To UCAS or Not To UCAS – that is the question.

PwC announced recently that they are to ditch the use of A Level results and UCAS points as criteria in the recruitment of their graduate trainees – and I think that they should be applauded for it.

It’s a bold move, which will undoubtedly significantly affect their screening process, and will hopefully signal similar responses from other organizations – but I don’t think there will be a big rush to heed their call.

Why? I’d say that compared to other employers, it’s easier for PwC to make this step. They recruit thousands a year into their graduate programmes in UK and therefore can justify budgets to travel to a long list of universities/schools all over the country to seek out talent. In addition, they look for a wide range of degree disciplines for their entry level accountancy roles – all you need is good numeracy skills and willingness and adaptability to learn. It’s a numbers game, after all….they have many many roles to fill and social mobility jumps up in the priorities list as they look to find raw talent in hidden places.

I think that the challenge here is that not all organizations are able to do this. What if, like most graduate recruiters, you have a handful of roles, and are short on time and budget? In my experience companies in that situation look at their data on where previous hires came from and ask their alumni to go back to their alma maters to promote the vacancies. If they haven’t a long history of graduate recruitment then they tend to google the top ranking universities for their target disciplines, and draw up a schedule to visit them because even the most well known and loved brands lack the resources to travel to a wide range of schools. It’s expensive, not to mention, time consuming, for the recruiters and business volunteers who staff these events.

Also, big brands that need small numbers of graduates are often overwhelmed by a deluge of applications that need to be shortlisted somehow – and UCAS points is a cheap, simple and objective criteria to apply. Alternatives such as increased online psychometric and situational judgement tests are more costly and time consuming.

Even if it does become a trend, I think that a university’s reputation and prestige will continue to be an important factor for many employers, and if those universities’ admission criteria is based on strong A Levels/UCAS points, then what has been changed by this announcement?

Luisa @ Henley Careers