Recruit graduates to fit business needs


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It's not much fun being a graduate right now. They are vilified for being slow, and inefficient compared to older workers; many employers do even believe they are entering the workforce equipped with the core skills required to perform in a modern working environment.

My view is somewhat different. I also believe that not all graduates with a 2.1 are the perfect hire. But I am suggesting that some with a 2:2 might be even better.

You read correctly. The point is a graduate with a 2.1 is not necessarily the best person for your business. A graduate with a 2.2 may be just as suited. Sure, if you had to choose candidates purely on academic achievement the 2.1 graduate would win hands down. But, a degree does not demonstrate all of their qualities. The 2:2 graduate may well have undertaken a year's placement in a big corporation. You cannot take away that experience. Nor can you ignore the fact that someone has, for example, run the London Marathon - their achievement shows dedication and determination.

Employers should remember graduates often do not recognise they have business skills. A university bar job is proof of the fact they do. No organisation can deny a graduate the right to say they have customer service skills if they have chosen to deal with an organisation's most critical stakeholder - the public. Fabulous customer service is the foundation of any successful business. Unfortunately, some UK plcs lack the internal processes that are needed to sift a graduate's true attributes.

If an organisation is looking to attract fresh new talent, it should develop an assessment centre which draws upon more than just numerical, literacy and presentation skills. All elements should be scored and benchmarked against a matrix. If a candidate falls below that benchmark, a company cannot employ that person for the sake of filling an empty desk. Organisations need to make sure the graduate they employ is there for the duration. Unfortunately, not all corporates are fortunate to have a structured resource.

Over the years, I have been involved with many assessment centres that grade graduates looking to join a year-long graduate programme. If implemented correctly, placing a graduate within the most suited business function will be an easy task.

Assessment centres have many advantages: it may be that a graduate you considered for a finance role may be more suited to marketing. It is also paramount that employers rotate graduates through the main business functions. This is to ensure they can be confident of placing that individual in what they consider to be the best position for the candidate. And for the business.

But for a graduate campaign to be successful, a human resources professional must achieve buy-in from the business. Spending £70,000 on a recruitment campaign is wasted money if you do not get the support to see this spend through. An employer must be structured and organised. Graduates are opinionated and hungry for career progression, and will soon leave if they feel they are not being rewarded for their efforts. Universities are arming graduates with the skills they require for the world of work. However, their achievements in a working environment are dependent upon two things: how they are managed and whether they are willing to take advice on board.

Now is the time of year that you should be looking to skim the cream of the best graduate talent. Any good human resources department worth its' weight should be kick-starting its graduate recruitment campaign today. March and April is simply too late. Think of it this way: you are not hiring graduates; you are hiring future leaders of the business.

The current recruitment market is an extremely competitive environment. Employers are looking for applicants with a high pass rate. In tough times, it's easy to loose sight of the bigger picture and focus on grades. Yet, such a climate is surely a greater reason to take a step back and analyse more closely individuals who can demonstrate determination and an ability to deliver.

Dawn Redman, former UK resourcing manager at DSGi, is managing director of The Retail Recruitment Company

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