Published: 2018-06-26

Graduate recruitment amongst the leading graduate employers is optimistic for the upcoming year, while securing the highest-calibre candidates remains extremely competitive.

Results from an independent survey of leading employers in South Africa shows that these organisations are set to recruit record numbers of graduates in 2018 & 2019. The SAGEA Employer Benchmark Survey 2018 is based on responses from 91 of the leading graduate employers in the country. It provides encouraging news for students looking for their first job upon graduation.

Competition for the very best candidates remains extremely high. The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey 2018 – an online questionnaire with 2,281 new or future employees – showed that while candidates made an average of five or six applications, three-fifths had secured multiple job offers. While most employers received in excess of 1,500 applications, many said there was a shortage of candidates with the right skills and qualifications.

Just over two-thirds of employers expect to increase graduate salaries in 2019, while a sixth were planning to freeze salaries at 2018 levels. Employers continue to look for engaging ways to interact with students to create a useful dialogue and help them to understand all of the opportunities on offer. Recruiters were very active on campus – hosting events and attending careers fairs – and were also present on social networking sites and hosted their own websites.

Highlights from The SAGEA Employer Benchmark Survey 2018 include:

  • Some 44 per cent of employers said their primary purpose in recruiting graduates was to hire them onto a leadership development programme.
  • Graduate vacancies are set to increase by 6.1 per cent in 2019, compared to the numbers recruited in 2018.
  • Vacancy levels have increased in 11 of the 12 industries that are tracked in the survey.
  • The accounting and professional services firms were the largest recruiters, with more than a third of all vacancies in 2018. Other major recruiters in 2018 were banking and finance organisations, retailers and consulting firms.
  • By job function, the most vacancies were found in audit (TIPP), which accounted for more than a third of total vacancies available in 2018.
  • The median graduate starting salary for 2018 was R216,000.The highest starting salaries in 2018 were for positions in investment banking, actuarial work, retail banking and compliance analysis. All of these offered median starting salaries of at least R350,000.
  • The number of applications received by employers was 1,500, however nearly a quarter of employers each received more than 5,000 applicants. The median number of applications per vacancy was 59, which is noticeably lower than the last two years
  • Employers are spending more on marketing campaigns, and looking to engage in a wide mix of promotions including digital, print and also face-to-face activities.
  • A fifth of those candidates who submitted applications were successful in reaching the next stage of the selection process. An average of seven per cent of candidates reneged on offers they had accepted.

Highlights from The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey 2018 include:

  • The most popular destinations were auditing, ICT, legal and tax.
  • The five universities with the highest attendance levels accounted for more than half of all survey participants.
  • More than two-fifths of candidates confirmed they waited until their final year to start researching graduate employers.
  • Candidates made an average of five or six applications, slightly lower than last year.
  • Training & development, the organisation’s reputation and the long-term career prospects were the most important factors when deciding who to apply to, and which job offer to accept. Many of the top candidates are looking closely at the work-life balance and how they can make a genuine difference in their role.
  • Employers’ own websites, university careers fairs, people in industry, and family members were the most widely used sources of information.
  • Two-fifths expect to stay with their first employer for more than five years.
  • Remuneration, promotion, training & development and the company culture were the most common factors in persuading candidates to stay longer with an employer.
  • 87 per cent expressed a desire to work overseas at some point in the future, with Europe and America being the most preferred destinations.

Executive Director for SAGEA, Cathy Sims commented:

“It is clear that senior management intend graduates to play a key role in their organisations, however competition for the best candidates remains high and finding suitable STEM students is particularly challenging. Employers will need to engage in meaningful conversations with job hunters via all avenues, including print, digital and face-to-face activities. The very best graduates often have multiple job offers from which to choose, so employers will be working hard to help ensure candidates feel connected to the role & organisation as well as recognising the impact they can have on their teams, departments and community. This impact needs to be sustained well past the duration of the graduate programme so formal talent management beyond this point is critical. South Africa’s leading employers continue to be optimistic about graduate recruitment. They plan to increase the number of graduate vacancies on offer which shows a sustained, and real commitment from recruiters to attract and retain the very best candidates – many of whom will become the future leaders in the business.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The SAGEA Employer Benchmark Survey 2018 and The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey 2018 were carried out on behalf of The South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) by the specialist graduate research company, High Fliers Research Ltd. Research took place from March to May 2018, using online questionnaires.
  2. The South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) is a professional body dedicated to connecting and advancing the graduate recruitment industry. SAGEA is the hub of the industry, making use of synergies, resourcefulness and insights to bring global best practice to our members, and elevate the profession.
  3. The employers who participated in one or both surveys include:
Allan Gray
Allen & Overy
Amazon Web Services
Anglo American
Anglo American Platinum
Anglo American Thermal Coal
AVI Limited
Bain & Company
Barloworld Equipment
Black & Veatch South Africa
BMW Group South Africa
BP Southern Africa
Capitec Bank
Clicks Group
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Communicare NPC
Coronation Fund Managers
Cummins Africa Middle East
Curo Fund Services
Defy Appliances
Deloitte Consulting
Diageo South Africa
Dimension Data
ENS Africa
EOH Mthombo
Financial Intelligence Centre
First National Bank
First Rand
General Electric
Genesis Analytics
Global Load Control
Globeleq South Africa
Grant Thornton
Hatch Africa
Hogan Lovells (SA)
Huawei Technologies South Africa
Intelligent Debt Management
Investec Asset Management
Investec Bank
IQ Business
J.P. Morgan Chase Bank
Kumba Iron Ore
McKinsey & Company
Mercedes-Benz South Africa
Merrill Lynch
Mr Price Group
Nedbank Limited
Nestlé South Africa
Norton Rose Fulbright
Old Mutual
Prescient Holdings
Procter & Gamble
Professional Provident Society
PSG Konsult
Public Investment Corporation
Rand Merchant Bank
RB South Africa
Retro Rabbit
Rio Tinto
Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation
SARS (South African Revenue Services)
South African Reserve Bank
Standard Bank
Standard Chartered Bank
Swiss Re Life and Health Africa
TFG (The Foschini Group)
The Boston Consulting Group
The Shoprite Group of Companies
Thomson Reuters
Tiger Brands
Tongaat Hulett
Toyota South Africa Motors
Unilever South Africa
Volkswagen Group South Africa
Webber Wentzel
Werksmans Attorneys
WSP Group Africa


For further information or additional comments please contact: Cathy Sims, Executive Director, South African Graduate Employers Association. Telephone: 021 712 6168 Mobile: 083 297 7740 Email:

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