Graduate recruiters urged to look beyond academic qualifications

Graduate recruiters have been urged to stop focusing on “arbitrary” academic qualifications in order to improve retention and diversity and source more suitable candidates.

The call follows an announcement by PricewaterhouseCoopers that it has opened a new access route into its graduate scheme for those who just missed out on the required 2:1 degree qualification.

Personnel Today also revealed last month that energy giant Npower was now considering ditching degrees and switching to the use of IQ and emotional intelligence tests to assess candidates.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, described 2:1 degree classifications as a “very crude tool” for assessing candidates, and urged employers to consider opening up their screening processes.

“The difficulty is that particular criteria is flawed and you will be missing out on some very good talent by using an arbitrary degree classification cut-off point,” he told Personnel Today.

He added that, with graduate recruitment expected to increase again in 2011, now could be a good time for employers to review their assessment criteria.

“I would call on employers to start looking at this now,” he said. “For employers it’s important that when you are going to invest many thousands of pounds in graduates that you recruit the ones that have the potential to develop as you want them to and are likely to stay the course.

“So from the business perspective, it’s helping to improve return on investment. Good retention depends on good selection.”

Donna Miller, European HR director of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which annually recruits 750 graduates in the UK, has already moved away from assessing candidates based on academic qualifications and called on other employers to follow suit.

The rental firm has no filter for its graduate scheme, so students with any degree qualification can apply. Those without a degree can also apply if they can prove they have management, sales or customer service experience.

Miller said: “It’s just a more equitable way of doing things and it gives everyone an equal playing field. I think that we get a better candidate more suited to our company.”

The openness of the scheme had improved diversity, with up to 32% of the workforce now from black or ethnic minority backgrounds, Miller added. “We can recruit a really high percentage of very diverse candidates, and that’s because we are not bothered by the degree qualification and we recruit from any university,” she said.

Bob Athwal, head of graduate recruitment at Npower, said the changes to his graduate assessment would “make our business more sustainable as people will be better suited to our business”.

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