Barclays to offer free accommodation to job applicants

Barclays is to offer all graduates — not just its own applicants — free accommodation for job interviews in London, Birmingham and Manchester, some of the UK’s main employment hubs.

Cash-strapped graduates will be able to apply for two nights of free accommodation in studio apartments, in a move that the bank hopes will relieve some of the financial pressure on students. A survey carried out by the lender showed graduates on average have to attend more than three interviews before receiving a firm job offer, with four in 10 turning down interviews because of the expense.

Many large professional and financial services companies, including Schroders, the UK’s largest listed asset manager, M&G, the investment arm of Prudential, Standard Life Aberdeen, EY, Deloitte, KPMG, Bain Capital, Barclays and Kames Capital cover travel and accommodation costs for interview candidates.

However, most smaller employers do not, creating challenges for job applicants who live outside the most attractive areas for graduate employment. According to Barclays, which polled 2,000 graduates about job prospects, students spend £507 on average getting their first job after university.

“It’s shocking to see the true cost of landing that first job out of university,” said Sue Hayes, managing director of personal banking at Barclays. “Graduates already face a challenging job market on top of record levels of student debt, so it’s disheartening to see how many of them are struggling to cover the costs of even attending an interview.”

Professional and financial service companies are among the biggest recruiters of graduates in the UK with the so-called “Big Four” accounting firms, PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG, receiving more than 80,000 graduate applications between them, according to data collected by the FT last year.

However, many employers have had cut back on travel budgets since the financial crisis, forcing candidates to finance their own trains, hotels and new clothes for interviews. The UK government has also closed its “travel to interview” scheme, which covered costs for unemployed people through jobcentres, and replaced it with a limited fund.

According to Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the careers website Graduate Fog, all large employers should cover the costs of interviews.

“Interview expenses and any cost associated with applying for graduate jobs are a big problem,” she said. “I don’t think you can be a big employer and say you care about diversity and not cover interview expenses.”

She added that many companies do not volunteer information about expenses, with many prospective candidates too embarrassed to ask for fear that it could disadvantage their applications.

Companies have also come under criticism for asking graduates to go through unpaid training without guaranteed jobs. The IT recruitment business of Capita, the outsourcer, and FDM, the London-listed contracting group, both offer graduates weeks of unpaid training.

M&G said it deliberately makes applicants aware of the group’s travel and accommodation budget as an “important part of ensuring our recruitment process is open to all”. EY said it tries to hold interviews near candidates, while other groups including Bain Capital offer alternatives such as Skype interviews. “We have a clear and unwavering commitment for all trainees and employees to be treated and compensated fairly and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,” FDM said.

Capita said: “The Novus programme is an industry specific, recognised, training model offered by our IT recruitment business to help graduates to gain comprehensive IT skills.”

Source: Financial Times

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