Top Tips for Attracting Your Ideal Graduates

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With around 800,00 students graduating in the UK each year, and hundreds of thousands more worldwide, trying to attract the ideal graduate for your business can, from the outset, appear tough. The proverbial needle in a haystack! 

Graduates need to know both about what your company represents and the programmes you offer. There are many ways you can market your business to graduates. But finding the graduates who best fit your culture and values is more of an art. 

Want to learn about the most effective ways to find your ideal candidate? Our Candidate Attraction team are experts when it comes to early career recruitment strategies, and we’ve got a few top tips to get you started. 

Reach out to the most appropriate universities  

To attract your ideal candidate, working with universities that have your desired student intake is a great place to start.   

How do you know which Universities to work with?  A key starting point is understanding what is important to your business – are you interested in socially mobile candidates, improving your gender balance, key disciplines or degree results?  It could be (and should be) a mix of a number of these.  So, understand your student persona, and outline the criteria you want to measure against.   

In the UK, HESA, the Higher Education Standards Agency, is a great starting point to understand each of these data points at each University. We work to build a custom university matrix for each of our clients to score against the key criteria that is important to them.  With this data, you can align your attraction goals with which university best fits the engagement of your ideal graduates.  

A clear university outreach strategy should be at the core of your recruitment strategy for graduate attraction.  

Having key insight into each university’s student trends, careers service and faculty activities will help inform which University partners will best suit your goals; collaboration can include job board posting, targeted emails and newsletters, careers fairs, presentations, networking and social media posting.  

Work with your selected Universities to understand which periods throughout each semester are best to reach out to students. Many students have reading weeks, and busy exam or coursework periods where they are unlikely to be focusing on graduate programme applications so, catching students during peak times is essential to ensuring your attraction strategy stays on track. 

Understanding your opportunities to leverage digital media 

Alongside working with universities, digital job platforms play a key role in attracting your ideal graduates. We’re lucky that in the UK, there are a number of targeted platforms for the attraction of undergraduates – Bright Network, Graduate-Jobs, Gradcracker and many more! With over 13 years of early-talent Attraction expertise, our Attraction team has a vast amount of experience collaborating with various media sources and can support you with determining which ones are best suited for your desired candidates. 

When developing your recruitment plan, considering which media to work with is important. Each platform will have an active audience and unique features to target specific talent. Here are some key questions to ask when you’re determining the best platforms for your business to advertise with:  

  • What does the audience look like? Find out what they know about their audience, and just how active they are. 
  • How can you narrow down the targeting to the right student for you? From the information they know about each student, what can be used in the targeting of relevant students. 
  • What means of reaching students do they offer? Employer profiles, video, event promotion, targeted emails, jobs of the week etc… they all have a purpose/benefit. 
  • Have they any comparable sector/brand/discipline case studies?  These can give you an insight into performance. 
  • How flexible are they with changing requirements?  We all know campaign scopes can change from kick-off and throughout a campaign! 

And finally, just how knowledgeable are they about the market? Do they welcome the opportunity to share their own insights and advice to ensure you’re always running an effective and efficient campaign?

Utilising your own Alumni & Graduates  

Throughout your recruitment campaign, you can use alumni and recent graduates from your programme to your advantage.  

Some of the most advantageous ways to incorporate them into your campaign are through career fairs, presentations, workshops and panels. Students like to hear from those who have gone through the process and can hear their firsthand experiences and thoughts. Even more so, if the alumni and graduates represent the students themselves – this could be in culture, background, experience or discipline and University. 

Relatable and inclusive representation can create a sense of comfort allowing students to approach your representatives and engage in conversation.  Understanding that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work anymore will allow you to reach those specific demographics. Creating personalised and tailored experiences for potential talent will be more beneficial to your strategy.  

If you are looking to attract under-represented students, having a graduate representative that embodies that very demographic talk at events, or sharing daily role insights, or their graduate profile can inspire those students you are looking for and encourage them to apply.  Hearing from Women in STEM who have taken on leadership roles in your programme, are the best representatives to use to reach the female STEM students you desire.  

