Every organisation’s primary goal is to recruit the brightest talents to help their teams thrive and succeed. It’s still the most common for recruiters to put their efforts into sourcing experienced talents. However, more and more focus on targeting the fresh ones – graduates. Targeting this group is highly beneficial as they bring new perspectives and skills. Nevertheless, graduate recruitment comes with its challenges. Luckily, you can overcome them with the right recruiting strategy.

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According to a Kaplan survey, 76% of employers report continuing to search for new talents through graduate recruitment. During times of skills shortages, it’s especially important to use all accessible channels of sourcing employees.

Nevertheless, the same survey shows that 67% of the questioned employers find it moderately difficult to acquire the right graduates. 

Recruiting graduates, although beneficial, proves to be challenging. In this blog, we’ll discuss the four most common graduate recruitment challenges you can find on your way and how you can adjust your strategy to overcome them.

Challenge #1. High Number of Applications

For many large enterprises, it’s often the hardest to fill entry-level positions because of the increasingly fierce competition amongst graduates. They’re freshly out of university, with little or no experience, and landing the first job is their main goal. For that reason, graduate programmes and internships are very appealing to the young workforce. As mentioned by Nicholas Shekerdemian, many organisations experience having as many as 39 graduate candidates per vacant role. That leads to one of the biggest challenges in graduate recruitment – a high volume of applicants.

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Financial Times reports that in 2021, graduate applications increased by 60% compared with the pre-pandemic 2019. High interest in your brand is a good thing as your talent pipeline expands. On the flip side, receiving tens or even hundreds of applications make your recruitment process more difficult.

Depending on your recruiting strategy, your HR professionals will most likely be forced to go through a pile of resumés and conduct plenty of interviews – many of which will yield fruitless. A suboptimal strategy will cost your organisation precious time and money. Hence it’s essential to adjust it by using recruitment tactics to efficiently narrow down the number of applications to the most relevant ones.

Consider implementing Situational Judgment Tests and Case-based Screening discussed in detail below to assure you only get applications from the most suitable candidates.

Challenge #2. Graduates Lack Required Experience

Recent graduates have little or no experience as they haven’t had many opportunities to develop skills relevant to the market. But did you know that 70% of recruiters still base their hiring decisions on the degree, and many won’t even hire a person without experience at all?

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Repeating after Maggie Stilwell, EY Managing Partner for Talent, “there’s little link between previous success at university and future success in professional qualifications.”

Therefore, requiring 2-5 years of working experience for entry-level positions leaves fresh graduates without a chance. And shouldn’t entry-level jobs be meant to be precisely that – a way of entering the market?

Relying on recruiting methods that evaluate past experiences, i.e. checking references or resumés, is of little value in graduate recruitment where one’s career history is minimal. In the case of such candidates, CVs can’t accurately reflect their true potential. That’s reflected by candidate experience, too. 25% of graduate candidates surveyed by People Scout expressed that the application process didn’t let their skills shine. Therefore, recruiters should focus on alternative recruitment methods.

To amass the best talents out there, learn to look past resumés and apply forward-looking measures of potential rather than self-reported descriptions of the past. Personality, cognitive abilities, and real talent can’t be learned – nor can they be successfully identified through CVs or even interviews. Start recruiting and hiring for skills and potential by implementing the following in your graduate recruitment strategy:

  • Situational Judgment Tests (High Volume Screening) – replace CVs and cover letters entirely. Instead, present your candidates with multiple-choice case scenarios tailored for your organisation and its needs. That way, you can check if your candidate has the knowledge necessary to operate on the same wavelength as your business. This way, you can also reduce the number of eligible candidates.
  • Case-based Screening (Low Volume Screening) – once you’ve narrowed down the pool, you can move on to competency assessment. Here, candidates will be presented with a case (or: work sample) mirroring the task(s) they’d be responsible for if hired. That’s the stage where you can successfully assess one’s skills, as work samples are proved to be one of the most effective methods currently available when predicting future job performance.

Another strength of opting for these recruitment tactics is that you can administer them fully online. Considering how the past two years somewhat forced us to move recruitment online, and 72% of the surveyed organisations cancelled attending career fairs (one of the most critical sources of graduates), finding methods that can be sustainable over time is of value.

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At Innoflow, we guarantee that all recruitment services we provide are fully anonymous to minimise the chances of any (un)conscious biases that could emerge during resumé screening or interviews.

Furthermore, they help your organisation increase the sought-after diversity. So far, 62.5% of Hiring Managers who opted for using Innoflow reported a significant increase in diversity and discovered talents they would have disregarded otherwise.

