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Attracting and Keeping the Right Graduates

It's that time of year again ? recruiting and starting the graduates. This whole area is one which needs to be considered and reviewed as it is a major commitment for the organisation. Getting it right can help the future of the business ? the alternative is just an expensive waste. In this article I will cover some key points to help you increase your success rate in both getting and keeping the right graduates.

I will pose some questions for you to consider at the recruitment phase and ideas or reminders of things to do when they are working for you. The aim is to make the whole process worthwhile for you.I often wonder how many organisations, including professional practices, really do a full opportunity costing of this annual exercise and then evaluate the ROI? Many of you reading this invest a great deal of time and effort into the whole exercise, take on the quota of graduates you have set and starting them. How does your organisation monitor and measure their effectiveness and contribution? When do you expect to see a return? What about those who leave within 3 years? Have you costed that to the bottom line?.

A major challenge with a graduate recruitment process is the "market" variable of the law of supply and demand. We all know that the number of people emerging from "universities" with "degrees" is increasing for a variety of reasons. Without getting into any politically incorrect hot water, I would suggest that you know that not all 2.2 degrees are equal!! (or similar principles.) One thing I discovered many years ago when recruiting was that there were certain establishments which I preferred to get people from.

The more challenging variable for you is what is happening amongst the graduate recruiters. How many positions will be on offer? Remember, your competition for the quality graduates will come from a wide range of industries ? potentially from MI5 or The Treasury to the oil industry, household consumer goods to aerospace. If they want to work in finance, will it be in accounting, consultancy, banking or investments?.When looking to attract the right graduates, start by considering what type of person you want to bring in. Who will fit in with the overall culture? (Without creating a group of corporate clones!) A key question to then ask is, "Why should they choose you?" You are in a highly competitive marketplace, and have to make some choices in order to attract the type of applicants you want.Take yourself back and, or, think about youngsters you know, and put yourself in the shoes of today's graduates.

What do you think they would want from a potential employer? What do they expect (or hope for) in terms of:

  • the job
  • the package
  • the training
  • a career?
.There can be a tendency for these to be somewhat unrealistic. This is borne out of some or all of, naivety, careers guidance ? or lack of, peer group talk.Think about what you offer. How well does it match these expectations? How often do you benchmark yourselves against the "market"? Evaluate your overall package against this and consider whether you need to improve any aspects.

Aim to avoid getting caught in just paying premium salaries, they do not guarantee quality applicants. Be in the 60 ? 80 percentile and you have scope to move or incentivise.Before starting to send out the messages that you are recruiting, make sure that the other things are in place.

Some things to check: Applications

  • How do you want the applicants to apply?
  • Who will handle the applications and assess them against the criteria you have set?
  • How will you communicate back to the applicants?
  • What messages? (And please personalise them ? I know it takes more time, but remember that recruiting is part of your PR and marketing.
  • How quickly?
  • Who will be involved?
  • Are line managers, senior personnel or partners, trained to interview?
  • What style or process do you want to use?
  • What are your selection criteria?
  • If using psychometrics or assessment centres please ensure you are clear about what profiles you are looking for ? and why! Also, that you provide personal feedback!
  • What do you expect from the applicants at first interviews and beyond?
  • Have job descriptions for applicants to read ? plus any other supportive paperwork.
  • Interviewing is a 2-way process ? they are also assessing you!
.The job and start phase
  • Is there a clearly laid out induction programme? (This makes a significant impact on the likelihood of people staying and also for their performance.

    ) Ideally have a detailed plan for the first 6-8 weeks.

  • What work will you give which will encourage and involve them?
  • What is the on-going development plan and process?
  • What will be done for the professional training and guidance?
  • What will you do to provide personal and career mentoring and guidance?
  • What is the review process and frequency?
.Now you are ready to start to get the applications. Letting the graduates know you have vacancies involves making choices and decisions.

Traditional routes such as the "Milk Round" have their place ? but a bit late for this year! Graduate and Recruitment Fairs have plus points, but the London one was in June! Moving to the technology and think about the internet. Put "graduate recruitment" into Google and just search the UK ? there are over million results! Many are agencies and others offering positions for graduates. Others are company websites trying to attract the graduates.

How does your organisation use your website to attract the graduates you want? Do you explain the offer clearly? Does it transmit the organisational culture you have so that applicants know what to expect? How do you bring people to your site to see the offer? Why will they contact you to learn more? One suggestion is to contact specific universities directly to let them know you have vacancies and invite direct applications or lead them to your website.Whether advertising, using the internet, agencies or careers' services be sure to be specific about what it is you are looking for from applicants in terms of experience and attitude and use this to filter. Be open about the job and what it will involve ? including some of the downsides!.Just because the graduate recruitment activity takes place annually, does not mean that it should be taken for granted. Revisit how you do it, identify what works well and what does not ? and change it.

Benchmark yourselves against other organisations going for the same target group. Be clear about the type of person you want (and, do they have to be graduates??) and write the specification. Make sure you have been through the checklists to know that you are ready to bring them in and set them on the right path. Place emphasis on the induction and the personal development and mentoring ? it will pay dividends. Measure the effectiveness ? and monitor the graduate retention.


Graham Yemm is a director of Solutions 4 Training Ltd and has 20 years of experience working with organisations in the UK and internationally, helping them to develop their people. He can be contacted at or +44 1483 480656.

By: Graham Yemm

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