August is a potential blot on the summer calendar for school students and graduates. For school leavers, it means A Level results day and a confirmation or rejection from the universities they may have applied to. For graduates, it means throwing hats into the air before hauling thousands of pounds worth of debt along with them as they step onto the first rung of the career ladder.

There is a boxed-in way of thinking about grades. Many students only start thinking seriously about work experience after their first year at university (and that's for those who can afford potentially unpaid work). In comparison, there is still a great deal of pressure placed on grades.

Qualifications are generally seen as a universally comparable measurement across candidates, but they should be interpreted more relatively.

The issue with grades

Despite their lack of true substance, grades, or numbers on a piece of paper, heavily dictate the further education options and career paths of young people. Although many employers claim

to value work experience over grades, the majority of application processes specify that a candidate have at least a 2:1 degree to apply for a role. While this may make recruitment easier in terms of reducing applicant numbers, potentially suitable candidates are rejected before they have any real chance to prove their skills.

Millennials are often cast as an entitled, lazy demographic in today's media. The expectation that achieving good grades at school and/or university will lead to a well-paid, comfortable career in reward is sometimes seen as a sign of youth entitlement.

A contradiction exists in that young people are told from a very early age that grades are essential to future success. Impressive exam results are a tick box-like exercise to complete before even considering a successful career; yet young people are criticised for assuming that better grades equal better career opportunities. After following apparently fail-safe instructions that have dictated their school life, is it surprising that young people are left disheartened when they aren't welcomed wholeheartedly onto their chosen career path?

The solution

The assessment process within schools is generally still quite rigid and offers little context surrounding the final grade. As employers, it is essential to take ownership of this issue and consider grades in more flexible terms. Employers know that students don't come in a "one size fits all" mould for every company, and neither should their grades. There is a graded benchmark set for all candidates, but not all young people started from the same point. This is detrimental as potential talent is being rejected based on a number or letter at the first point of application, when really the candidate's company fit or personality should be taken into account as well.

To counteract this perception of grades, consider them as relative to multiple factors including upbringing, area, free school meal eligibility, an educational institution's average, or parents' professions. This is the best way to get a true "value" of a student's grades and ultimately more diverse and productive workforce. Only by incorporating this into the recruitment process can we prove to students that their results are not the be-all and end-all of future success.

In keeping with this, Milkround have recently created the A Level results day campaign Your results don't define you. However, the benefits of raising career confidence in our students will not be felt until employers begin to look at the specifics of a candidate and begin judging qualifications relative to their wider circumstances.

Continuing to invest in personality and psychometric tests, or asking for responses to hypothetical challenges is a useful way to flesh out a candidate beyond their school grades or university prestige. Teaching unquantifiable soft skills is also essential. Workshops and similar skills-based events are a great way for candidates to be part of an office environment, and understand that developing these skillsets is a continuous form of development, unlike the grades that only capture a small aspect of their talent.

Milkround is a school leaver and graduate job board - but we're much more than that. We're invested in inspiring young people to have the career confidence to shape their future. We empower, educate and encourage students to see their unique value. If you're interested in doing the same, through workshops or content-based projects, or want to know more about our research into the graduate market, contact

 For sales enquiries, contact 0333 0145 111.