Resourcing Insight Blog

11 Oct RTT – Innovation in Graduate Recruitment

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the most recent Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Thursday 21st June 2012 hosted by Foxtons, titled ‘Future Innovation in Graduate Recruitment’. The following summary has been prepared to reflect the discussion held amongst senior HR and Resourcing professionals from leading UK and international businesses.

For more information on the group, or to discuss membership, please contact Jeremy on 0207 88 444 |Jeremy.thornton@oasishr.com 

Sourcing tomorrow’s talent is a challenge which always ranks highly on a business’s agendas; in particular ‘pipping’ competition to the post to snap up fresh graduate talent. At a recent RTT, we focused on the challenges of creating greater brand exposure in-line with graduate attraction strategies, innovation around new places to attract this talent and the heightened transparency of the market.

University Affiliation… 

There was certainly a mixed response from members with regard to the value of attending university job fairs, whilst on the one hand they were regarded as old fashioned and unattended by the top brands; members were in agreement that there was still a place for them when channelled effectively.

Deciding on the right universities to promote your brand is step one, followed by close monitoring – actually keep tabs on the best places to source your talent and focus budget and time in these areas. Moreover, when you attend fairs, recruit employee representatives who will be able to relate to the graduates, they will be best placed to sell the brand to your target audience – young talent is progressively less interested in speaking with senior staff and stakeholders.

Our experts’ views:

a) Elect your current graduate employees as ‘campus captains’. Individuals are always keen to return to their own universities – who better to attract new talent than your ‘walking case-studies’?

b) Visit target universities irrespective of prearranged fairs – promote your attendance with flyers and offer something of value to students, be it ‘CV Skills Sessions’ or even ‘Free Hot Chocolate on Campus!’

c) Offer students a paid role to become ‘campus ambassadors’ (managed by your existing graduate intake) to positively spread the word of your business.

Creating early engagement…

It was agreed unanimously that engaging with talent from a young age was crucial for securing future graduate intake. It was even proposed that leaving it until university level might often be too late! Nevertheless, our resourcing professionals suggest that attempting to forge relationships with university professors in a bid to place your brand on their curriculum can be very effective, albeit very challenging. Additionally, engaging with students through competitions and assigning ‘live briefs’ to exercise their studies is a good way to position your brand for mutual gain.

Managing application volume…

University graduates are in no short supply, so effectively managing the volume of applications is something which needs due consideration. Ultimately, a poor or slow response can damage the employer brand and result in applicants joining competitors. Our members reported different techniques to tighten up the process, from increasing minimum entry requirements or setting a series of pre-application killer questions, through to automating the whole process or introducing situational game screenings. Gaming in particular was noted as being particularly effective for streamlining the process; however questions were raised on the number of hires a company would have to make to generate a return on investment.

Our experts’ views:

a) Take advantage of technology – use tools such as Skype to interview candidates to provisionally assess individual’s personalities before face-to-face interviews

b) Create virtual office-tours using handheld cameras to create engagement and promote the internal working environment

c) Engage with large volumes of graduates during assessment days and task them with imaginative activities, such as creating and filming music videos.

Aligning the proposition with the challenge…

An emerging theme identified during the session was a distinct value shift from brand aspiration to an overriding thirst for challenge. Increasingly, it seems that individuals are becoming less concerned with joining a stereotypically ‘sexy brand’ and more interested in what the role can offer them in terms of training, progression, culture and ultimately, challenge. Moreover, individuals are holding out for roles that ‘have it all’, as graduates don’t seem to have the same fear of unemployment and desire (or feasibility) to jump on the property ladder. Concluding thoughts highlight that effectively communicating your brand personality and values through face-to-face engagement, consistent marketing and making employee expectations clear upfront will help position your brand as an attractive employer.

Sustaining intern engagement…

Securing graduate in-take through internships is a popular way of engaging with students during years 2 and 3 of university. However, the real challenge lies with sustaining their interest until the time comes to offer them their graduate opportunity. A major driving factor for this is believed to be the uncertainty graduates face when leaving university and in actual fact, most first jobs are simply a trial!

Our resourcing members suggested a number of ways to maintain engagement and create that all important psychological contract:

  • Increasing the length of the internship (longer than six weeks)
  • Increasing number of communication touch-points during term time
    • Sending them internal magazines
    • Organised networking events
    • Good luck cards for exams
    • Inviting them to company events / awards evenings
    • Over-hiring so drop-outs aren’t as critical
    • Developing a buddy programme between existing employees and interns
    • Refining the entry criteria to ensure that the career is truly appropriate and desirable to the candidate / increase value placed on motivation questions
    • Increase engagement with parents to gain buy-in by holding attraction days involving guardians.

The next steps…

The question of ‘what next?’ is also a pressing concern for resourcing professionals; as a positive candidate experience shouldn’t stop as soon as the contract is signed. Our members discussed a number of progressive techniques to sustain graduate engagement, including: exceptional promotion dependant on six-month performance, discretionary yearly bonuses, personal emails from the CEO and role rotation to allow graduates to explore other areas of the business.

Our experts’ views:

a) Controversially, make graduates reapply for their jobs following an initial two-year stint, to ensure that they are operating in the best business area and to demonstrate their continued commitment to the company

b) Introduce a graduate alumni scheme to create healthy competitive spirit amongst members, as typically individuals will strive to better themselves if they see peers moving at a faster pace than them.

Takeaways:

  • Maintain graduate engagement from application stage and create a cultural brand differentiation – Don’t simply push the brand… pull with culture
  • Introduce a more dynamic screening process to limit resource exhaustion and uncover high calibre candidates
  • Many organisations attend careers fairs and engage on campus – make sure your company has a differentiator and don’t fall into the trap of attending fairs for the sake of giving away free pens!
  • To reduce attrition, introduce job shadowing to allow graduates to explore their new career path before they have embarked on it
  • Don’t become complacent and lazy with your brand and presume talent will find you – go that extra mile to show why you are different and communicate the culture of the business.

To find out more about the Think Tank RTT – Innovation in Graduate Recruitment:

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