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Change the way you treat graduates

Think about the ideal employee for your organisation. Presumably you’d want them to be bright, enthusiastic, keen to learn and happy with your starting salary. Most graduates tick these boxes.

They may not have experience but that means they're joining with a 'clean slate' and a fresh perspective. They'll need training but that means you can develop them to suit your way of working. So it's no wonder that such a high proportion of organisations, both large and small, have instigated their own graduate programme. What's surprising is that so many of them make a mess of the recruitment process.

According to our new research study, which examines this process through the eyes of graduates, organisations are making four particular 'mistakes' when they recruit graduates. These are:

  • They don't communicate effectively with graduates during the selection process; they leave them waiting for long periods; they don't provide feedback and sometimes they don't even respond at all.
  • Their application processes are seen as too long and drawn out, with too many hoops to jump through.
  • When graduates attend interviews, some find that the interviewer is unprepared, rude and even insulting.
  • The actual role that's available turns out to be very different from the job description that was initially advertised.

So why does this happen? Perhaps it comes down to a mindset in organisations that graduates are 'two a penny' - and they can be treated accordingly.

Yes, there might be differences in which university they went to, which course they studied, what grade they came out with. But, essentially, a bright graduate is a bright graduate. If you take that view, then you're likely to adopt a more cavalier approach to your graduate recruitment. If you upset a few candidates along the way, so what? As long as you get a good intake of bright people with good potential, you've done your job, right?

Perhaps, but at what cost? Our study highlights that the four mistakes mentioned above are infuriating graduates. That matters because it can damage employer and consumer brands. Incensed graduates - who feel that they've been treated badly - may tell other people about their poor experience (and with social media, they can tell a lot of people very quickly). That can hurt your reputation.

This situation can, of course, be avoided. Essentially, a change of mindset is required. Recruiters have to start thinking about their graduates in the same way they think about their customers. After all, some of the graduates may already be your customers or they may rise to positions in the future where they make decisions about whether or not to use your company's services. Either way, they're a target audience that you need to treat with care and consideration.

It would be remiss of me to highlight the 'four mistakes' without giving some indication of how they can be resolved. So, briefly, here are 10 steps for best practice graduate recruitment:

  • Start by considering the type of person you want to attract and the qualities, values and personality
  • characteristics that you actually require.
  • Create an accurate overview about the role and be honest about what the actual job will entail.
  • Specify the length of the application process and the stages involved.
  • Ensure you have the technology in place to handle the volume of applications you're likely to receive.
  • Use job-relevant assessments to screen candidates early on in the recruitment process - and explain the purpose of these assessments upfront.
  • Provide feedback to candidates and keep them regularly informed about their progress.
  • Treat all candidates with the same care that you'd show to customers.
  • Select the best applicants and explain to the others why they were unsuccessful.
  • Keep your promises to ensure that the reality of the role matches the successful applicant's expectations.
  • Monitor social media channels and career community sites, such as glassdoor.com, thestudentroom.co.uk and wikijob.co.uk, to track what graduates are saying about your organisation.

Steve O'Dell (pictured) is UK managing director of assessment provider Talent Q