As said by Bjarne Lauritsen, Director of Operations at Bring Denmark, “With Innoflow, we are now able to find the talents we would have missed out on in a resumé screening.”

Adjust your recruitment strategies for those that allow you to hire for skills and potential rather than past experiences (or lack thereof). Focus on what truly matters: finding candidates with the right organisational fit, personality traits, and cognitive abilities – the rest can be learned.

Challenge #3. High Graduate Turnover

Graduation time is stressful and complicated. The young are about to step into adult life and are burning to begin their career path finally. That, however, also means that they feel pressured to enter the workforce and tend to accept any job that comes along.

It’s only once they’ve got a taste of their day-to-day responsibilities that many realise it doesn’t fit their needs. Or that the role is far from what they’ve expected. Although 56% of the graduates surveyed by Harver wish to stay 3+ years at the first job, the Telegraph reports that a quarter of fresh graduates quit their first job within the first year of employment.

One of the ways you can overcome this challenge in graduate recruitment is by eliminating false expectations about the job.

According to the study, 43% of new employees overall quit jobs shortly after being hired because their role didn’t turn out to be what they had been led to believe it would be. Getting your message about the role across is particularly crucial for graduates. If they’ve never had a full-time position before, they simply don’t know what the market looks like. As the research by graduate job specialist Milkround presents, jargon, buzzwords, and industry language leave your applicants (especially those entering the workforce) confused and underprepared – as admitted by almost 50% of polled graduates. In other words, they may simply not fully understand your expectations.

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Whenever you craft a job posting, it’s hard to be entirely sure that everyone reading it will understand it exactly the way you intended it. Instead of talking about the job, we advocate for showing what the job looks like.

By changing your recruitment strategy and implementing, e.g. the previously mentioned work samples, you give your graduates a taste of what the role entails. At the same time, you get to see their skills in action.

Minimise any possible misconceptions that could lead to a turnover and maximise your chances of finding talents you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

Challenge #4. It’s Too Costly and Time-Consuming

Hiring is costly and far from risk-free in any case, and graduate recruitment is no exception. Hence no wonder that it’s one of the most commonly noted challenges in graduate recruitment reported by organisations.

On average, it takes between 12 weeks to 6 months to recruit a graduate. The process includes planning, advertising, assessment, and any other necessary steps. Businesses, especially those in high demand, typically interview several graduates per one vacant position. The average number, as reported by mthree is five, but 44% of employers claim to evaluate six or more applicants per role. The higher the number of the interested, the more costs – especially if your recruiters conduct more than one interviewing stage in the process.

Every leg of this lengthy process carries its costs with it, totalling even as much as $4.000, according to ANU. Now, these are the costs we usually have in mind, but there are plenty of other factors that make recruitment expensive.

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Onboarding, while it’s always important, is particularly crucial in terms of graduates. They’re without much experience and need more guidance than employees who’ve been in the business for a while.

Based on the previously quoted mthree report, 45% of employers say they spend between £1,000 and £10,000. It can be a considerable expense, especially considering that it takes junior hires around six months to start making an impact on the team.  

The costs, however, will finally pay off as you’ll have a tailor-made employee at your hands. You’ll get a unique chance of teaching them how to function in your organisation specifically – as they have no ‘bad habits’ from previous jobs.

In order to achieve that, however, you need to make sure not only to hire the right graduates but also to retain them. And graduates are especially prone to high turnover. Financially, it poses another issue – additional costs related to starting your recruitment process from scratch. To learn more about the reasons behind your new hires walking away, check out one of the previous blog posts.

To minimise the costs of hiring and reduce the risks of graduate turnover, consider applying the following tactics:

  • Use assessment methods that help efficiently reduce the number of applicants to the most suitable ones (see: situational judgment tests). With the Innoflow process, you can save up on average 30% of the time spent on screening.
  • Consider whether multiple interview stages are necessary;
  • Pay attention to the cultural fit of your candidates. Nearly 30% of newly-hired graduates quit within their first year due to the culture being different to what they believed it to be;
  • Present the day-to-day duties as accurately as possible to avoid misunderstandings about the job. To give the best representation of the role, consider opting for work samples.

Ready to Review Your Graduate Recruiting Strategy?

Like any other recruitment, hiring graduates has its challenges. However, investing in the right talents will be a worthy venture in the long run. Your business gets to amass people with fresh ideas who understand the modern digital world. Moreover, you can mould them to fit your organisation’s needs specifically.

Challenges in graduate recruitment, although present, can be overcome. By applying the right recruiting tactics, you can not only save your time and money (with a highly efficient and fully digitalised process) but also give a chance for fresh candidates to enter the workforce and find talents you could easily overlook.

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