9 Points to Remember When Hiring Graduates

6 min read

A look at practical points to consider when looking to recruit graduates from requirement gathering to onboarding.

Graduate recruitment can be extremely challenging both qualitatively and quantitatively. It has high visibility among senior managers but it also requires much “heavy lifting”.

Understand your requirements

It may seem obvious but the point is worth underlining: in graduate recruitment more than any other kind, a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work. Much depends on the type of roles that you are seeking to recruit and the kind of individual who would make the optimum fit. For many roles there is a direct correlation between the subject studied at university and career suitability (e.g. medicine, law, accountancy). For others, a candidate who has chosen a university subject simply because it interests them may be the right choice for roles that require creativity, passion or a spirit of enterprise.

There are accordingly a range of tools to be considered for attracting (and successfully retaining) talent. For some roles ability tests tests such as numeracy and literacy may be entirely appropriate. For others, application screening and competency-based interviewing (telephone, video or face-to-face) will deliver better results. Most organisations require a diverse mix of personality types in order to excel, so a flexible toolset is a must for assessing people who have a limited, or no, career history.

Manage seasonality & peak workloads

Many graduates come onto the jobs market towards the end of the penultimate year of their degree course and are hired in the autumn. Others apply for jobs on completion of their degree course. The brightest and best will have already been snapped up come September. This especially applies to graduates pursuing a vocationally oriented degree course (such as Engineering and Life Sciences or financially oriented degrees). Consequently there are periods of intense activity.

With an average of around 100 applications for each graduate hired, a graduate recruitment campaign can put significant strain on HR and TA function, especially in medium-sized enterprises.

Have efficient processes in place

You can of course handle the peak period with the help of a recruitment partner but you may then face a continuity problem when they are gone – which could mean top talent vanishing off your radar. So it is not just a matter of handling the heavy lifting: you will need processes in place for CV screening, telephone or Skype interviews etc. that you will be able to manage in-house when the peak period is over.

Run an internship program

Successful work experience is often a better guide to a candidate’s suitability than good exam grades. Thousands of undergraduates look for work experience at the end of their second and third academic years to help them think about future careers. Competition to hire them for internships is intense as these provide a great way to assess candidates and build a talent pool for permanent placements. However, they involve a lot of concentrated effort and resources that you may not have.

Fish in a large pond

Ireland has one of Europe’s highest graduation rates with more than 43% of adults having undertaken some form of higher education and 29% of 24-35 year olds securing a Bachelor’s degree. Yet many organisations focus their graduate recruitment on the “prestige” universities. This means they miss out on quality talent, because they are fishing in a tiny pond.

Good grades from an elite university do not automatically make for motivated and competent employees. Limiting yourself may however be a false economy, since the competition to recruit from elite academic institutions (at recruitment fairs, on-campus social events etc.) is intense. It can also have a negative impact on diversity targets. A shift from intensive but limited efforts to a more extensive approach will require additional resources and innovative screening methods but is likely to pay dividends.

Communicate your brand values

There is plenty of research evidence to support the theory that as employees (and potential employees) millennials are rather more concerned with organisational ethics and social responsibility than “Generation X”. The extent to which you can satisfy these concerns by communicating strong brand values will determine a significant part of your success in recruiting and retaining your pick of employees.

Give all candidates a valuable experience

You will do your reputation a power of good if you have a clear process in place to provide detailed feedback and friendly advice to unsuccessful candidates, for example on how to write a compelling CV or handle interview questions, which will be of assistance to them in seeking future opportunities. Conversely a bad experience, such as long delays in communication will shape a graduate’s view of your organisation for a lifetime – a view that they will share with others by word of mouth of social media.

Leverage recent graduate intakes

Testimonials from individuals in their own age bracket will do far more to persuade talented candidates to join your organisation than anything else! So include them in your careers literature, record video interviews, publish them on your website and share them on social media. Introduce applicants for internships and permanent roles to those who have already trodden the path. You can also encourage satisfied employees to express themselves on sites like LinkedIn so but do no apply any pressure to do so – it will be counter-productive.

Set the right expectations

The success of a graduate recruitment campaign should be judged not so much on the quantity of graduates you get through the door as on the quality of the graduates who are still with your organisation a year, or five years, down the line – and how well they have progressed. Setting the right expectations is a critical success factor in retention. You need to be honest about the nature of the duties, working hours etc.

Likewise you need to set the right expectations for managers within your own organisation. Most of them, even if they are themselves graduates, only have dim memories of what it was like stepping into their first job after university. But every generation seems to think that the next one has it easier! Graduates have a tough learning curve to climb – and learn from their mistakes.


Graduate talent acquisition – and retention – is a critical success factor. Finding the right formula is challenging and executing it is highly resource intensive, especially for small to medium-sized organisations. M3S offers a breadth of experience in a range of processes and can help you to ramp up resources and expertise to see you through peak periods of activity and beyond.

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