AHECS Graduate Market Survey 2020-Key findings

The recently released AHECS Graduate Market Survey 2020 provides some interesting data for students and graduates as they seek to start their career in an uncertain world. Let’s take a look at just some of the key findings.

The Association of Higher Education Careers Services (AHECS) is the voice of higher education careers and employability professionals, who are a recognised authority on graduate career development, employability and learning. They represent 27 institutions throughout the island of Ireland and work with over 300,000 students.

AHECS surveyed 190 graduate employers between June and July 2020 to ask them about the recruitment processes, their challenges, the impact of the pandemic and what skills they value most when it comes to graduate hires.

Graduate recruitment levels remain strong

Just under half, 46%, said that they will recruit the same number of graduates as last year, 17% said they will hire less and just 6% said they were suspending graduate recruitment in 2020. A third of employers remain uncertain as to how many graduates they will hire this year.

Average salaries

The AHECS survey reported that the average salary amongst employers surveyed was €28,045 for undergraduates, €31,254 for those with a Postgraduate Master’s degree and for those with a Postgrad PhD, the average salary is €31,969.

Who should apply?

17% of employers surveyed are looking for graduates from all disciplines. 42% are specifically looking for engineering graduates, 33% are seeking business graduates and 30% are looking for informatics and electronics graduates.


Companies surveyed could select all the application methods they used in this question. 83% said that they required a CV and cover letter. Online applications are popular, used by 40% of the organisations surveyed while 38% of respondents used pre-screening questions at application stage.


Survey participants could select more than one response, indicating all their selection methods. 56% used competency/behavioural based interviews while virtual and telephone interviews remained popular with 56% and 52% respectively. 34% use presentations and 18% use assessment centres according to the survey. 32% of organisations use strengths-based interviews, while reference checking (54%) and social media checks (13%) were other responses.

Impact of the pandemic

According to the AHECS report; “Results for 2020 indicate that 63% of respondent employers were going to continue with their graduate offers with 14% withdrawing their graduate offers; there was a more significant impact on placement and summer internships with 31% of offers withdrawn. The dichotomy between graduate offers and
placements/summer internships would be because of the timeline of the COVID impact, i.e. graduate roles to commence in Sept/ Oct, and placement students would have been in situ at the time of the lockdown.
A significant amount (46%) of those proceeding with their graduate offers will be starting their graduate hires remotely with 42% planning on continuing with their original start date.”


The above graphic highlights the issues which employers are finding as significant barriers to effective graduate recruitment. According to AHECS; “the next challenge is the expectations of graduates at entry-level stage, and their work-readiness levels. This calls for a greater partnership between employers and universities when it comes to preparing students for the working world.”

Technical skills

Employers were asked to rank 12 global technical skills according to the value of those skills to their organisation.

The top five global technical skills for 2020 according to the AHECS report are:

1: Analytical thinking

2: Self motivation

3: Flexibility

4: Collaboration

5: Qualifications related to job

Soft skills

Employers were also asked to rank 12 global soft skills according to the value of those skills to their organisation.

The top five global soft skills for 2020 according to the AHECS report are:

1: Positive attitude and energy

2: Work ethic

3: Ability to cope with pressure

4: Open to new ideas/ways of thinking

5: Seeks opportunity for continuous learning

You can download the full report, which includes a skills analysis broken down by sector, here.

Also, make sure you download the 20202 gradireland Graduate Salary & Graduate Trends Survey here.

Find out more about AHECS here.

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