How to navigate graduate hiring in a competitive market

Following the news that over 1 million job vacancies are currently available in the UK, many have argued that applicants for graduate jobs still outnumber the open graduate positions. However, reports state that recent university graduates face competition for graduate roles from those among the previous year’s cohort who are still actively looking for jobs. This is creating an expansive talent pool of recently qualified candidates looking for a chance to break into the industry, which is good news for employers.

However, with competition for talent fiercer than ever as we enter a candidate-driven market, many business leaders are realising that graduates could be the key to solving recruitment challenges. This means that this talent pool will soon be the target for many companies trying to fill essential skills gaps, and the graduates within it will quickly be snapped up. Therefore, graduate hiring is bound to see an uptake. However, to be ahead of the game and ensure that your scaling tech business can attract the best graduate talent, you need to have a strategic approach to hiring and tailor your talent acquisition efforts to this particular audience.

Here are our tips for navigating graduate hiring in this competitive market:

Don’t be limited by geography

Just because you’re located in a specific location, it doesn’t mean you have to hire local grads. In tech hubs, tech grads are snapped up quickly as talent is the primary reason many startups and larger businesses have based themselves there. Competition is high. Therefore expanding your search area to source graduates from further afield could help you attract qualified candidates that your competitors aren’t considering. It’s 2021, and we’re all embracing remote working more than ever, plus the majority of graduates are at a stage in their life where relocating is possible and could help give them a career advantage. Therefore, why are we limiting our search for graduates to local universities and by geography? If you’ve refined a remote working policy or can show graduates what you can offer if they are willing to relocate for you, you could engage with a much wider pool of talent.

Attitude over experience

Graduates aren’t going to have the most experience. Of course, some will have undertaken placements or worked in the industry before beginning a degree. Still, as a rule, experience is going to be in relatively short supply. Therefore, when looking to hire graduates, you can’t expect 3+ years of industry experience. Instead, it would help if you were prioritising attitude. Finding a graduate with the determination to succeed and values aligned with your company will result in a better-quality hire than looking for someone who knows the ins and outs of being a data scientist in the industry. You can earn experience, but attitude and personality are much harder to change. Plus, this way, you can train the graduates to your standards, give them experience in the software you use and introduce them to your processes from the start of their working career.

Show opportunities for career progression

To stand out to graduates, you need to consider what they desire most. The majority of graduates go to university with the ultimate goal of forging a career for themselves. Therefore, if you want to appeal to this community, you need to showcase opportunities for progression and distinct career paths that these individuals could take. The idea of a company to grow with and that supports their ambitions will attract the most loyal and dedicated graduates. They’ll be excited by not only the role but their future with the business. Tell employee stories and create visual representations of career paths you foresee these roles developing into. The promise of more than just a job for a year or two will help you stand out above the competition and show your dedication to your people, enhancing your employer brand.

Segment your EVP to appeal to graduates

Graduates want different things to other employees. Most graduates, for example, are young and in the early stages of their career and so will value aspects like training, education and workplace culture over maternity leave and work-life balance. Therefore, to really appeal to them in your talent acquisition efforts, you need to consider your EVP from their point of view. You cannot expect one EVP to resonate with employees at all stages of their careers. Priorities and attitudes to work change as you progress at work and in life. Think of what your company can offer someone just starting their career and maximise communications by running a graduate recruitment marketing campaign. Segmenting your EVP allows you to connect with different audiences and promote your workplace’s best and most relevant aspects to them.

Speak their language

Like the EVP you create, you need to tailor your employer brand communications, job adverts and recruitment marketing efforts to these graduates. The best way to do this? Speak their language. Use buzzwords they’ll be familiar with in their degree if you’re looking for a specific skillset and promote your company culture in a way that resonates with them while being authentic to your brand. For example, there’s no use using slang terminology if you’re a corporate bank, as this will cause a massive culture clash. However, by writing communications with both a younger audience and your employer brand in mind, you should be able to stand out from the crowd. But, by using language which connects on platforms that graduates use like TikTok or Instagram, you’ll stand more chance of relating to these candidates.

Perfect the candidate experience

Graduate schemes are renowned for having long-drawn-out application processes. Huge application forms, multiple interviews and often a group interview or application day are becoming the norm. Of course, with so many graduates out there and large application numbers, it’s important that you screen candidates fairly and learn enough information about them to make an informed decision. This could take time. However, by taking the time to refine and perfect your candidate experience, whether introducing automated elements or simply removing unnecessary stages, you could speed up the application process and hopefully improve the volume of applications, reducing the number of drop-offs. It also means you’ll be able to hire quickly and in a more streamlined way, which could give you a competitive edge in the race for talent if other organisations leave candidates in waiting.

Show why you’re a gamechanger in your field

To really stand out from the crowd in the race for graduate talent is a challenge as a scaling business. You need to show why you’re a gamechanger. Startups and scaleups are great places for graduates to gain experience in a fast-paced environment and learn various skills on the job, which will capture the attention of ambitious and career-hungry individuals. However, startups are also famous for having a mission and purpose; they’re trying to innovate and find new ways of doing things. Communicating this mission and why you’re trying to change your industry could help you to stand out in the eyes of ambitious or like-minded graduates. Candidates today like to connect with their employer emotionally and truly believe that they’re working to achieve something good. If you can show why you’re an exciting prospect and give some sense of purpose to work, you stand a better chance of standing out in a crowded race for graduate talent.

Talent Works are experts at reaching specific audiences, whether it’s through segmenting EVPs or conducting recruitment marketing campaigns that reach relevant audiences. Our creative, insight, and digital teams use innovative techniques and strategies to ensure our clients are seen as an exciting prospect by the available talent and the right talent.

If you’d like to enlist us as your recruitment partner to help you tap into the graduate talent pool, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to find out how our agile approach to RPO and talent acquisition could help you to gain a competitive advantage in a candidate-driven market.