Graduate career development makes for a good fit from the start

Evaluating graduates on their career options points them in the right direction.
Ambroz Neil, of Alexander Partners, left, helps young people to 'build their career capital and employability. Andrew Simpson / Studio Zero
Ambroz Neil, of Alexander Partners, left, helps young people to 'build their career capital and employability. Andrew Simpson / Studio Zero

With a university degree having evolved from a rare commodity to a qualification boasted by one in three today, job competition for graduates is fiercer than ever – which is where the concept of graduate career development has evolved.

Alexander Partners aims to help students in their final years at university, recently graduated or in their formative years at work to “build their career capital and employability”, says Ambroz Neil, the managing principal at the London consultancy.

It also works directly with firms such as ExxonMobil and DHL on talent management and will assess a handful of the best graduate employees a business claims to have to set a benchmark for what any given industry is looking for in its fresh young recruits.

“This is new – we’ve taken the recruitment agency step to another level,” says Mr Neil, a qualified chemical engineer. “The talent that companies bring in at the graduate level needs to be nurtured at the same level as senior managers.

“It can cost thousands to bring someone in, and they could leave after six months because they’re not happy. If that repeats itself, the company is throwing money away. You want to keep them in the organisation, fired up and pushing forward, because you regard them as talent that will add value in the future.”

So far, the consultancy has supported 30 graduates in the past six months and 200 others informally with CV assessments and workshops. Working with Alexander Partners costs about £400 (Dh1,800) a month and consultations can be done by Skype.

Suhail Masri, the vice president of employer solutions for the recruitment site Bayt.com, says there is a great value in using psychometric testing.

“Certain skills and competencies can be tested more effectively by conducting a standardised assessment. Tests can also save the employer a great deal of time, as the competency-based questions, scoring and reports are all automatically generated.”

Bayt.com offers a “wide selection” of tests and assessments, Mr Masri says, from English proficiency, personality and IQ to technology and aptitude, used by employers in fields as diverse as engineering to banking and finance and hospitality.

Simone Beretta, the head of HR at Robert Bosch Middle East, says the engineering and electronics company, which has 110 employees in Dubai, has never used psychometric profiling locally.

For students and graduates, he says, they organise in-house assessment centres, including presentations and role play.

I decide to test the system with Alexander Partners. I am tasked with sending over my CV then doing two sets of psychometric assessments – less than actual clients but still taking me a good hour-and-a-half to complete, and a further hour to talk with Mr Neil once he has evaluated me against benchmarks for my industry, journalism.

In the first test, I am asked to rate myself from 1-10 in 40 questions, which ask things such as: “You are forceful in discussions with others, especially if your views go against the consensus”. I then have to do mini-versions of the full numeracy and reasoning tests and another psychometric test.

I’m horrified to run out of time on the reasoning test (48 true/false statements in two minutes) and to have to wing it almost entirely on the 15 logic problems in 10 minutes. Apparently these are the kinds of tests employers may throw at graduates to put them through their paces.

The results? I’m a good match for journalism. I rate highly for commercial knowledge and leadership – interestingly, Mr Neil calls me a “chameleon”, in that I tend to flex between different leadership styles, such as commander, pragmatist and democrat – a “contingency management approach”. My most appropriate team roles are as a creative, critic or catalyst. So far so good.

But then he says my communication skills need some “tweaking” to reach the industry’s employer expectations (worrying and key for a journalist), and I have low emotional intelligence.

I also rate low on external activities – but then you don’t put yoga and reading as interests on your CV when you’re not a fresh graduate without work experience. He also tells me my personality is not reflected in my CV – perhaps I do need activities.

Everything he says jibes with other personality and psychometric tests I have done, from Myers-Briggs type to Belbin team roles and Insights “colour” profiling. It mostly rings true (although I’m not keen on the low EI rating).

Millennials today are entering a “smaller, much more competitive world”, Mr Neil says. “A young graduate really needs to think about how they package and brand themselves, to determine what sort of things you put in your arsenal and how you put yourself across.”

For me, I’m just glad that I’ve apparently been in the right career for two decades.

business@thenational.ae

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Published: February 14, 2017 04:00 AM

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