Crash course in: Recruiting the best graduates

It's time to think about how you're going to recruit next June's graduates. For most of them, the climate is tougher than ever, but so is the competition for the best of the bunch. The war for talent starts here.

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Know what you want. Start with a firm idea of what you're looking for that goes beyond a competency framework. 'We have moved to a strengths-based process,' says Stephen Isherwood, head of graduate recruitment at Ernst & Young. 'With most students, all you've got is their academic side, but that doesn't tell you if they could do the job.' Talk to your own leaders or bring in psychologists to identify the qualities the organisation really needs.

Take aim. 'On-campus presence is important but it needs to be targeted and strategic,' says Soraya Pugh, head of graduate at FreshMinds Talent. 'Many firms employ a scattergun approach which results in irrelevant applications to their graduate programmes.' Target universities which produce graduates of the right calibre and academic background for your main effort.

Get boots on the ground. Many large graduate employers now recruit 'ambassadors' among the undergraduate population, says James Uffindell, CEO of graduate careers network Bright.

'The ambassadors will tell students about events, alert them to deadlines, and help with the campaign on campus.' Some employers use their own recent alumni from each university to orchestrate activities.

Get in early. If you wait until students' second year to talk to them, it may be too late. 'Early engagement is vital,' says Uffindell. Investment banks are now talking to students before they arrive at university, offering internships during their first year.

Give something tangible. The days of broadcast marketing and handing out fliers are gone; students are too savvy. 'Students like events where they can learn skills, rather than just a dog and pony show,' says Jonathan Black, director of Oxford University's careers service. 'You can also work with student societies, give them funding or run an event for them.'

Start a conversation. 'Accenture runs a fantastic boot camp where candidates meet consultants but also come away learning about what's involved in a career in consultancy,' says Pugh.

Offer experience - preferably paid. A Graduate Market report by High Fliers Research says a third of entry-level jobs with leading employers are filled by graduates who have done an internship or placement with the employer. 'It's a chance for both parties to find out if they're suited to each other,' says Isherwood.

Do say: 'Our 10-most-influentials are hosting a workshop on enterprise 3.0 in the campus bistro at seven tonight. Drinks and chat after.'

Don't say: 'Nigel Bland, director of graduate recruitment, will give a two-hour talk on career choices within our company in lecture theatre 3.'

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