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Top tips on how to hire the best graduates in Australia

Team Prosple

Attract and retain the best interns and university graduates in Australia with these five tips from our team at GradAustralia.

Take a moment to consider everything you can gain by recruiting a graduate: an affordable employee who’s excited about their first job, eager to make a strong impression, equipped with an up-to-date education, and ready to absorb whatever training you can offer. They get an opportunity to launch a career in the field of their choice; you get an opportunity to plan the future of your organisation by moulding a graduate in your company’s image.

There’s just one thing: not all graduates are created equal. The best graduates have top marks, stellar interview performances, the skills your organisation needs, and prior experience in your industry. They also tend to know they’re top graduates: they’ve worked hard for it, and they can afford to be picky when it comes to graduate employers. So, if you’re aiming to recruit them to your business, you’ll need to make a special effort. Fortunately, we’ve got five tips that can help you stand out from the crowd and bring world-class talent to your organisation.

1. Aim for authenticity

Employers would do well to remember that one doesn’t become a top graduate without developing sharp critical thinking skills and a curious mind. As such, graduates will, quite naturally, feel suspicious of recruitment efforts that offer a vision of employment that seems too good to be true or appears to omit critical information about what life on the job actually involves.

We know from experience that graduates are eager to gain a clear perspective of what their day-to-day activities will look like if they choose one employer over another. This reflects a clear shift in the priorities of today’s graduates. For example, while 61 percent are prepared to make sacrifices in their personal lives for the sake of career development, 74 percent nonetheless maintain that it’s more important for them to feel fulfilled at work than to earn lots of money.

Of course, savvy graduates will want to know how much of a sacrifice their new job will require—and whether or not their activities on an ordinary day will be fulfilling enough to justify that sacrifice. The only way for them to make that assessment is to acquire trustworthy, unadorned information from prospective employers. So, be open with top candidates: in turn, they will be open with you.

2. Offer a career, not just a job

High-performing graduates have a strong sense of purpose and a clear idea of what they want their future to look like. Yet, according to the 2019 GradAustralia Top 100 Survey, most graduates don’t see themselves working for their first employer for longer than five years. Only one in five law or engineering graduates, for example, predicts a long commitment (i.e. of more than five years) to their first employer.

These findings suggest that, if you hope to recruit top graduates and then retain them over the long term, it’s not enough to sell them on the job you’ve advertised alone. Instead, you should present graduates with a career path. Where will they be in six months, or one year, or even five years? Take the time to consider how the job you offer will provide them with an opportunity to accomplish their short- and long-term goals. In this way, you’ll connect meaningfully with graduates who hope to build a lasting relationship with your organisation.

Of course, you must deliver on this promise if you wish to keep the top graduates you’ve worked so hard to attract. For example, the 2019 AAGE Employer Survey found that, during their first year of employment, most graduates will receive only ten days of technical training (59%) or professional training (57%). This suggests that making a substantial investment in providing the skills and training required to help graduates to progress in their careers will help you stand out even further.

3. Use your culture to excite graduates

According to Deloitte, 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success, with employees who are satisfied by their workplace culture far more likely to report feeling ‘valued’ and ‘happy’. This is a sentiment shared by graduates: 79 percent told GradAustralia that “it’s important for them to join an employer that has a diverse workforce”, while only 16 percent said that, if the salary was right, they’d work for a company with a bad image.

So, if you’re committed to attracting and retaining top graduates, give some thought to the culture at your business. Does your organisation have clear values? Does it promote and celebrate diversity? Do employees feel like their work is recognised in a meaningful way? Most importantly—are people happy to come into work? You’ll have a hard time attracting top graduates if the ones you already have looked like they’re eager to leave…

4. Go to where the students are

The 2018 AAGE Candidate Survey found that, by the end of their first year at university, 27 percent of students have already chosen the employers they plan to work for after they graduate. To connect with them, or with their less decisive classmates, it’s important to fish where the fish are—in other words, take advantage of the services that can link you directly to top students.

Accordingly, when asked to describe the most effective tools for reaching graduates, 87 percent of respondents to the AAGE Employer Survey nominated graduate recruitment websites; 71 percent chose to advertise on university websites, and 62 percent spoke highly of careers fairs. These results suggest that, if you don’t make an attempt to connect with graduates through similar channels, you’ll risk not being seen before they settle on their employers of choice.

Despite 62% of employers citing the effectiveness of career fairs, 46% of organisations only visit one to four universities and only 2% visit 25 or more universities. Each year the GradAustralia team visits over 35 university and industry career fairs throughout the country, engaging with students and distributing Top 100 Graduate Employer Guides, as well as The Law Guide, The Business Guide and STEM Guide.

5. Create a smooth recruitment process

While many offers are made during a student’s final year at university, over 59% of students expect to still be job hunting for more than three months after they graduate. On average, they expect to make an average of 17 applications before receiving an offer.

These numbers only confirm what most graduates already know: the recruitment process, for them, can be taxing and time-consuming. Indeed, according to the AAGE Employer Survey, the average amount of time taken to process one graduate application is four months. During this time, graduates must reckon with a significant degree of uncertainty regarding their future careers.

While this is unfortunate news for graduates, it creates an opportunity for employers to distinguish themselves by engaging students early on, communicating with them openly, and implementing a streamlined recruitment process.

Bringing the best onboard

Attracting and retaining the best graduates is a competitive exercise: you’ll need to win the attention of students (and graduates) who are being courted aggressively by other organisations in your industry, and then convince them to accept your offer before they receive one from anybody else. While this is no small undertaking, it’s possible to optimise your recruitment strategy using the tips above. This will increase the chances that, by the time the new year begins, you’ll have recruited the best graduates and prepared your business to help them meet their potential.