Graduate Prospects Award for Excellence in Graduate Recruitment

Category judge: Carl Gilleard, chief executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) Before being appointed as AGR CEO in 1998, Gilleard spent nine years as the executive director for Metra Services, a national recruitment consultancy specialising in local government

The Cabinet Office

The team: Fast Stream European Recruitment Division and Civil Service Selection Board

No. in team: 32 No. in HR function: N/A No. of employees HR is responsible for: N/A

About the organisation
The Cabinet Office is the UK central government department that aims to make the functioning of government more effective. As well as supporting the prime minister in leading government and co-ordinating policy operations across departments, it is responsible for promoting standards of best practice in government and improving service delivery.

The challenge
The Cabinet Office wanted to refresh the government’s approach to graduate recruitment by:

  • making job offers to the best candidates in the shortest possible time
  • improving the employer brand and the candidate experience
  • making assessment tools fair and conveying an impression of fairness
  • targeting under-represented groups
  • aligning processes with the e-government agenda, to put the recruitment process at the leading edge of service delivery.

What the organisation did

Worked with IT companies Parity and Cubiks to develop a three-stage online assessment:

  • self-assessment, including practical tests for numerical and verbal reasoning
  • Sifting via cognitive tests and a competency questionnaire
  • Online work sample assessment exercise to identify the most suitable candidates.

Benefits and achievements

  • Met all project deadlines and budget
  • Reduced recruitment cycle by four months
  • Candidate experience enhanced
  • Greater representation of minority groups, with more candidates reaching the later stages of assessment.

Category judge Carl Gilleard says:  “The popularity of Civil Service Fast Stream brings its own problems. The Cabinet Office addressed these head-on by creating a user-friendly online graduate recruitment process. The result? A sustainable state-of-the-art graduate selection system.”


The team: Graduate Team

No. in team: 2 No. in HR function: 350 No. of employees HR is responsible for: 35,000

About the organisation

Centrica provides energy and energy-related home and business services. Its consumer brands in the UK include British Gas, Dyno and Ontel. It also has businesses in North America, Canada and Europe.

The challenge

Working with a limited budget, the team wanted to establish graduate recruitment opportunities in the UK, India, North America, Europe and South Africa, against a backdrop of considerable change in the company with the disposals of the AA motoring organisation and the Goldfish credit card. It was also hindered by a lack of recognised employer brand.

What the organisation did

  • Set up a cross-brand functional network to support delivery, training and support for line managers and graduate champions in each business
  • Introduced interactive online careers quiz enabling candidates to self-screen. Candidates apply, book themselves into assessment centres and receive confirmation of their application online
  • Forty-five directors personally held briefings for the graduate population and projects were launched, such as on-campus promotion, newsletters and an intranet site.

Benefits and achievements

  • Cost per hire has delivered good return on investment. The investment in the programme is currently recouped within nine months of graduates joining
  • Retention is high – just three out of 58 graduates recruited in 2003 have left
  • Extensive press coverage has enhanced the Centrica employer brand.

Category judge Carl Gilleard says:   “A lack of recognised employer brand and a limited budget did not deter the small, but energised, graduate team from delivering new graduate programmes across eight changing brands. The recruitment campaign was marked by innovation, customer focus and fun. Central to its success was the 18-month investment in gaining buy-in from the businesses.”


The team: Training and Development

No. in team: 6 No. in HR function: 43 No. of employees HR is responsible for: 7,000

About the organisation

Arup is a firm of professional consultants in engineering, design and planning. It currently operates out of 73 offices in 32 countries, with 7,000 members of staff.

The challenge

Graduates have been attracted to the organisation because of its high-profile projects. However, five years ago Arup recognised a need for change. Traditionally, graduates were recruited to work in civil or structural engineering, but Arup’s business was evolving into new engineering, design and planning disciplines, and the number of students taking engineering degrees has declined significantly in the past five years.

What the organisation did

Arup initiated a change in strategy, centralising the recruitment process, streamlining systems and bringing everything under the leadership of a dedicated graduate recruitment team. Initiatives included:

  • using talks and sponsorship to promote engineering in schools and universities
  • introducing structured work experience weeks for 15- and 16-year-olds
  • a ‘landmark run’ where potential applicants visit Arup projects in London
  • information days at Arup HQ for university careers advisers
  • graduate assessment days to showcase working environments and project types
  • online graduate recruitment.

Benefits and achievements

  • Improved diversity and equality – 25% of its UK intake is female, compared with 14% for engineering graduates
  • Cut recruitment costs and time to employ
  • Improved employer brand.

Category judge Carl Gilleard says: “It’s tough recruiting graduate engineers. Arup changed its strategy, centralising and streamlining processes through a dedicated recruitment team. It has built an impressive talent pipeline and changes to selection procedures, strong leadership and ongoing evaluation have all contributed to enhancing the employer brand and helping graduate talent to reach the top.”


The team: Graduate Recruitment

No. in team: 25 No. in HR function: 181 No. of employees HR is responsible for: 10,000+

About the organisation

Deloitte is one of the fastest growing business advice firms in the UK, with more than 10,000 employees in 21 locations. It is part of the global Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu network that operates in 150 countries. This year it is recruiting at least 1,200 graduates, making it the largest graduate recruiter in the country.

The challenge

To strengthen its recruitment programme to meet the growing demand for graduates.

What the organisation did

A number of high-profile initiatives were introduced, including:

  • a ‘Feed Your Mind’ campaign – smoothies were given to graduates on campus along with information on job opportunities at Deloitte, and ‘brain teaser coasters’ were distributed in student union bars
  • a diversity programme – Deloitte supported an event encouraging women and ethnic minorities to consider a career in business. It also sponsored a film festival to widen its pool of recruits beyond business students
  • a scholars scheme – gap-year programme for school leavers to work at Deloitte
  • a vacation scheme – summer work experience programme for students.

Benefits and achievements

  • Application numbers up 33% for the year
  • Scholar places increased from 26 to 45
  • 100% of 2005 employment offers have been accepted
  • 90% of 2004 vacation scheme participants have accepted a graduate position
  • Applications are currently at a ratio of 20:1 for every position.

Category judge Carl Gilleard says: “New initiatives were introduced by the firm to meet growing demand for graduates. The strong central theme (‘Feed Your Mind’) and a broad range of activities – its diversity and gap-year programmes, vacation scheme, skills sessions and graduate sponsorship – all contributed to boosting the number and quality of applications. Yet marketing spend was below average. Other noteworthy features included the online recruitment system and support for new recruits.”

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