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Employability is in the eye of the beholder Employer decision-making in the recruitment of work placement students

Wilton, Nick


Nicholas Wilton
Faculty Academic Director - Strategic Partnerships


© Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to outline the findings from an exploratory research project investigating perspectives on the recruitment of work placement students among a diverse sample of employers in order to disentangle what constitutes student "employability" in the eyes of these employers.Design/methodology/approach - The paper draws on data collected in 30 detailed qualitative interviews with managers responsible for the recruitment and selection of work placement students in a wide range of organisational settings.Findings - The paper identifies multiple facets of employability that are the explicit or implicit focus of student recruitment and highlights the often subjective, unknowable and shifting criteria used to select among similar candidates for employment.Research limitations/implications - Despite the richness of the data, the restricted sample of managers interviewed limits the degree to which the findings can be generalised. It provides, however, a strong rationale for a greater focus in research and practice on the demand-side of the employability equation. Practical implications - This paper presents a strong argument for a more nuanced understanding of how employers select among applicants to enable more effective student preparation for the labour market.Originality/value - This paper contributes to the literature seeking to elucidate the range of factors that shape employment outcomes and, in doing so, adds to the political and academic discourse on employability, skills and the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in preparing students and graduates for the labour market.


Wilton, N. (2014). Employability is in the eye of the beholder Employer decision-making in the recruitment of work placement students. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, 4(3), 242-255.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Journal Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Print ISSN 2042-3896
Electronic ISSN 2042-390X
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 3
Pages 242-255
Keywords Higher education, labour market, work placements, internships, employability, recruitment
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


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