14th December 2020

How to make graduate recruits stand out in a tough climate


It’s difficult market out there for anyone job hunting, but the going is even tougher for graduates. New statistics from the Institute of Student Employers reveal that the number of openings for university leavers has fallen to its lowest level since 2008, as companies scale back their graduate recruitment schemes in response to the financial impact of COVID-19.

Though it’s understandable that businesses want experienced recruits while budgets are under pressure, young professionals can bring a great deal of value to their first commercial role. As a recruitment agency, it’s your job to make sure their application stands out, and to help your clients understand the benefits of hiring a graduate worker.

Prioritise skills over experience

The biggest challenge university leavers face when going toe-to-toe with established candidates is experience. Naturally, employers tend to favour people that have worked in several roles prior to joining their firm. However, the number of entries on someone’s CV doesn’t tell the full story.

Formatting your candidate’s resumé to focus on skills over length of service will highlight their strengths, not their limited on-the-job knowledge. Even if they’ve only worked part-time or undertaken work experience, they will still have a set of core strengths that make them worth considering to potential employers.

Equally, your role as a recruitment consultant is to educate clients on what to look for when finding the right person for a vacancy. Try to reposition their viewpoint beyond big-name previous employers to value each candidate’s raw qualities; someone with the right aptitude and skillset will learn very quickly in the role.

Highlight their digital expertise

Daring to be different is something that makes candidates attractive to employers. One of the biggest game-changers for graduate recruits is the fact they are part of Generation Z. They were born in the online era, which makes them intuitive technology users, with skillsets beyond older colleagues.

Employing someone who truly thinks digitally can be a massive asset to an organisation – and many companies already recognise this. For example, when Balfour Beatty recently launched a recruitment drive for the HS2 high speed rail project, under-25s were one of its key target groups, due to their natural ‘techie’ skills.

Work closely with your clients to understand whether candidates who are digitally fluent might be a valuable addition to their skills base. Often, the roles that companies want to fill or create are different to their actual needs.

Then, use graduates’ digital skills to make them stand out. For example, get candidates to film an introductory video, to bring their personality and skillset to life in a way that excites potential employers. 

Stress the long-term growth potential

Many employers expect to find the finished article when recruiting someone for a position, but the truth is that even experienced candidates will need time to settle into the role. And often, choosing a ‘rough diamond’ can yield longer term success.

Compared to someone whose CV shows that they move to a new role every two years, graduate recruits can be more committed to building a career with the right organisation. Help your clients to understand that they can mould graduates’ approach to work to fit the values of their organisation, and with the right opportunities for progression, that graduate could become an asset to their business and remain with them for a very long time.

Plus, if a young professional on your books makes it through to interview stage, make sure they are well prepped to highlight this point. Often, graduates have great potential, but lack of interview experience means they struggle to highlight their biggest USPs. As a recruitment expert, it’s your job to help them shine when talking to future employers.

Giving teams the tools to showcase good graduates

Nurturing relationships between employers and graduates is something that talented recruiters excel at. As an agency, you need to give staff time to devote to this task – and the right data at their fingertips to sell the benefits of graduate recruitment opportunities.

Many recruiters are enhancing the skills matching process by investing in CRM software to manage their contacts. This technology captures candidate data in one place, and can be synchronised with marketing automation and sales tools so staff can easily showcase strong candidates of any age to employers on the hunt for new talent.

Clever candidate management for your recruitment agency

As the ultimate recruitment tech stack, ETZ includes a CRM feature for agency sales leaders – along with back office and payroll software that cuts agency costs by up to 85%. Book a demo to get full visibility of your sales pipeline.

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