Using the HEAR to differentiate graduate talent

Jan 4, 2017 | Sector & policy, Selection & assessment

The Higher Education Achievement Report provides a sophisticated record of student achievements. Joanie Magill from the Careers Service at Goldsmiths, University of London shares how it can help recruiters differentiate between candidates as part of the selection process.

The increase in the proportion of students graduating with a first or a 2:1 from 66% to almost 75% in the last five years, presents an increasing challenge to employers to differentiate between candidates and recruit the best graduates.

Degree classification doesn’t adequately represent the knowledge, skills and experience a student gains at university. The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), a nationally standardised transcript that provides verified evidence of both academic and co-curricular achievement at university, was introduced to address this issue.

Almost 100 higher education institutions have implemented or are in the process of implementing the HEAR.  I undertook a piece of research over the course of 2016/17 to understand what employers knew and thought of the HEAR.

Talking to a range of employers, from SMEs to large graduate recruiters, I found that there is still very limited awareness of the HEAR. However, what also emerged was the value it can offer to support the recruitment process.

So what can the HEAR tell you about a graduate?

It presents a richer record of achievement

The HEAR aims to provide a richer, more holistic record of student achievement. It breaks the degree down into the individual modules that make it up (section4) and the co-curricular activities a student has participated in and the skills and experience gained (section 6.1).

It demonstrates the capacity to learn over time

Section 4 is a warts and all presentation of academic achievement. It shows results of modules taken and includes retakes and failed attempts. There is nowhere to hide. Feedback from employers suggests this can offer a range of insights.

It can show areas where a graduate has achieved outstanding results and can enable you to compare similar candidates. Individual modules can shed light on a graduates potential ‘niche value’, particularly in areas like computing and modules which might be relevant for the role or the sector, in marketing, for example.

Section 4 can potentially uncover a story of resilience and determination in a graduate who had a difficult year or semester and managed to turn their results around. It shows a graduate’s ability to learn, adapt and grow over time.

For a graduate who isn’t academically strong, the activities recorded in section 6.1 can highlight strengths, experience and valuable transferable skills.

It provides an insight into a graduate’s motivations, passions and work ethic

The kinds of activities a graduate gets involved in at university is recorded in section 6.1 of their HEAR. It can demonstrate not just the experience and the transferable skills they have developed, but also the motivations, passions, interests and work ethic behind those choices. It can give you an idea of their potential and help to differentiate similar candidates.

These insights can support your recruitment process in all kinds of ways. The standardised structure of the HEAR can help compare candidates in a like for like way. It can help develop interview questions. It can highlight soft skills that are not acquired through academic study.

It’s a verified source of information

Information presented on the HEAR is verified by the university, creating an additional benefit if you have limited resource and capacity to check degree certificates and references; the HEAR can provide a trusted source of information. In future, you are likely to find HEAR data increasingly accessible via digital media with the development of the HEAR digital badge.

The HEAR won’t change the graduate recruitment process, and it won’t replace a well-crafted application and a strong, articulate candidate, but it can help provide a nuanced insight into achievement and potential and tell the story of an individual student journey through three or more years of university education.

*Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency

For more insights visit the ISE Knowledge Bank

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Tags: Graduates


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