6 Key Strategies to Attract High-Performing Graduates

Attracting graduates to a business is essentially an achievable goal given the fact they’re bursting at the seams to gain employment and according to Accenture. It may surprise you, but since only 15 percent want to work for a large company the challenge comes in luring the very top talent. What creative strategies can be utilized to inspire these top performers to want to work for you?

Define your brand

Top performing graduates of any cohort are typically attracted to bigger and subsequently more reputable brand names. If you happen to work within the People and Culture teams at any one of these firms, you’ll likely find it significantly less challenging to attract this talent. If you’re not at one of the larger and more well-known businesses, however, there are still plenty of ways to successfully pitch to top performing graduates.

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos

You may be relatively small in financial and hierarchical stature compared to these big business juggernauts but your dreams and hopes for the future are not. Try to integrate plans into your brand image so graduates can share this passion with you and your organization. The brand image doesn’t have to be perfect either, but it shouldn’t be vague. This means a clear message and a strong value proposition. In general, graduates want to know they have a secure and prosperous future with your company and the brand re-affirms this from day one.

What’s your USP?

Consider the unique selling proposition (USP) of your company. What can you offer that others can’t? Fresh graduates tend to demonstrate a keen pursuit for companies that offer flexible working practices, a study by Orange revealed that 69 percent of graduates stated that flexible working hours are important to them. Bear this in mind as this is strategic ammunition if you’re able to compete. Graduates will question if a reasonable combination of work/life balance is on offer at your company and if you’re not currently offering flexibility, it’s likely time to place strong consideration as to whether this can be implemented. Not only will such an offer attract graduates, but it will also be valued by professionals too.

If you’re unsure about the USP of your company, how can a graduate be expected to know? Now is the time to build greater structure into the working lives of new graduates within your business. They seek variety, exposure, and experience, as well as opportunities for social participation, so ensure you build these factors into your strategy.

Scope of skills

In larger companies, graduate recruitment is driven by brand reputation in addition to the promise of a structured graduate program. It may seem difficult to compete, but graduate programs in large companies aren’t always as glossy as they seem, so why not emphasize how the graduate will gain broader exposure to a wider variety of areas within your business? Just a few reasons you can sell to potential grads include:

  • Experience in many areas of the business. From invoicing in the accounts department to sales to project management a varied “hands on” role is deemed as invaluable to some.
  • Daily flexible study time. Consider the costs of not allowing a grad not to study. Not only are they still in that mindset but an hour per day of reading industry related publications and blogs can be more fruitful and less expensive than formal training courses.
  • Cross-departmental collaboration. Working in multi-varied teams can bring a true understanding of the inner workings of business, allows for better problem solving of issues that arise and provides a staff cohesiveness that larger companies usually can’t provide.

Also, consider that a well-structured system of mentorship could be the key to not only attracting young talent but also retaining them for the long-term. This could be as simple as providing regular feedback or as vigorous as daily seminars with a selected colleague who trains them on all aspects of the business from soft to hard skills, company culture to out of work-life skills.

Think of the long-term

As well as short-term exposure, graduates also often have longer term career opportunities at the front of their mind. If the graduate meets required performance targets within their first year of employment, as well as subsequent years, where will this take them? Is there a pathway for future career opportunities within your business?

After graduating from university I initially joined a tech start-up, the salary was healthy; the work was challenging and even the morning coffee tasted great. But, after a year and a half in the job I realized that in my starry-eyed haze of joining my first full-time employer that I had never actually asked about career progression. At a morning meeting one day I brought up the golden question “So, what are the future opportunities here for someone in my position?”.

The CEO stared at me pensively; he didn’t know what to say. After what felt like an eternity, he turned to his whiteboard and began to draw a ladder… yes … a ladder that illustrated the transition from graduate to middle management, to upper management with no time-frames or targets. It was at this point in my self-realization that it was time to move on. I vowed that any future company I worked for should have a planned and transparent career progression before I started work with them.

One of the main problems is not that many SMBs don’t provide this scope of progression it’s just they haven’t sat down and thought out how to explain this progression and sell it to potential candidates. The recruitment process is an opportunity for the graduate to grill you as the employer as well as the other way round, and as a career opportunist, they’ll likely be keen to establish prospective opportunities before deciding to join your business.

Utilize social media

Your social media activity should tie in with your brand and USP message. Recent research has been highly supportive of the fact that word of mouth is one of the most popular ways graduates refer friends to companies. So as well as utilizing traditional on-campus pitching methods as a means of marking, it’s also critical to consider how your company is perceived throughout the year and across various social media platforms. An average student might spend an hour or two at a career fair, but will spend an average of 2-4 hours per day every day of the year, participating in social media activity.

There are many ways to leverage social media to attract talents, but you should define your graduate audience and scope out where they hang out. You could piggyback on a trending topic that fits in with your brand message. Write informative blog posts that help this defined group of graduates with their pain points. Or provide an innovative way for a candidate to apply for your job opening. The methods are plentiful and here are a few ideas to provide inspiration.

Staff representation

Engage your best people to market your business to high performing students. Your top talent – and previous graduates at your company – are well qualified to sell your business and can also share inspirational stories about their success and provide assurance that the career opportunities are real.

As Business Insider suggest, the humble careers fair is still alive and kicking and within half a day of one of these fairs there is a high chance your organization will have met a wide variety of candidates from different majors and backgrounds. This opens up the playing field considerably and when tied in with the well thought out brand and USP can build awareness considerably.

Armed with the ammunition outlined above, you should now be ready to pitch to your target audience. The key to your success in attracting high performing graduates is to create highly engaging, genuine and specifically targeted material that reaffirms your brand message provides a thorough insight into your organization’s practices and culture and allows understanding of future career progression.

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