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UK – Calls for an overhaul of graduate recruitment

21 August 2014

The fear of having a blank CV after graduating from university is forcing large numbers of graduates into the wrong roles, with a quarter of them expected to quit within a year, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The level of churn in new hires may not be surprising, but findings from a report by advisory firm CEB make worrying reading for British companies, which collectively spend nearly £900 million a year trying to attract the best and brightest university leavers.

The companies are also too focused on only attracting what they perceive as the very best talent, according to research in the report, Driving New Success Strategies in Graduate Recruitment.

Eugene Burke, Chief Science and Analytics Officer at CEB, and author of the report, commented: "Today's graduate recruitment market is stuck in a vicious circle. Graduates are struggling to wade through generic company messaging to find their way to the right job while businesses are wasting millions chasing high numbers of graduates who leave within the first year. We estimate that in the UK this amounted to a sunk cost of approximately £112 million in 2013."

The cost comes from both high upfront spending, with employers paying a premium to attract recruits, and then a downstream cost as they have to replace those who decide the job is not for them.

Mr Burke said graduate recruiters exacerbate the problem by using three strategies based on "hard skills” (knowledge and the ability to get things done) and "soft skills” (communication and the ability to adapt to change) to attract recruits. The three methods are:

  • Buy - where employers are ready to pay a premium for graduates who are strong in both kinds of skills
  • Buy and build – taking on people with some strengths in both areas, but who are less expensive, while recognising the recruits will need investment in them to perform
  • Build – taking on graduates with core knowledge who will need much more development over the long term to create a pipeline of future leaders.

Mr Burke said that in their rush to attract the cream of the crop, employers can ignore graduates who would actually be a better fit for their organisation. A buy and build strategy is more than seven times more likely to find the right recruits who are happy in their jobs and less likely to leave.

"Our findings help to explain why many organisations are struggling to achieve their aspirations for graduate recruitment," Mr Burke wrote in the report.

He added that, while those who were strong in both hard and soft skills were more likely to be top performers: "The odds of finding this level of graduate talent is 15 times lower than for the level of talent that satisfies a build strategy."

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