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With the battle for top grad talent more fierce than ever, what should employers and recruiters be doing?

Charles Hipps, CEO, Oleeo

Company Profile


The competition for top graduate talent has never been higher. According to a new report 'The Must-Know Student Recruitment Trends in the UK for 2019' candidates on average, apply for graduate schemes with 29 different UK employers. As a result the number of applicants per graduate scheme has reached an all-time high with companies within the financial and professional services sectors having to deal with over 250,000 applications and other sectors typically receiving applications from 50,000 graduates.

According to the report, competition is not just tougher for the recruiter, but also the candidate. Three quarters of students are interested in graduate programmes but only 1% of graduates applying for schemes within finance, advertising and professional services and major retailers were hired in 2018, falling from 2% the previous year.

These falls can in part be attributed to the fact that 2017 saw the first drop in graduate recruitment in five years (4.9%) and the biggest since 2009. With fewer graduate jobs to go for, graduates are applying for more than twice as many positions compared with 10 years ago in the hope of increasing their chances of being hired.

As the chances of reaching the offer stage falls and the number of places available on most graduate schemes decreases, it is clear that graduates are becoming worried about their future prospects. It's no wonder that many are responding to this by increasing the number of roles they apply for. This is creating a big challenge for recruiters – who are facing larger volumes of applications to deal with.

This has left employers in a race against time; they must not only go through all of these applications to find the right quality talent who will fit with their business, but they must secure these graduates ahead of everyone else. Intelligent Selection is key here. That means smart recruitment systems that not only score and screen applicants but can also enable employers to ensure candidates are kept engaged and nurtured during the end-to-end application process.

So how do you go about delivering this? What’s essential is that the way you hire reflects the way the youth of today actually think. It’s easy to stereotype this demographic as being lazy and unfocused, but the reality is quite contrary. This isn’t a generation that can be assumed to require coddling and pushing but they do dread “working too much.”

They are time-fluid and place their value emphasis on the quality of work they produce and their ability to be efficient in its creation, not on their ability to elongate projects to satisfy time blocks. They want to shape their schedules around their work objectives rather than vice versa. And they crave fulfilling projects that they can complete with passion and purpose where it is possible to make an impact on the world in some way.

With the race for talent intensifying, HR professionals are understandably feeling pressure to increase velocity and win the hearts and minds of qualified candidates sooner. That means pouring more time and energy into graduate programs – we see this every year with our own community of graduate recruiters at Oleeo who are determined to secure the top talent and are increasingly nervous of competition – not just from traditional mainstream rivals but also from the entrepreneurial start up communities who offer professional development without having to give up the youth vibe fresh out of university.

Whether it’s time delays, poor communication with applicants, or a bad online user experience, graduate recruiters and employers risk losing qualified candidates. As candidates are left in the dark, they consider other offers. Remember, these applicants are constantly online and expect interactions and information. In the absence of communication throughout the hiring process, they’ll seek it out with other employers. Losing out on a qualified recruit could mean months, if not years, of work have gone to waste and the search for other qualified candidates must start over — but now with a picked-over talent pool.

For more information about Oleeo, visit www.oleeo.com.