Adapting to change is way to net top talent

It’s easy to be complacent about graduates. If your HR department is
regularly swamped by job hungry youngsters chasing a paucity of vacancies, then
it’s inevitable you may not be troubled by the changes looming in the graduate

But Alison Hodgson’s warnings that organisations ought to be working harder
to target a diverse group of graduates, and help them prepare for a positive
start to working life, make good sense.

As the new chair of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Hodgson
reminds us that employers are still struggling to recruit the right kind of
graduates, despite the fact that there are now 42 applications per graduate
job. Clearly, they need more guidance while still in the education system, and
a generous approach to work placements would go a long way to providing the
experience and insights that many employers insist are missing.

Intelligent HR teams adopt a highly selective approach to graduate
recruitment and see it as an essential tool to inject new blood and fresh ideas
into their organisations. But how do you identify and attract this kind of
enthusiastic, talented newcomer if you are not in the blue-chip league with the
profile of the BBC or British Airways?

Sadly, too many employers are still using the same tired processes,
targeting the same institutions with the same methods they have used for years.
But to attract the top talent, firms ought to be targeting and nurturing
potential applicants earlier and winning over their hearts and minds by
marketing a clear message with a strong employer brand. Exploiting the new
universities with more diverse student populations and programmes relevant to
your sector would be a good starting point.

Waking up to their changing demands will also be essential. Job satisfaction
has been cited as more important than money to those seeking their first job.
But it remains to be seen whether this is still the case once top up fees start
to bite.

The private sector does not seem to turn on all graduates, with the majority
preferring to start working life in the public sector. Research shows that they
want to feel they are doing something of value for society and they view the
public sector as offering superior flexibility and work-life balance.

All these factors bear heavily on the quality of your people policies and
rely on the effectiveness of line managers. Graduates provide great value and
are a versatile resource, but only when employers take them seriously enough.

By Jane King, editor

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