Npower joins PwC in seeking new ways to assess graduates

Graduate employers are ditching their reliance on academic qualifications to separate good candidates from the weaker ones.

Energy giant Npower is the latest graduate recruiter to admit it is looking to filter candidates based on broader measures in response to the jobseeker market becoming saturated with people carrying a 2:1 degree.

The news follows top graduate employer PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) decision last week to launch a new assessment method for candidates looking to enter its graduate scheme this year.

Bob Athwal, head of graduate recruitment at Npower, told Personnel Today he was looking to change the company’s filter used to select candidates for interview from degree achievements to assessing IQ and emotional intelligence in time for the 2010-11 intake, and “applauded” PwC’s decisive action.

He said: “Something around IQ and emotional intelligence will give us a better picture of a candidate than just an academic 2:1 degree.

“I don’t want to discriminate against those out there that have the brains but for whatever reasons it hasn’t worked out.”

Athwal, who will recruit 34 graduates this year, said once one large employer started to use different assessment methods, others would follow.

“It’s got to be an aspiration to remove the 2:1 and 2:2 filter,” he said. “We need some mavericks, and PwC is certainly a maverick. In the next 10 years hopefully there will be a lot of employers that will take their own spin on this. It will just take one of the big four to change it and you watch everyone else go for it.”

Last week, PwC said its new criteria, which will enable candidates with poor academic records to take part, will assess numeracy, judgement skills and ‘intellectual capability’ online. If successful, those who take part will enter the normal recruitment phases at the professional services firm.

Stephen Overell, an associate director at think-tank The Work Foundation, said: “[The PwC scheme] is an extension of quite a long-standing move by employers to recruit on a basis other than academic qualifications.

“Employers have had a long-standing complaint about what academic skills actually measure. There are big questions about what’s being measured and how useful they are for the employment setting.”

Tom Richmond, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, added it could be “very sensible” for employers to consider broadening their assessment criteria if applicants without the required qualifications could still suit the workplace in question.

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