How to harness the power of people for effective graduate recruitment

Sep 28, 2021 | Selection & assessment

Maria Donovan, Recruitment Director for Unlocked Graduates and Laura Wilson, Recruitment Lead for the NGDP, share how the power of people can make small budgets go a long way.

We both share an intrinsic belief that at the heart of good graduate recruitment are trust and good relationships. It’s through this that we’re able to make small budgets have a big impact.

For the ISE Student Recruitment Conference we came together to share practical tips and insights to show how harnessing the power of people can positively impact recruitment.

The below is a light touch summary of our presentation. None of what we propose is radically new, but what we provide is a series of quick and handy tips that could be applied to any sector. It also offers insight for universities on how they can work more effectively with employers.

University engagement

All graduate recruiters will engage with universities, typically attending careers fairs and events to promote our brands. Taking that relationship further however can have a positive impact on recruitment and marketing strategies, for example:

  • Data lead feedback and support – in the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) team, we closely monitor which universities our applicants are coming from and their progression rates at each stage. Once we have collated this data, we have retrospective conversations with universities, creating support offers and/or events tailored to the needs of their student population
  • Strong partnerships – like all employers, the NGDP teams invest a lot of time in building relationships with universities, particularly those with a highly diverse student population. This can mean defaulting to prioritising certain universities year-on-year. However, we have found it useful to work with universities who share our ethos, values and mission, regardless of where they appear on our target list. Universities like this become a safe space to pilot ideas and can help you target fewer people more effectively
  • Valuing university knowledge – in a time where we all have shifted to mass virtual delivery, many employers, including both the NGDP and Unlocked, have moved to delivering events more independently. This has caused some shift in the relationship with universities, with them being regarded more as the channel to promote events rather than being responsible for facilitation and bringing students together. Although we can deliver differently, universities hold unique knowledge on their student population and continuing to invest and respect these relationships can help make your marketing better tailored and thus, more effective

End to end support

Often the focus in a recruitment process is meeting appointment targets, with much of the support provision focused on those who have been successful. NGDP and Unlocked believe its vital to invest in your candidates throughout the process, with support at each stage not only helping level the playing field but providing insight to your organisational culture and encouraging candidates to remain invested.

A few effective examples include:

  • Transparency – providing practice tests, guidance and information on how candidates are assessed at each stage. This can help communicate expectations and also shows the process is designed for anyone to excel
  • Drop ins and webinars – delivered by the team to provide a human face behind the process, particularly important when recruiting virtually and have less opportunities to engage in person
  • Targeted coaching – as candidates progress, both schemes have invested in coaching targeted at underrepresented groups. At Unlocked, this is focused on candidates from an ethnic minority background, to build confidence in the process and understand the purpose of the assessment processes. This has led to a significantly improved pass rate at the assessment centre stage
  • Feedback – within the later stages of the process, NGDP candidates are provided with feedback on their performance, regardless of the outcome. We know rejection is never easy to receive, but supporting candidates to reflect and develop has meant candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, have spoke highly of our processes, with many reapplying and being successful in subsequent years
  • Relationship recruitment – Trust is vital to the recruiter-candidate relationship. At Unlocked, the same person will be the point of contact for a candidate from the very start of the process, through to beginning the programme. The same person will do a pre AC support call, make an offer and provide support through onboarding. This is vital to transparency and encouraging candidates to be upfront about their concerns


Trainees at the centre

We are incredibly proud of the people we recruit and wholeheartedly regard them as our greatest asset. With this in mind and limited resource, having trainees at the centre of our recruitment campaigns is not only cost effective, but gives candidates a real insight into our respective programmes and provides a more authentic voice.

Examples include:

  • NGDP networks – the NGDP team have five thriving networks who we support to deliver events and promote the programme. Working with them allows us to give a real insight into the challenges local authorities manage which impact different communities disproportionately, helping show the need for our candidates to be as diverse as the communities they serve
  • Buddy programmes – At Unlocked, each time someone receives an offer, they are given contact details for a buddy on the programme who arranges a call to answer all their queries and concerns. This gives them an opportunity to be more open and honest about what they are anxious about. We also run social events to buddy up those who will be starting with each other as we are know this leads to lower reneges and drop-outs

These strategies and activities serve to build trust between the organisation and candidates, which is vital when selling roles that are often misrepresented in the media. It also aids the process to understand who is right for the programme and to address concerns early so that we can be confident in those who start.

Catch up with ISE Student Recruitment Conference 2021

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