By Jane Clark
The traditional university milkround has come and gone for this graduate recruitment cycle. An intense period for graduate recruiters travelling up and down the country on delayed trains and planes, laden with cumbersome boxes, bags and penguin stands. For those recruiters hiring high volumes of graduates, the assessment centre schedule is starting to wind down and for some recruiters, the hiring target has been met and it is now time for that well-deserved holiday. But beware, in my experience, there is still a way to go. Here are three major themes at this time of year that need focus, planning and your time:
1) Hold on to those hires - deliver a robust ‘Keep Warm’ campaign
CEB research shows that nearly 45% of all graduates worldwide receive more than one job offer, and 1 in 4 graduates receive three or more job offers. In the latest ISE blog today, it reports that an average of 8% of graduate job offers are then reneged and 4% are being declined.
Graduates may sometimes find it difficult to find their way to the right employer and role, so apply and accept multiple roles to keep their options open. This leads to the psychological contract being different for every hire you make. For some, your job offer has made childhood dreams come true. For others, your job offer is their second or third choice, even though you won’t know that, so the candidate engagement activity is even more important to persuade the graduate that they have chosen the best offer. Try and have honest conversations early on and start to build that trust. That way, you will be able to tailor make the keep warm activities, so it feels more personal.
There are lots of different ways and activities to build a strong 'Keep Warm' campaign. Providing opportunities for the new graduates to engage with you and your organisation is key, and the more personal you can make it, the better. Here are some ‘keep warm’ ideas:
- Meeting and getting to know your new team, experiencing the work environment and where your desk is located and spending time with your new boss (if possible) all makes it much more difficult to turn an offer down at a later stage. By doing these things, graduates imagine themselves in that space and as part of that team. Letting real people down is much harder to do.
- Other small but personal ideas could be as simple as sending out newsletters, calls from their new line managers and emails from the graduate recruitment team. Other personal gifts such as good luck in your exams hand written cards, coffee for exam periods, congrats on your exam results – all these things make a massive difference.
- Dependent upon the graduate’s start date, mini training bootcamps can be a good introduction to your organisation in a more informal setting and sharing ideas with how to get prepared before the official start date.
- It’s also worth finding out what the graduate’s plans are before joining you as it may be that there is a window of opportunity for the graduate to be offered some paid work with your organisation before joining the official graduate programme. Another great way to engage early on.
- Using social media is another way to connect the graduate community such as setting up facebook or whatsapp groups or investing in a bespoke graduate joiner’s site.
- Buddying up your new graduate cohort with past graduates is another more informal way to engage your new recruits. It gives a perfect opportunity for them to ask those questions they may not have felt comfortable asking through the formal assessment process.
- Some onboarding platforms have great functionality to keep graduates engaged and learning before joining you and are worthwhile exploring.
Whatever you decide to do, have a reserve/on hold list of candidates you can revisit to plug any gaps and have a plan to combat that worst-case scenario, whatever that may be.
2) Tackle those pesky regions - one by one
For some national recruiters, there is a need to hire graduates for regional offices around the country. Usually the numbers are very small, but why is it that a disproportionate amount of time is taken hiring such small numbers, and why does this take so long? Firstly, graduates aren’t as mobile as you think, and as Charlie Ball in his latest blog highlights, most universities recruit their graduates locally, and most of their graduates work locally. In 2016, 58% of graduates went to work in the region they studied, and 69% went to work in the region where they grew up. This means that those employers with university target lists that may be predominantly chosen by their organisation’s senior stakeholders for a number of reasons (including the forever popular criteria of ‘my-school-it-is’), adding more regional universities to this list can be difficult. There are however, a number of things you can do:
- Firstly, tackle the regions one by one as each location will have its own nuances. If you are approaching new universities you haven’t targeted before, then read my colleague Eloise’s latest blog on how to make the university careers services your best friends. Be open-minded to new attraction ideas and suggestions that the university make, as they are the experts in how to engage their students and know their students much better than you do.
- Social media can be really helpful, especially Facebook and LinkedIn advertising where you can target opportunities by regional location.
- Once you have a pool of potential hires, it’s worth probing at the assessment centre stage why the candidate has chosen that region and their desires to work there. That way, you may be able to eliminate declines and reneges further on down the line.
3) Off-cycle graduate hiring – all is not lost!
So, you can now see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of your hiring activities and with your keep warm strategy now in place, you can relax a bit. Not quite, as you take a call from a ‘late to the party’ hiring manager who is new to your organisation and is wanting graduates for the next intake. As the words ‘You are JOKING!’ circle around your head on loop in silent mode, you hear yourself saying out aloud ‘Yes of course, leave it with me!’
All is not lost, and there will be still some top-quality graduates on campus looking for a job. A more targeted top up recruitment campaign will speed up the process of hiring these last few graduates, and will reduce the volume of applications, your own time and cost. Just in time job fairs are a great way to meet graduates off-cycle and in my experience, are always well attended. Exclusive shortlisting arrangements with universities can sometimes pull up some amazing candidates that you missed first time around. Talking with the hiring manager in terms of managing their expectations, and the options available will really help the process from beginning to end. Don’t forget, there are some great partners out there who will be able to support you too in finding great graduates off-cycle.
Hiring graduates can be complex, but don’t panic as all these activities this time of year are very normal and take it from those of us who have managed these programmes for years – it’s all doable! We can of course provide consultancy, expertise or just ‘boots on the ground’ with any of these ideas. So, if you need some extra resource, creative ideas or new ways of working, then please get in touch!