What makes a graduate employer of the year?

What makes a graduate employer of the year?


Each year Hodes, which has sponsored the overall winner category at the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards ever since their inception, publishes its research into what makes an outstanding graduate employer.  The headline findings for the 2014 benchmarking report were presented at Hodes’ London headquarters on Thursday 3rd April.

Researcher Amar Basra explained that there were twenty-seven qualifying employer entries (i.e. all the category winners) for the title of graduate recruiter of the year.  Of these, six had been shortlisted for the title – Barclays, BP, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, IBM, Microsoft and the eventual winner, Clifford Chance.  The related research looked at five specific topics – namely attraction, the recruitment process, onboarding & induction, training & development, and retention & expectations – using data based on the inputs of 572 graduates.

On the attraction front, only half of graduates could remember whether their employer had promoted a specific employment proposition.  (Credit to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, then – the only employer all of whose graduates said they were aware of its employment proposition, and could recall it accurately.)  Most employers used a broad range of attraction strategies and activities, with a number increasing their focus on early-year activities.

83% of graduates regarded their employers’ marketing activities as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.  Among the things they found most valuable were meetings with current graduates, employer visibility on campus, events (such as skills sessions) and social media engagement.  However the careers website remains the channel most used by graduates (93%); it’s also seen as the most influential (by 85%).  It was perhaps significant that while 62%of graduates were aware of giveaways, only 26% said they influenced their application decisions.

Future talent client partner Craig Barnett noted that employers were responding to higher student expectations by moving away from ‘traditional’ presentation formats in favour of more interactivity and digital-based events.  As well as more innovative on-campus installations, there were more events designed to meet the needs of several discrete target groups, with dedicated zones or information for different parts of the business.  More employers also had a dedicated social media strategy in place.

Turning to the selection process, 93% of graduates rated this as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ (perhaps unsurprisingly).  However further probing suggested that the weakest aspects of this were usually around the areas of keeping in touch, providing feedback and responding fast enough – with inability to do the latter likely to reduce an employer’s competitiveness in terms of securing top talent.

Current recruiting trends included putting the candidate at the heart of the process (not before time), providing feedback at every stage (including for unsuccessful candidates), and making assessment centres feel like an engaging ‘experience’ rather than a mere administrative ‘process’.

Regarding onboarding & induction, there was a clear need for multiple touchpoints between offer and joining.  83% of successful candidates received induction packs through the post, 72% were invited to social activities, 67% received company information/updates and 58% could access pre-joiner websites.  (However 4% reported no further pre-joining contact whatsoever!).

When asked what they’d like to see changed, graduates said they wanted more pre-joining social activities, and would also appreciate contact with their prospective line-manager or business unit.  Given the financial pressures of relocating, many would also like to see some form of advance payment or loan made available by their employer.

In general, employers were found to be offering a good range of training & development modules, with just over three-quarters (76%) of graduates saying these had exceeded their expectations.  The one area where they tended to feel oversold was international opportunities.  All twenty-seven employers offered some form of coaching or mentoring, although these schemes were often quite informal.  (One particularly interesting scheme involved ‘reverse mentoring’, with graduates mentoring senior executives!)  The research also stressed the need for training to be appropriately tailored to graduates’ needs – and to be suitably engaging, of course.

Turning to retention & expectations, 81% of graduates said their expectations of working life had been exceeded, with most impressed by the levels of training and support, challenging workload and work-life balance.  And once graduates had completed their training, most employers provided opportunities for them to explore other areas of the business and/or offered formal career development plans.  The majority of employers also measured attrition rates, conducted exit interviews and fed the resulting information into their new marketing strategies.

The research was illustrated throughout by specific examples of best practice from leading employers, including short presentations from Clifford Chance graduate recruitment & development manager Laura Yeates and Enterprise Rent-A-Car European talent acquisition manager Ashley Hever, both winners at the recent TARGETjobs awards.


Monday, 7 April 2014

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