Best practice graduate recruitment programme blueprint

Graduate recruitment
Tom Stroud
Reading time:
5 mins
March 16, 2022

7-Step blueprint for a best-practice graduate recruitment programme

You don’t have to be Deloitte or PricewaterhouseCoopers to build a successful graduate recruitment programme.

Graduates bring fresh ideas, fresh energy and fresh talent into the workplace, to help the business succeed for years to come.

And whether you’re hiring twenty or two hundred grads, a structured graduate recruitment programme is how you attract better graduates into your business, empower them to add more value and retain them longer-term.

Here’s a blueprint for building your own graduate recruitment programme.

1 - Start with business strategy

Don’t skip this stage: it’s crucial. Your graduate recruitment programme must be tethered by long-term thinking. That is, don’t hire graduates just because your competitors are.

The graduates you hire should be aligned with your vision, values and long-term strategy. Work backwards from the business goals to determine which skills and qualities you need.

That’ll help you build an ideal candidate profile. Then design your graduate recruitment programme to hire people who (at least loosely) fit the profile – and to nurture those qualities over the long-term too.

You’re preparing now for the workplace you want in three, five, or even ten, years.

2 – Define your offering

The inescapable fact is, that graduate recruitment is typically very competitive. Graduates often have multiple graduate employers vying for their attention.

To stand out, you need to create a package that maps to graduates’ unique needs. Graduates are a different kettle of fish to second, third, and fourth jobbers and beyond. Grads bring different things to your workforce – and have different needs and priorities,

Read more: Four Steps to stand out as a graduate employer

Potential for career progression is always a biggie.

For example, Bright Network’s 2018 What Do Graduates Want? Report finds remuneration and advancement is the most crucial factor influencing job choice for 20% of grads. Within that, respondents ranked ‘a clear path for advancement as most important, followed by ‘competitive base salary’ and ‘high future earnings’.

Most graduates will expect a formal, considered training plan and want to know your projected promotion trajectory and earnings.

(Make a note of any improvement areas as you go. Like, perhaps your training programme needs fleshing out better, or you’d like the business to reconsider your benefits offering.)

Before you begin active recruitment, collate every piece of information you can about your unique offering. So you can sell your package effectively.

3 – Prepare your marketing collateral

Now you’ve defined your offering; you need to translate that across different marketing collateral.

As a bare minimum, you need a dedicated careers site (or page, if we’re talking barest-of-bare minimum), a social media presence and a presence on common graduate job boards. You’ll almost certainly want to attend university fairs, too, so think about the content you’ll need for that, like a cool brochure.

The most significant gains come when you get beyond the bare minimum though. They come when you find imaginative, outside-the-box ways to tell your story, raise your profile and connect with graduates.

Throw ideas around – don’t be afraid to be playful. Graduate recruitment is crying out for some levity. Here are some ideas and inspiration:

4 – Streamline your recruitment process

Get steps one to three right, and plenty of graduates should start applying. Make sure they don’t stop prematurely by keeping your recruitment process short, sweet and hassle-free.

That’s things like…

  • Streamlining your application process (a quarter of students admit they abandon a quarter of graduate job applications, Bright Network say)
  • Allowing graduates to easily add, upload and amend details and documents during application.
  • Having plenty of support information available throughout the application process – maybe even a chatbot.
  • Offering video interviewing instead of telephone interviewing, to allow graduates to interview whenever and wherever is convenient.
  • Condensing multiple interviews into one day wherever possible. (Read more: How to run a graduate assessment day)
  • Outline a transparent process so graduates can track their progress through your recruitment ‘machine’. Give fast feedback.

5 – Make an offer the right way

When you’ve finally found a graduate you love, there’s a tendency to make an offer and then step back. Either to refocus on the rest of your headcount quota or out of sheer relief.

The problem is, you’ve made your mind up. But graduates often haven’t. They might’ve been waiting to see if you made an offer before thinking about it. They might have multiple offers on the table. And they might be pretty unscrupulous about accepting your offer and then dropping out when they get a better offer.

Don’t simply ‘make an offer’. Roll out the red carpet. A personal call from someone senior, maybe. A face-to-face meeting. And whatever you do, resell the benefits of your opportunity.

And then, if they accept, do not go quiet on them, even if it’s many months until they’re due to start. Even if they’re taking a year off. Onboarding starts now – or you risk dropouts later.

Think about things like…

  • Introducing them to the team
  • Sending a welcome email
  • Staying in touch regularly
  • Sending supporting info about the company
  • Inviting them to team/company drinks
  • Giving them a casual project or preparation

6 – Embed in-depth evaluation and support

Your new graduates have started – finally! But your graduate recruitment programme doesn’t end there. Graduate recruitment isn’t just about finding the best grads. It’s also about empowering them to give you their best – and keeping them onboard.

That’s where your training programme comes in. Most graduates will need some handholding to start with – but equally, they’ll want scope to show their worth and progress quickly. Introduce clear project goals and milestones for their first three months, with transparent fact-based feedback to help them grow.

It’s crucial to check in with new graduates often, to see where their heads are at and resolve any potential issues before they escalate.

7 – Create a feedback loop

There’ll come a time when your new grads aren’t your new grads anymore. But they have a unique perspective and experience you can harness for your latest intake.

For instance, last year’s graduates can tell you better than anyone what they wish they’d known before starting. They can tell you what you did well and point out any blind spots so that you can improve year-on-year.

Plus, last year’s graduates are close enough in age and experience to bond quickly with new graduates – making them ideal mentors or careers fair special guests.

Follow this seven-step blueprint to build a graduate recruitment programme that’ll attract, hire, empower and retain this year’s best and brightest. Onwards!

Tom Stroud

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