Streamlining the graduate recruitment process

Are businesses fuelling graduate talent shortages? Eugene Burke challenges the notion of a graduate skills shortage.

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Despite significant increases in the number of students graduating from university and organisations investing billions in graduate programmes each year, companies say they cannot find the graduate talent they need or fill positions in a reasonable time frame. Concerns over talent shortages and skills gaps are not new, but the numbers just don’t add up.

According to our global report Driving New Success Strategies in Graduate Recruitment at CEB which challenges the notion of skills shortages – organisations are perpetuating talent shortages by recruiting graduates based on their idea of the perfect candidate. Not only do they expect graduates to have workplace experience and proven technical skills, they also assume that the best candidates will have a glowing academic report. The chances of finding the notional top graduate talent are one in 15, which goes some way towards explaining why there is a perception of a skills shortage in the region.

Our findings suggest that employers do not have a clear understanding of the competencies they need and value in graduates, which means job opportunities are often misrepresented, and are misleading for inexperienced job seekers. This may explain why graduates who have accepted positions are growing increasingly disillusioned with their first jobs. In fact, only one in three says they made the right decision to accept it and one-in-four new graduates plan to leave their first employer within a year.

Companies shouldn’t accept massive sunken costs and low returns on their graduate programmes. So what can firms do to break out of this vicious cycle?

Organisations should focus on these three key areas to improve quality of hire, productivity and engagement of new graduates:

Measure graduate employability

Organisations need to adopt a more robust approach to defining and measuring employability – the balance of hard and soft skills that underpin performance in the workplace – which could improve their chances of finding the right graduates by as much as 7.5 times.

In the Middle East, employers report that their graduate hires lack key skills in communication and teamwork. By using objective assessments, businesses have a more accurate way of determining whether a graduate has the broader range of skills, behaviours and competencies required to be successful in a job. This would go some way towards ensuring highly capable Emiratis are not overlooked.

The data captured can be used to identify whether an individual has the potential to succeed in more senior roles and pinpoint the skills and experience that need to be developed throughout their career if they are to flourish in future management, leadership and technical specialist roles.

Adopting this approach will be critical in the run-up to the World Expo. Jobs and demand for skilled labour in the IT, tourism, hospitality and construction sectors are expected to rise drastically. Companies need to take a longer-term view of talent, balancing recruitment decisions to fill vacancies today with securing the right talent that will stay with the firm to achieve tomorrow’s strategic vision beyond 2020.

Brand for influence, not for mass appeal

Not only do businesses need to be clearer about the skills they are looking for, they also need to give job seekers a more accurate view of what the job entails and the unique offerings – the rewards and benefits – that comprise their employment value proposition.

Recruiters have fallen foul of adopting attraction methods that appeal to the masses, with most firms assuming that graduates are driven by salary and use material rewards to lure talent. But offering a big pay cheque doesn’t guarantee job satisfaction.

In the Middle East, graduates are driven by environments where they are in constructive working conditions, have a clearly defined role and position in a company, can achieve their career goals and progress in the organisation, have opportunities to demonstrate talents and shine against others, and gain recognition for doing a good job.

These are the messages that companies should promote to job seekers to more accurately describe career prospects and culture within the organisation.

Applying this sort of talent intelligence will move from “branding for appeal” to “branding for influence”, helping graduates to wade through generic company messaging to navigate to the right employer. With this strategy companies can expect the quality of graduate applicants to increase by up to 54 per cent, which translates into increased quality of shortlist and subsequently hire.

Improve hiring decision with talent data

Companies that want to see outsize returns need to upgrade their overall recruiting strategies by applying powerful talent data to bring new precision to their employment branding efforts and selection methods.

Our research shows that companies are missing out on strong talent and wasting precious time and money on ineffective graduate programmes. What’s more the skills gap in the jobs market is being misrepresented and could be fuelling today’s hypercompetitive landscape.

Talent data is the critical connector between people planning, investment decisions and business outcomes. The best companies are adopting a more intelligent, data-driven approach to their hiring programmes, which enables recruitment professionals to take on a more strategic talent adviser role in the business.

Harnessing talent intelligence in this way will not only drive stronger workforce engagement but also build a more effective brand as the graduate employer of choice.

Eugene Burke is the chief science and analytics officer at CEB, a member-based advisory company

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