The SAGEA Employer Benchmark and Candidates Insights 2022

Graduate recruitment remains buoyant within a turbulent market, as candidates focus on development, flexibility, having an impact, and long-term job security

Results from independent research among leading employers in South Africa shows that these organisations are recruiting very healthy numbers of graduates in 2022.  The SAGEA Employer Benchmarking Survey 2022 is based on responses from 69 of the leading graduate employers in the country. The impact of the pandemic and the widespread economic turmoil it created invariably led to considerable change in the graduate job market, as employers reassessed their recruitment needs and shifted to digital campaigns. However, The SAGEA Employer Benchmark Survey 2022 shows that these employers are increasing the number of students on their graduate programmes and offering significant salaries to attract the very best candidates.

The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey 2022 questioned 2,534 new or future employees about their job hunting and opinions about the job market. The research showed that candidates made an average of nine applications each, and under challenging circumstances most had secured multiple job offers. While employers received thousands of applications, many said there continued to be a shortage of candidates with the right skill set or qualifications.

Candidates who started their job hunting by their first year at university, were most likely to secure a graduate position with their top employer of choice. By comparison, students who waited until their final year before starting their job search were the least likely to have received a job offer from one of their top three choices of employer.

Highlights from The SAGEA Employer Benchmarking 2022 include:

  • Nearly half of employers stated that graduates were hired to be part of a leadership development programme, with the view that they will become future managers of the organisation. Just under a third of employers were primarily recruiting graduates to fill roles that require in-demand or technical skills. A quarter confirmed that graduates are hired for entry-level roles, and that some (but not all) will progress to manager level.
  • The accounting and professional services firms were the largest recruiters, with more than two-fifths of all vacancies in 2022. Other major recruiters in 2022 were banking and finance organisations and engineering, manufacturing and mining companies or retailers.
  • By job function, the most vacancies were found in audit, which accounted for two-fifths of total vacancies available in 2022.
The SAGEA Employer Benchmark and Candidate Insights 2022
  • The median number of graduate vacancies in 2022 is 35, which is noticeably higher than the previous years.
  • The median graduate starting salary for 2022 was R247,500 which is nearly R30,000 higher than the figure recorded in last year’s survey.
  • The highest starting salaries in 2022 were for research & development, investment analysts, quantitative analysts, geologists, and several engineering positions. All of these offered median starting salaries in excess of R400,000.
  • The median number of applications received by employers was 3,850 which is 350 more compared to last year.
  •  The median number of applications per vacancy was 82, which is similar to pre-pandemic levels in the past four years.
  • A sixth of those candidates who submitted applications were successful in reaching the next stage of the selection process. An average of 13 per cent of candidates reneged on offers they had accepted, which is higher than last year.

Highlights from The SAGEA Candidate Insights 2022 include:

  • The most popular destinations were auditing, technology, legal and finance roles.
  • The five universities with the highest attendance levels accounted for more than half of all survey participants.
  • While most candidates did not think the Government was handling the pandemic well, they were much more positive about the steps their universities had taken to manage the impact.
  • Half of the candidates were going to be working in Johannesburg, while a sixth had secured positions in Cape Town.
  • Some 46 per cent expect to stay with their first employer for more than five years.
  • Half of candidates felt there were a range of challenging aspects to starting a career including: staying fit and healthy; looking after their mental health and well-being; maintaining or creating a social life; and learning to manage their finances.

Executive Director for SAGEA, Cathy Sims commented:

“It is truly wonderful to see so many of the leading employers increasing their commitment to early talent recruitment. While the last two years have been very uncertain for students, employers continue to recognise the value of hiring high-calibre graduates and the increase in vacancies is a clear indication that organisations want graduates to play a key role in their organisations.

Competition for the most highly sought-after roles is of course extremely fierce, and many students will find it difficult to get through all the stages of the selection process. However, the best candidates have a focused approach to their job search, and many are lucky enough to have multiple job offers from which to choose. As a result, employers continue to work incredibly hard to ensure these candidates feel connected and committed to both the role and the organisation itself. Employers who are doing this particularly well are engaging in meaningful, authentic conversations with job hunters via a variety of channels – both online and in-person – and at multiple stages through a student’s time at university.”

The SAGEA Employer Benchmark and Candidate Insights 2022

Notes for Editors

  1. The SAGEA Employer Benchmarking 2022 and The SAGEA Candidate Insights 2022 were carried out on behalf of The South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) by the specialist graduate research company, High Fliers Research Ltd.  Research was online and took place from March to June 2022.
  2. The South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) is a professional association that is the hub of graduate employment in South Africa.  Through exclusive insights projects, ingenuity, and connection to international organisations, SAGEA provides members with access to the latest graduate employment insights, trends, global best practice and resources to help them attract and retain the best talent for their businesses.
  3. The employers who participated in one or both pieces of research include:
ABInBevFaskenRand Merchant Bank
Absa GroupFirst National BankRCL FOODS
Allan GrayFirstRandReckitt
Allen & OveryGenesis AnalyticsRoyal Eswatini Sugar Corporation
Amazon Web ServicesGlencoreSanlam
Anglo AmericanGlobeleqSantam
Auditor General of South AfricaHatch AfricaSasol
AVI LimitedHSBCSiemens Energy
Bain & CompanyHuawei TechnologiesSNG Grant Thornton
Baker McKenzieInvestecSouth African Reserve Bank
BDOIQbusinessSouth African Revenue Services
Boston Consulting GroupKearneyStandard Bank
BowmansKPMGSwiss Re Africa
Capitec BankMassmartThe Foschini Group
Cliffe Dekker HofmeyrMazarsThe Shoprite Group of Companies
Colgate-PalmoliveMcKinsey & CompanyTiger Brands
Coronation Fund ManagersMedia24Toyota South Africa Motors
CSIRMercedes-Benz South AfricaTransaction Capital
Deloitte Audit & AssuranceMr Price GroupTruworths
Deloitte Consulting & AdvisoryNedbankUnilever
Development Bank of South AfricaOld MutualWebber Wentzel
Dimension DataParity SoftwareWerksmans Attorneys
DiscoveryPrescient HoldingsWoolworths
ENSafricaPPS InsuranceWorley
EricssonPSG KonsultWSP Group Africa


4.   For further information or additional comments please contact:

Cathy Sims, Executive Director, South African Graduate Employers Association. Telephone:  0873797163   Email: