How To Position Yourself As An Employer Of Choice For Graduates

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April 14, 2022

Graduate recruiters! Follow these four steps to make yourself more attractive to today’s top graduates.

Talent is the lifeblood of every business – and graduates are fresh meat. There’s huge pressure for graduate recruiters to bring the year’s best new graduates into the business before competitors do.

The problem is, graduate recruitment is the most competitive type of hiring.

Even in a candidate-driven, talent-short market, there’s no other situation where you’re so explicitly stacked right next to your competitors for comparison. Literally side-by-side, lining careers fair after careers fair.

Here are four ways you can stand out, to recruit the best graduates this year.

Start early – earlier than you think

The early bird catches the worm.

That is, the best graduates go off the market fast – snapped up by proactive graduate recruiters. If you’re not starting graduate recruitment early enough, you won’t have access to the same calibre or quantity of graduate recruits.

Early means now. Graduate recruitment typically runs on a year’s lead time, at least. For summer placements, workshop schemes and internships as well as traditional graduate jobs.

Most graduate recruiters will have been attending careers fairs all September, and for the next few months. As soon as universities start holding careers fairs – September, often even late August – you need to be there.

If you don’t start recruiting early enough, you take yourself off the talent battleground before the action starts.

In terms of timeline, many graduate employers are running first-round interviews and screening now. Then many are starting video interviewing over the next few weeks. Assessment centres or assessment days will run before Christmas into the New Year.

Most graduate recruitment teams will completely box-off recruitment by March, with start-dates from September 2020. Or even September 2021, for deferred places.

Your own recruitment timeline needs to match that. You can’t afford to be too out-of-sync with other graduate employers, or you risk graduates taking another role before you get to them.

Graduates – who’re often hugely stressed about the whole thing – won’t wait for you to get your act together. They want the security of a job offer so they can refocus on their life, workload and exams.

Work harder to stand out at careers fairs

Put yourself in students’ shoes.

This whole graduate recruitment thing is desperately confusing – and for most, pretty boring. The professional working world is worlds apart from uni life.

Many students attend the fair because they’re meant to. They vaguely remember a poster or email. They’re not desperate to meet you, and they mightn’t be looking for anything in particular.

Then imagine you walk into a room and it’s filled with identical stands staffed by identical teams saying identical things and offering identical gifts.

In that environment, the first stand that stands out wins their attention. And attention might be all it takes to earn applications – especially when many students don’t have a fixed idea what career they want.

42% of undergraduates aren’t even sure they’ll start a graduate job after university. That uncertainty is good for you – it means you have the chance to make yourself a viable option.

Gifts and freebies can be a fantastic way to increase on-the-day engagement, boost visitors to your stand and, most important, stay front-of-mind after the fair.

The problem is though, everyone gives gifts. Think about what you can offer that’s unique, useful and linked to your brand. Pens, notebooks and headphones are a cop-out because they’re everywhere.

For example, if you’re a travel brand you could give away small travel packs like you’d get on planes. Or pre-stamped postcards to common destinations, for example.

It’s also crucial to make sure you bring the right people. And enough people, so nobody’s kept waiting.

Some 25% of students admit a poor or unimpressive experience when meeting representatives from a company is the biggest factor that puts them off applying to a graduate employer.
(Bright Network 2018)

Everyone who attends a careers fair represents your business. Students are assessing, even unconsciously, whether you’re their ‘type of people’. Whether they’d fit in. Whether they’d enjoy working with you.

So think carefully about who you bring along.

Take an ‘always on’ approach

Graduate fairs might only happen at certain times of year, but graduate recruitment is ongoing.

Some 84% of jobseekers say the reputation of a company as an employer matters when making decisions, for example. That’s about long-term employer brand.

Graduates are looking to build a holistic picture of your business. That means they’re probably looking at your social media, your website, your LinkedIn, your company reviews. They’re also talking to other students about you – and possibly other graduates who’ve started a role with you.

In fact, people and culture is the biggest factor for students choosing a graduate job – for 39% of respondents to Bright Network’s survey. That’s compared to only 20% who said remuneration.

To be a more attractive graduate employer, those different mediums should give a consistent, compelling impression of your culture and team. The most attractive graduate employers put considerable work into their employer branding and graduate recruitment marketing.

Some incisive out-of-home advertising around student stomping grounds and hotspots, for example, can help get your business on students’ radars. The more memorable the better.

Like, say you’re looking for problem-solving science or maths students to become trainee developers. How about branded beer mats with quizzes on the back?

The point is, becoming a graduate employer of choice is a long-term strategy. Sustained effort and investment will snowball, with more impressive gains possible if you think outside the box.

Understand grads’ unique needs

To consistently attract the best graduates, you need to recognize graduates’ unique needs. You don’t have to buy into the ‘millennial this, millennial that’ rhetoric to understand graduates have a different set of priorities and pressures than other people you bring into your business.


1. They’re a bundle of nerves

Even the most confident graduate is likely pretty terrified to enter the professional workforce for the first time. Nearly half of respondents to Bright Network’s survey admitted they’re unsure university is equipping them for the world of work, for instance.

Show you’re well-equipped to help them navigate this new world. To earn graduates’ trust, overcome their fears and encourage them to put their future in your hands.

2. They’re excited by innovation and growth

Bright Network’s survey found graduates today look for companies that are “fast-growing and innovative”.

Don’t rule yourself out because you’re not a tech start-up – almost every business is, in some ways, innovative. Draw out those aspects of your culture and you’ll find you resonate more with graduates.

3. They want to know you’ll help them grow

Graduates seek roles that offer professional training and development, Bright Network’s 2018 research shows. At this early stage in their career, they want to know you’re invested in helping them grow their skills.

To attract more graduate talent, this is an area you should definitely be investing in – then talking about. You’ll really struggle to hire the best graduates without clear commitment to their growth.

Improve your application experience

Bright Network’s 2018 survey found that 48% of students submit two to six applications for insight days, internships or graduate programmes. 28% submit seven to fifteen applications, and 15% submit over sixteen applications. Only 6% submit only one application.

That’s a lot of submissions.

Then consider that 25% will spend over four hours on each application. That means some students are potentially spending 64 hours and up on graduate job applications.

That’s a huge time investment, often while students are juggling exams and final deadlines. You must respect candidates’ time, or risk applications being abandoned.

A quarter of students admit they abandon a quarter of graduate job applications, for example. Another 10% admit abandoning half of applications. And the biggest reason – for 45% of applicants – is an unclear, too-long, arduous process.

Make yourself more attractive to graduates by streamlining your application experience. Like:

  • Make sure your application process is mobile responsive
  • Limit how many steps the application involves
  • Allow candidates to use LinkedIn Easy Apply
  • Allow candidates to upload their CV in one-click from Dropbox
  • Communicate clearly throughout – give a timeline (and stick to it)

The fact is, if your application process is too convoluted or takes too long, you risk graduates dropping out before you ever see them. Or finishing applying but being so frustrated that you struggle to turn that negative first impression around.

Graduate recruitment season is in full swing – or at least, it should be, if you care about getting the best graduates on board. Follow these four tips to help your business stand out from the crowd, to compete for today’s top graduate talent.

Tazio is an intelligent recruitment platform that makes bringing the best people into your business – then keeping them there – easier.

Customers like Barratt Developments and The Bank of England use Tazio to support the full graduate recruitment spectrum, from video interviewing to assessment days to onboarding.


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