Understanding who you are looking to attract, and reflecting this in the alumni and graduates on programme you ask represent your company, will create the best experience for and engagement with your targeted graduates.  

The Power of Brand Awareness  

We can’t all have a top-10 recognised global brand, so how can you make your brand stand out during the busy milkround?   

Firstly, think outside of just the Attraction campaign itself – this should be a continuous drive, pre- and post- campaign. Sowing the seed with multiple and ongoing touchpoints will help your audience as they begin researching programmes – you have the opportunity to drip-feed your brand and position yourself at the forefront of their mind.  

Here are some top tips for building and maintaining brand awareness: 

  • Create an online presence through strong social media marketing: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter. Students are more likely to engage with and remember fun and bold content. It takes time and effort, but it’s low cost. 
  • Ensure your website is easy to find and your online information has been designed with the user in mind. This is where students will go to check out your programmes and explore more about what your company offers. Gen Z has a high filter rate so ensure they can find everything they need to know in simple bite size steps, and back it up with more detail once you’ve gained their attention. 
  • Generate an on-campus presence. Attending careers fairs, presentations, workshops, panels and ‘meet the employer’ sessions and so much more can help generate greater brand awareness for your company.  

Brand awareness remains important post the recruitment campaign too. Once candidates have applied, keeping them active and engaged whilst in the pipeline is just as important. Ensuring that they don’t accept offers elsewhere is crucial to avoid you re-opening your Attraction campaigns.  This can be helped with communication, sharing insights they’ve not been able to access outside the application process and building a relationship with them throughout their journey with you.  A good candidate’s experience is a key representation of your brand, how you treat them during the application process is an indication of how you will value them once onboarded. 

Communication is valued by students in many formats – podcasts, tips for the application process, gifts and welcome packs are all popular choices.  And mix up your touch-points – during their application with an online account area serving exclusive content, after Assessment Centre to thank them for giving their time, or at the point of making an offer and onboarding your new graduates. Extend your communication plan to include the entire recruitment journey and this is going to help you not lose out on your ideal candidates.  

Clearly communicate what’s in it for them 

Last, but certainly not least, giving prospective graduates a clear and honest view about life at your organisation, what you expect of them, and what they can expect of you in return is highly prized by Gen Z looking for total transparency on the recruitment journey. 

Preparing your graduate programme description early to allow enough time to share with students and give them enough time to research and digest the information is beneficial for attracting your ideal graduates.  

Students will be able to easily identify if your programme aligns with what they’re looking for (and don’t forget they will do additional research on aspects of your organisation that they value most i.e. what is your attitude to well-being in the workplace?). This could also be the projects and skills your programme offers – i.e., if you’re looking for STEM students, it is essential that you clearly relay which skills STEM students bring to your programme but also what those graduates can learn and develop whilst on it.  

Wherever your graduate programme is located, you should be clear about the work status they will need to make an application. Will you sponsor Visas? Must they already have the right to work in that location? With nearly 700,000 international students studying in the UK, you can expect to receive interest from not only UK nationals but overseas students too. It’s important to give clear guidelines, you’ll be able to gain more eligible candidates that are best suited to your role.  

Students often look for information about your culture and values. Are you looking for sustainability enthusiasts? Do you have personal development programmes to encourage female leaders? Small factors like this can draw in the specific type of graduates you are looking for, and these insights could determine someone’s choice to apply for your programmme.  

Whatever the content you are preparing (adverts, profiles etc…) and for whatever channel (social, media etc..) use the vast array of tools at your disposal to ensure it is clear, precise and consistent. Elevate your content with relevant tools such as Grammarly and Textio to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct and that your text reflects your brand’s tone of voice. It’s also important to ensure that you are avoiding any social bias. 

Attracting the most suitable graduates for your organisation isn’t always a quick win, it is, and should be, an iterative process learning how to meet the needs of both your audience and your business. Planning and strategy are crucial to any successful Attraction campaign.  These tips are just a starting point, if you’re not sure how to get underway our Attraction team can support you in developing a campaign plan tailored to your hiring needs. Get in touch to discover more.

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