A graduate recruitment campaign will attract degree-level qualified individuals into your organisation. Typically campaigns may run all year round, or they may run just once a year according to the academic year. It is normal for employers to receive and process applications from final year students prior to their graduation, and offer employment beginning once the student receives confirmation of their qualification.

Today's graduates offer key talents and skills that can make a serious difference to the future of your organisation. So what can they offer?

  • Proven intellectual ability and having spent many years in education
  • An eagerness to engage with the business world and a desire to prove they can add value to society.
  • Bring a new and refreshing outlook to your organisation.
  • The promise of effective leadership and the potential to become your senior managers of the future.

Developing a strategy

Getting your recruitment campaign is crucial because:

  • Organisations must recruit graduates who match their business needs and will contribute to the business at an early stage.
  • With the number of graduates entering the entry-level job market increasing each year, there is greater competition for high calibre individuals - in essence, a talent war.
  • With growing numbers of graduates from a broad range of disciplines going into more diverse careers paths, it can be easy to miss talented individuals by using outdated and inflexible recruitment methods.

You need to understand what your organisation can offer new graduate recruits and what you require from them. Right from an early stage it is important to establish whether the recruits are intended for future senior management roles, or to fulfill an immediate need with the possibility of moving to up the career ladder or to other parts of the organisation. Graduates value and respect a recruiter that is completely honest and transparent throughout the recruitment process. They want to know exactly what working for you will entail and what it will do to enhance their skill base. But how do you attract these individuals in the first place?

As any recruiter of graduates knows, this marketplace is a constantly moving target. Using the right medium, the right message, and at the right time has become a fine art.

The amount of time spent looking for work has unfortunately been squeezed out of many student and graduates' timetables, with many now choosing to defer the start of their career.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The added pressure of achieving a good grade to stand above the competition.
  • The financial burden now inherent in higher education.
  • An increase in students applying for further study and postgraduate courses.
  • A greater desire to take time off before starting work.

This means the pool of talent will include individuals who graduated a few years ago, as well as this year's current finalists. Therefore many organisations now look to recruit from a wider more diverse area.

Methods of communication

There are many options available - some are more effective than others.

  • Careers Fairs

Graduate careers fairs are held within some university campuses and give recruiters direct access to undergraduates and possibly some postgraduates. Larger recruitment fairs are held within major towns and cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. These attract graduates from the past few years along with this year's final year students.

If you decide to attend such an event, make sure you supply hand-outs and contact information to visitors on your stand. There must always be the opportunity for visitors to interact with members of staff or, if possible, a past graduate trainee to talk directly and honestly with potential applicants. This will give them a real impression of the culture and working environment in your organisation.

This method is probably more effective and valuable than presentations or a question and answer session with a representative from your human resources or recruitment team.

  • Recruitment agencies & job boards

Job boards are becoming increasingly popular for brands, and likewise, they have become an effective way for organisations to gain responses to their campaign. Online applications via job boards enables recruiters to access talented individuals who might be attending universities in Europe or further afield, or who may already be employed and are only able to search for jobs outside of normal working hours (i.e. in the evenings or at weekends).

  • Social media

Engaging with candidates on social media is a very popular trend amongst graduate recruiters. Many students and graduates will want a one-stop-shop for their jobs, so by following various companies that they admire, or jobs boards/agencies that work on graduate roles, their job search is made easier by compiling all these opportunities into one timeline. Also the use of hashtags on Twitter means users can search for tweet categories, such as #graduatejobs or specific keywords used in tweets, such as 'graduate marketing'.

  • Your website

Your own website will play an important and perhaps decisive role in the decision making process for applicants. It should provide up-to-date recruitment information for graduates. Many larger organisations now have their own dedicated website for graduate recruitment where applicants can complete online application forms, giving them the possibility to automatically screen candidates for the qualifications and skills required.

  • Recruitment Literature

The more information you can give to potential new trainees about the recruitment and selection process the better. If the information is presented in a clear, concise and consistent manner then graduates have a better opportunity to make an informed decision about their application. This method of self-selection is crucial as graduates will be judging the suitability of your organisation while you assess them.

  • Assessment Centres

Assessment centres are also extremely useful for determining the most suitable candidates from a group. While the initial application and face-to-face interview will give you an idea of each graduate, you will only see their true potential by setting them work-related challenges. Specially designed role plays, group and in-tray exercises, presentations and structured interviews will provide you with important information regarding each individual's range of skills and abilities.

Key recommendations

  • Plan a recruitment timetable and list your key objectives.
  • Allow applicants to contact your organisation using a variety of communication channels and provide assistance for those who have difficulty in doing this.
  • Make sure you interact with candidates and keep them informed about the progress of their application. Be honest and transparent.
  • If you have deadlines for application and dates/times scheduled for interviews, make sure these are clearly notified to candidates well in advance.
  • Make sure that all selection and screening process are fair and relevant to the position you are recruiting for.
  • Tell each applicant when they will hear from you and stick to that time-frame. If the date or time changes let them know as soon possible.
  • Give applicants the opportunity to show you their best qualities and range of skills.
  • Make decisions on offers as soon as possible and reduce your time to hire.
  • Where possible, attempt to obtain feedback on your recruitment process from applicants - this will give you valuable information to use for the next time you hire.