Employers and graduates: the mediating role of signals and capitals

Michael Tomlinson, Valerie Anderson

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    This article provides evidence and insight on the demand-side of graduate employment and selection through an investigation of employers’ conceptions of what constitutes hireable and employable graduates. Drawing on evidence from a qualitative study with a diverse range of employers in the UK, the article shows that employers understand graduates’ employability to encompass a complex mix of key resources, understood here as capitals, that enable graduates to present a compelling narrative of employability. Departing from conventional graduate skills approaches, the article integrates signaling and socio-cultural approaches for examining the ways in which capitals operate as signals that inform employer conceptions of which graduates are perceived to be most hireable and ultimately employable. A range of human, organisational-cultural and identity capitals enhance the value of graduates’ profiles and provide signaling information that enables employers to screen graduate potential in competitive and crowded labour markets.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Higher Education Policy and Management
    Early online date15 Oct 2020
    Publication statusEarly online - 15 Oct 2020


    • Employers
    • graduates
    • employability
    • signaling
    • capitals


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