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Jackie Bornor

IG Group

Head of HR

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How to find real value in graduates


Creating a company culture is one way of driving success. However one thing the majority in HR and wider business will agree on is that without the right people you cannot build or maintain a culture. The general consensus is that it is harder to instil a culture in those who move from another company than with those who have been with the company from the early days of their careers.

With this in mind, the logical thing to do is to hire the best young graduates possible. Yet in reality, with so many similar CVs and qualifications, identifying real potential is not always easy. So, at a time when the market is saturated with qualified graduates, how can businesses tackle the two key issues facing HR professionals dealing with graduate recruitment; identifying real value behind the CV and selecting graduates that will fortify and grow your business?

In truth, you can only discover the true potential of a graduate by testing them. Of course, they will need to show their value in terms of a great CV, and impressing in their interviews, but as thorough as this process is, it’s only when you begin to test your grads that you can really assess their long-term potential.

One of the ways we do this is our “Quick Maths Test” where applicants must answer 101 basic arithmetic questions in five minutes. Maths is the basic language that all at IG speak, so an exam to assess an applicant’s basic numeracy is crucial. The test itself has become a cornerstone of the recruitment process and everybody within the organisation, from Tim Howkins, our group CEO, to this year’s applicants, will have at some point passed the test, and undoubtedly remembered the resulting score.

It is essential however, that our application process looks beyond just numerical reasoning and also helps to find those who demonstrate a wider skill set. IG conducts rigid tests to ascertain a candidate’s verbal reasoning skills, team working abilities and personality traits. Physical team games designed to immerse all applicants in a high pressured environment are an essential part of the process, helping us to gain an understanding of an applicant’s personality. 

But discovering the true potential value of a graduate doesn’t stop there. Once through the door, graduates are enrolled onto an eighteen month programme designed to nurture and grow each individual. Those on the scheme spend time working in each of the four core business divisions: Sales, Account set up and rebate, Credit risk, and Dealing, to help them to find their niche.  Not only does this help to offer a wider overview of the business from day one, but it also ensures that all know exactly what is required by each division to help ease working processes moving forwards.

Successful candidates are also tested before and after probation to ensure that all essential skills are being developed, strengthened and implemented. A deal taking test, taking the form of mock client calls with an experienced IG trader is just one way of ensuring that all graduates are comfortable to handle challenging situations should they arise.

For the best candidates, after 18 months there is one final test, known as ‘the chaotic markets test’, simulating extreme volatility in the financial markets and developed many years ago to see how individuals cope with pressure and extreme situations.

In a tough economic climate, finding the right people to take your business forward has never been more challenging or important. There’s no magic formula to finding the right graduates who will add the most value, so, before focusing on candidates, it’s important to understand your own business and its needs. HR techniques are often too similar, making it easier for graduates used to recruitment processes to jump through the hoops and potentially mask their real value and the potential of others. So, in order to really uncover whether a graduate is right for your business it’s about fine-tuning tried methods and, in some cases, creating entirely bespoke exercises that mimic what happens in your company. Our tests and exercises imitate the way we work and those who do well during perform when they get the job. That said, although the primary responsibility of the HR team is to hire great individuals, once they’re through the door you have to help them flourish by putting the right processes in place otherwise the whole process is all in vain. 

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Jackie Bornor

Head of HR

Read more from Jackie Bornor

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