Graduate recruitment: Filtering graduate applications - the way forward

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The most effective sifting methods are those that let the graduate decide whether or not they will be suited to the role, as early in the process as possible and consistently throughout it.

Assessment is a two-way process. Remember the applicant will apply for several roles simultaneously, so will be assessing your company and comparing with others.

By getting the applicant to select themselves out of the assessment process, you can save time, money and effort.  Unsuitable individuals won’t be going through a lengthy and expensive process when they may not be suited for the job or worse still, may not want it.

But how do you encourage self-selection in their graduate recruitment processes?

1) Show and Tell the Role

Make sure that you are providing the applicant with as much information about the role as possible, as early as possible.   You can provide a ‘day in the life’ account of the role, through open and honest interviews with incumbents made accessible to applicants (e.g. on the careers website).  Webinars can be held before formal assessments which could be advertised as the first stage of the process.  Topics discussed can include: What is the best part of the incumbent’s job?  What do they enjoy least?  What’s the working environment like and who do they interact with frequently?  Other factors such as working hours, salary and reward packages will all be of interest, so it’s key to provide this upfront, so applicants can determine straight away if it’s the type of role that they want.

2) Let the Applicant Assess Themselves – Self Selection Questionnaires

Along with discussing the role itself, applicants can be asked to complete an online questionnaire. These ‘self selection’ questionnaires are short and sharp and focus on an applicant’s perceived working style, values, interests, job expectations, or a combination of these. Applicants’ responses can be compared to the requirements of the job, the nature of the team and culture of the organisation to assess the degree of ‘fit’. Where fit is high, this indicates the applicant is likely to be suitable for the job and would enjoy the work involved.

The questionnaires give the applicant instant feedback based on their responses, as well as a statement to either encourage or discourage them in continuing their application.  Regardless of the applicant’s performance on the assessment, this is a further opportunity to select or deselect themselves from the process based on their perceived level of fit. 

3) Situational Judgement Tests

Once the self selection questionnaire has been completed, another method is to include an online Situational Judgement Test (SJT) as a cost-effective and objective sifting tool.  An SJT presents applicants with a number of hypothetical scenarios, reflecting realistic and challenging situations they may face in the job. As the scenarios are based on job relevant situations, this type of test provides further insight as to what the applicants can expect to do in the role. 

Waitrose has reduced the time taken to assess graduate applications with A&DC’s Graduate Dilemma’s online sifting tool.  The tool facilitates assessment of the highest calibre applicants quickly and easily online, and helps Waitrose sift through the thousands of applications received for its yearly Graduate Recruitment campaigns.


Suzie Young, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Waitrose, says, "The tool paints a great picture of current situations candidates could face if working at a Waitrose branch. It’s a cost-effective way of giving candidates a view of the role and us an insight into their decision-making ability if in that situation. We found that some people subscribe to do the test but read a couple of situations on Graduate DILEMMAS and realise it’s not for them.  This means it’s a win-win as it reduces time wastage for them and for us.  It also tests competencies so we can screen out the people who aren’t right for the role and assess them easily. Ultimately, we can see how they will deal with everyday situations, which is what we want to measure".

By using a fully automated and online sifting tool, applicants can receive in-depth feedback on their performance, regardless of whether they were successful or not.  Providing feedback helps to maintain the positive perception that applicants have for the employing organisation, as it is a sign that the organisation is assisting them in their development. 

Shane Crabb, consultant, A&DC

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