Graduate recruitment can be a successful strategy for any ambitious firm seeking a competitive advantage, but as purse strings tighten it can be among the first areas to come under scrutiny.

Here are seven pointers to help you build that all-important business case for continuing or increasing your graduate recruitment.

1) Affordable

Graduates naturally have lower salaries and are therefore more affordable for companies to hire. The median starting salary for graduates is £29,000 (ISE Inside student recruitment 2019). For a benchmark, search the current average graduate salary for your type of position.

This does not mean your investment ends with the annual salary or benefits. A prolonged investment in their support, training and development is needed to maximise ROI.

2) Proven ROI

Graduates’ ideas and skills can make a huge difference to your bottom line. According to ISE, graduates contribute approximately £1 billion of added value to the UK economy annually and the estimated cost to hire in 2019 was £4,739.

Many employers fear that once graduates are trained they leave, so deliver no return on your investment however the ISE survey shows that graduate retention is high. According to the ISE, graduate retention varies by sector, but on average an employer retains 57% of its intake after five years. The average length of stay in first job is just under 4.5 years.

The Puzzle of Graduate Wages (IFS) research also shows that as the number of graduates has grown over time, they have maintained their salary premium, which suggests that it is not just a signalling effect (paying people more just because they have got a degree) but is linked to the value that graduates bring.

3) Ready to mould

You have the opportunity to shape graduates into what you need, so they become embedded in your culture. Because they have little work experience, they don’t have to unlearn old ways or bad habits that experienced hires might carry with them.

Graduates will also have developed a habit for learning so will seek to continuously learn in the working environment. They are often perceived as a ‘blank canvas’, open to new ideas, ways of working and experiences. This may actually be the most important competency.

graduate getting ready for work

4) Solid business skills

Studying helps graduates develop core transferable skills such as written and oral communication, problem solving, teamwork, presentation, organisation and data analysis.

Technical graduates will also have up-to-date specialist or technical skills gained from studies and be very comfortable with technology. Many will have experience of applying academic knowledge through work placements, maybe whilst at a competitor firm.

ISE Student Development Survey 2020 tells us that employers typically rate graduates as having more skills than non-graduates particularly in areas like presentation, data analysis, IT, interpersonal skills, writing and problem-solving. They are more polished than non-graduates, ready to make a valuable contribution to your organisation.

5) New perspectives

Graduates can inject new ideas into your business and apply current thinking from academia.

They bring numerous new ideas acquired from leading-edge thinkers and professors that continually challenge them to think differently. Recruiting graduates can also increase diversity within the work team with access to a huge pool of talent from across the UK. There is a great deal of academic research indicating that many great innovators do their best and most ground-breaking work in their youth.

6) Productivity

To keep up in our fast-paced world, successful businesses need agile individuals who are not just capable of fast change – they relish it. Graduates are extremely agile and willing to accept change, they learn quickly and can provide more immediate financial returns, reaching the minimum required level of productivity faster than more experienced hires.

The government paper ‘The relationship between graduates and economic growth across countries’ examines the positive impact of graduates on productivity. Quantifying this can be difficult but at the national level there is evidence that more graduates will contribute to economic growth, as long as businesses can make good use of them and they are valued.

ISE Student Development Survey 2020 tells us that the average graduate employer increases the salary of their graduates by £11,000 in their first three years of employment, which suggests their considerable value.

7) Succession planning

Providing a career path for a graduate and enabling them to reach management level within your firm can solve succession planning concerns if there is an ageing demographic. You are in effect recruiting for potential and future-proofing your organisation. They have huge potential to lead your organisation in the future with proper support, training and career progression for up to 40 years. Remember, many CEOs started out as graduate trainees.