can pick up soft skills, such as communication, leadership and teamwork from group projects and university societies, whereas technical business skills are often learnt in internships and work placements.  

Discover which soft skills you’ll need to succeed post-COVID. 

Research the company 

research

Network Rail runs Britan’s railway network. Its graduate schemes usually get around 4,000 applications for only 300 roles.  

But does Network Rail’s recruitment team make their decision based on which university a graduate attended? “Not at all,” said Amarvir Munger, a HR business partner at Network Rail. “Even at the assessment process, it’s more about what you’re like as a person.” 

National Rail places a greater focus on its behaviours and values, advising graduates to learn these values and why they exist – particularly its approach to safety.  

“It shows that you've really taken the time to understand the company itself,” said Munger. 

Munger advises students to think about what you’re doing both inside and outside your university course  and consider where you’ve built skills such as teamwork and collaboration.  

“This will allow you to come across in interviews as somebody who's able to make the link in terms of what you're doing now and how you're able to bring these skills and benefits into the company,” he said.  

Here’s how to prepare for a virtual interview.  

Willingness to learn  

willingness to learn

Rather than basing the decision to hire a graduate based on their university alone, some firms place a high value on a graduate’s willingness to learn and ask questions.  

Andrew Sharp, Head of Early Talent at Mars UK says that rather than only taking on graduates from the very top universities, Mars wants to recruit from a “diverse range of universities, students and future Mars Associates.” 

He said: “We want to recruit the best talent; people who are curious, self-aware, have a willingness to learn, develop and grow at pace.  

“This can come from any university and from someone with lots or no work experience – we have various routes and exciting career paths to take.” 

Similarly, Google’s virtual career fair reveals what the company is looking for from graduates. Jessie from Google’s University Programmes team said: “We look for people who are curious, who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, ask the tough questions or push boundaries.” 

Passion for the role 

passion

Passion for the industry and the specific role can really set you apart from other applicants – even those from higher-ranked universities.  

PR company Liberty Communications is always on the lookout for talented graduates. James Meredith, Head of External Relations at Liberty Communications said: “At Liberty we don’t place any specific emphasis on the university graduates have attended.  

“Far more important to us is what the applicant has studied and even more than that, why they are looking to pursue a career within the PR industry.” 

He added: “As a technology specialist PR agency, we’re also interested in finding out why the technology industry specifically appeals to prospective graduate hires.” 

** 

While attending a highly ranked university might help you gain these valuable skills and help you get the best possible internships, it seems that employers won’t offer you a job based on your university choice alone.  

Here’s what else to consider when searching for the right university for you.  

This article was originally published in September 2021 .

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Written by

As Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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