Why this CEO attends graduate recruitment days

Briefing: Mark Naysmith, UK CEO of WSP.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 05 Feb 2020

There’s a school of thought that says recruitment is the preserve of the HR team. But it would be foolhardy CEO who pays it no attention in the hope that it will sort itself out.

Like the company’s marketing or corporate finance, its ability to find the right people is absolutely critical to its success. Fortunately, recruitment is a matter that is not only of the utmost importance to the leader, but also one over which they can themselves exert enormous influence.

This can take many forms, as WSP's UK CEO Mark Naysmith reveals. He says that finding talent isn’t necessarily a problem - over 6,000 graduates with backgrounds in everything from town planning and ecology to economics applied for 200 graduate roles at the multinational engineering consultancy firm last year.

His problem, rather, is figuring out how to keep them, the solution to which, he says, begins before they’ve even applied.


“I personally attend graduate recruitment days. It’s important for me to get an appreciation of the aspirations that graduates might have because it’s something that CEOs, especially people in my age range (early 50s), can forget. By engaging with them personally I’ve been able to get a much better appreciation of what is actually important to them.

“Sometimes aspirations are the same as they always used to be, but not always. The most profound thing for me is how many people are now looking for international experience. When I joined WSP as a graduate 30 years ago, this was the last thing on my mind because people just didn’t travel as much. 

“If we want to continue attracting talent it’s my responsibility as CEO to ensure we provide those opportunities. So we've adapted how we approach secondments overseas. For example we work closely with our Nordics and Middle East businesses and have introduced graduate secondment schemes and swaps there.

“If we didn’t provide those opportunities within three or four years graduates would leave to find them elsewhere, because the easiest time to spend six months abroad is before you’ve settled down.”

Image courtesy of WSP

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