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Alan Geaney Cripps Harries Hall

Helen Alkin: M&S

has demanded a 2:1 or above for over a decade, yet Rob Fryer, Graduate Recruitment Manager, says the company is currently re-examining its position. “It has kind of served a purpose to date but at the moment we are starting to question it and explore other ways of not only maintaining our [professional qualification] pass rate, which we are very proud of, but see if there is anything out there which will allow us to take a more sophisticated approach, rather than using the blunt instruments we have in the past.”


Jessica Grundy: Accenture

Rob Fryer: Deloitte

It will be music to the ears of many of higher education’s figureheads, not least Sir Bob Burgess, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester, who has long argued not only that the degree classification system is outdated, but that employers who apply a 2:1 minimum entry are severely handicapping themselves [see box out]. Another voice heard loudly is that of social mobility tsar, Alan Milburn who spoke out against using UCAS tariff points as a barrier to entry, writing in a recent report that “all employers should stop this practice immediately.” Prof Sir Tim Wilson has also urged change, commenting that the filter “militates against a widening access agenda”.

Ashley Hever: ERAC

It is the increasing profile of this particular agenda which has helped to focus employer minds on the wisdom of the 2:1 rule. It does, after all, seem contrary that organisations should, on one hand, promote their commitment to diversity and CSR, while on the other hand imposing a very unforgiving academic requirement that makes no allowance for softer skills, work experience or – dare I say it – the variation between the quality of degree classifications from one institution to another.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car (ERAC) is one employer that has never applied a 2:1 rule, instead priding itself on considering the many and varied skills and attributes of a university educated applicant. “We want them to have had a university experience

t is an increasingly controversial tool that even those employers most entrenched in applying it are beginning to question. Deloitte

because it shows lots of the different skills that we are looking for in our business – flexibility, work ethic, being involved in societies, independence – but it doesn’t necessarily matter whether they have achieved a first, a 2:1 or a third,” says Ashley Hever, European Talent Acquisition Manager, ERAC. “Diversity is really important to us and applying a 2:1 cut off won’t help social mobility. There is more to a person than their degree grade.”

Conversely, Accenture does apply the 2:1 rule (it asks for 340 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree for its consulting roles), but Jessica Grundy, Head of Graduate Recruitment, stresses that the company invests heavily in its diversity agenda to ensure it attracts and recruits graduates from any background. “Accenture uses specific initiatives to try and help attract people from, for example, disadvantaged backgrounds.” This includes bringing young people in for work shadowing and mentoring through UpReach, the non- profit organisation which supports undergraduates from less-privileged backgrounds, as well as working with state schools to educate pupils about career options early on. “We have no immediate plans to take away UCAS points or the 2:1 requirement,” says Grundy. “We are recruiting the quality and volume we need and we have efficient and effective processes, but we’re also making sure we are investing time and budget in those populations of people who are perhaps harder to reach.”

For Deloitte, it is the pressing needs of social mobility that have, in part, prompted it to start reconsidering its minimum entry requirements. “It is about really opening up that talent pool,” says Fryer. “Diversity and social mobility are things that are high on our agenda and I don’t think that the ‘blunt’ 2:1 instrument is allowing us to recruit from as diverse a pool as we would like.”

Change, it seems, is afoot, and even those employers not yet considering a change in practice readily acknowledge the crudeness of the 2:1 approach. Marks &

Spencer applies a 2:1 cut off for graduate vacancies in its head office schemes, but does not apply the same rules to its retail store management programme. “There is a harshness around [the 2:1 cut off] and that is why we don’t use it for retail because, actually, whether someone gets a 2:1 or not is not a good measure of whether someone is going to go on to be a great manager,” says Helen Alkin, Graduate Recruitment Manager. She explains that the company has developed specific online screening tools, closely aligned to the behaviours and traits critical to being a good retail manager, for its retail scheme, which is its largest programme, while its head office scheme is smaller and demands more specific degree disciplines. “For example, to be a food technologist you have to have done a relevant science degree, and for our dot. com business we might look for software engineers. We therefore currently apply a 2:1 as part of our screening process for head office roles, enabling us to help screen out large volumes so we can work with individuals more closely.”

Geaney, while asserting that his legal firm is “very happy” with what it gets as a result of applying the cut off − is also quick to acknowledge that it is a far from perfect solution. “It is a blunt instrument and I’d rather be open-minded but we have to draw the line somewhere.”

Alas, far from being used to ensure intellectual and academic ability, it seems the 2:1 is now broadly used as a sifting mechanism to reduce the number of applications - and reduce the overall cost per hire. As Geaney says, “We don’t have the time or resource to approach it differently.” >>>

…it seems the 2:1 is now

broadly used as a sifting mechanism to reduce the number of applications | Graduate Recruiter 15

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