Hiring graduates is about selection, not rejection

The Life: Recruitment managers looking to hire new university graduates should be careful to avoid a few common mistakes.
Recruiters must be open in order to manage graduates' expectations about career, salary and status, a consulting executive says. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
Recruiters must be open in order to manage graduates' expectations about career, salary and status, a consulting executive says. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

Summer might be a traditionally quiet time for businesses, but it's often when their hiring managers get inundated with resumes from recent graduates.

Companies in the Gulf, where more than 65 per cent of the population is under the age of 25, are seeing a growing number of graduates knocking on their doors seeking job opportunities, experts say. Thousands graduate from universities in the UAE, and more than 7,000 Emiratis are enrolled in tertiary education programmes overseas. Many of these have been reaching out to job-searching sites such as Monster Gulf for opportunities to return to the UAE.

Yet one study released last month found that while companies are investing considerable effort into hiring top graduates, many of these new recruits move on to a different firm within their first two years.

Forty-five per cent of graduates thought their salary was below their expectation, while 80 per cent were unhappy with their salary and a lack of career advancement opportunities, according to study of more than 1,200 graduates and 680 managers conducted by Ashridge Business School in the UK, which recently opened an office in Abu Dhabi.

"Recruiters need to be open in order to manage grad expectations about career, salary and status, and ensure graduates stay, rather than leave due to their frustrations in these areas," says Rory Hendrikz, the director for Ashridge Middle East.

"Responses from both graduates and managers consistently pointed towards the importance of experience in bridging the gap between education and working life, and between managers and graduates."

So what can organisations do to bridge some of these gaps? Mr Hendrikz suggests the work should start with universities, which could provide ways to include real world practical experience.

"There is a key role for universities to play in preparing graduates for the world of work to develop employability skills," he says.

He also recommends both managers and graduates be equipped with better communication skills by having regular, open conversations about expectations and ambitions.

These kinds of efforts "will help align them to the organisation", says Mr Hendrikz.

But before graduates even turn up for an interview with a potential employer, recruitment managers must beware of avoiding steps that may mistakenly weed out some of the best candidates.

Tom Moore and Brandon Labman, the co-founders of Responsible Outgoing College Students, a staffing firm based in Washington, warn that some companies may dishearten qualified candidates.

The issue: "an overly formal and invasive first-round interview," they recently wrote in an article for the Harvard Business Review.

After a three-hour initial meeting, they said, one IT firm had mentally drained young candidates with surprise skill assessment tests and a last-minute decision to have them re-screened by other executives.

To make matters worse, the candidates were confined to just a couple of rooms - and the company failed to share any insight about the office environment.

The group of candidates left exhausted, without any idea of the company's culture or values.

One candidate, believing two hours worth of coins would suffice for parking, returned from the interview only to find a parking ticket on her car's windshield.

Outdated interview practices turn off graduates too early in the recruitment process, say Mr Moore and Mr Labman.

More than anything, recent college graduates are looking to see how they will fit into a company's culture.

Communicating culture informally - by giving office tours as part of the interview, engaging and forming relationships with prospects while they are still in university, and showcasing flexibility - are important techniques to implement.

Ultimately, a recruitment approach must evolve from "expect a follow-up if you're qualified", to "let us show you what we are all about", they say.

* with Reuters

nparmar@thenational.ae

Published: August 26, 2011 04:00 AM

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