Graduate employment programmes offer university students the prospect of a reasonable salary and development opportunities. For employers, such programmes offer a talent pipeline and a means to identify future leaders. The psychological contract which develops during recruitment processes creates high expectations on both sides of the employment bargain. A corollary is that graduate programmes usually entail highly competitive, multi-stage selection processes, in which applicants must repeatedly demonstrate their employability in online psychometric tests and computerised activities before progressing to the final selection stage. Drawing on Foucauldian theories of governmentality, this study uses interviews (n = 17) and focus groups (n = 2) to explore how final-year students at a post-1992 English university navigate graduate recruitment processes, and learn to signal what they believe is employability. The article shows how students’ understanding of employability is formed not only through traditional channels such as university careers services or employer communications, but increasingly through third-party (and often commercial) ‘helper’ apps offering online test-practice sessions, templated careers advice, and other methods for gaming the recruitment process. These helper apps can have distorting effects, producing graduates focused on the performance rather than the substance of employability.
den Outer, Birgit
Oxford Brookes Business School
Year of publication: 2022Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-01-06