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Lizzie Woodcock

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Activation And Retention Consultant

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How to attract graduates – according to graduates

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There seems to be an endless supply of graduates applying in their hundreds for the same job opportunities. Shouldn’t this imply that the employer can have their pick of the very best?

In reality many employers are struggling to engage this demographic.

Indeed, googling the term ‘graduate jobs’ will return around 139 million results, including many articles, infographics and blog posts offering advice on how to attract and retain graduates. Anyone who flicks through articles on LinkedIn or any business section of a broadsheet will know that the topic on the collective minds of every business is the new and diverse needs of the millennial.

"The millennial."

Defined as an individual who was born between 1980 and 2000, they are a group demanding something different to their forebears. Some have portrayed millennials as being precious, requiring constant recognition and generally being unprepared for the world of work. On the other hand, they have also been shown to be highly ambitious, with many of their number approaching the job market knowing the stiff competition they will have to face for jobs.

With this in mind, I spoke to three recent graduates and asked them what would attract them to an employer.

Firstly, I asked them to consider what experiences or requirements they would value the most in their prospective careers and what might sway them to choose one employer over another, revealing some interesting thoughts.

A recurring theme of our discussion was that notions of a traditional hierarchy were not valued in the same way that they might have been amongst previous generations. Millenials want to know that they can approach their senior employees and managers in the same way that they might their other colleagues. A culture of openness seemed to be a unanimous desire for my focus group.

Another desire they were quick to point out was for opportunity for progression.

Many graduate schemes offer the ability to quickly advance to management position; they specifically mentioned schemes offered by Fortune 500 companies which guarantee that within two years hard-working graduates will find themselves in management roles with high levels of responsibility. This lies in stark contrast with the traditional image of years of climbing the career ladder.

One of the most notable attribute shared by the group of graduates was their incredible loyalty to the brands they love. All three carried Apple products, and when questioned whether they would be interested in a graduate scheme with the company, the verdict was unanimous; of course they would grab that opportunity! The same went for jobs with Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This may be a little biased as those four companies are amongst the most recognisable on the planet; however, there were other brands like Joules and John Lewis amongst the favourites. This really struck me.

Graduates are painted as quick movers as it has become the norm for them to stay with a company for an average of only four years.

In terms of their consumer habits however, these young people have the potential to be incredibly loyal – and it is this quality that employers must tap in to.

So, how can employers engage these graduates?

The way companies market themselves has to be consistent. In a sense, it is like fashion; companies have to know what appeals to its applicants at any given point and then this should be capitalised on. By creating a company culture where transparency and honesty are the defining features, millennials will feel comfortable knowing that they can voice their needs and that their opinions will be valued. As with every employee, assurance that their efforts will be recognised and rewarded is the key to retaining any hired millennials – and especially graduates.

The importance of trust

From the beginning of the recruitment process, there should be clear and honest communication between the employer and the candidate. As websites like Glassdoor.com become increasingly popular with job seekers, millennials can find out what kind of an experience they can expect during their application process and companies should ensure that theirs is both enriching and transparent at every point for the candidate.

Ultimately the main point I took from talking to the graduates was that company recruiters need to think like brand managers. This is crucial.

Employees are perhaps the most important brand ambassadors that a company has: by creating a strong, positive and, dare I say it, fun employer brand, you’ve created the best advertisement to attract graduates. Google experiences around 10,000 applications each week because of their clever employer branding; theirs is surely the shining example for other employers aspiring to attract millennial attention.

Reputation is everything, and by showing an understanding and a response to the interests and needs of the candidate demographic, employers can ensure that they will be approached by dedicated and like-minded applicants who will be proud of their place in that company. 

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Lizzie Woodcock

Activation And Retention Consultant

Read more from Lizzie Woodcock
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