How to hire the best graduates for your business

Small Business Guides

7 min read

The graduate recruitment market is becoming increasingly competitive. We spoke to Jeff Phillips, CEO of accounting job board and networking company Accountingfly to find out how you can hire the best graduates.

Graduate recruitment is changing

The employment market is bouncing back from the global recession. That's especially true for the 'professions' such as accountancy, medicine and law.

As Jeff from Accountingfly says, this is great news for graduates. But it means you'll have to work harder and smarter if you're going to attract talented young people to work in your business.

To make things more complex, the recruitment process itself is changing and evolving. The old methods of hiring skilled young employees are no longer as effective as they once were.

In this guide we'll look at what you need to know about the changing face of graduate recruitment. Then you'll have the best chance of attracting highly skilled and motivated graduates to work in your business.

Widen your search

The internet has brought about big changes in recruitment. You'll have to change too if you're going to hire the best employees:

  • Focus on talent, not geography
    Now it's simpler to hire people who might be thinking about moving to your location – not just those who are already there. Internet job boards make it easy to advertise jobs to people anywhere in the world.
  • Use social media to your advantage
    Your potential employees are on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and many other social media platforms. You need to be there too, showing them how great your business is. If you don't know how to use social media in this way, consider paying someone to do it for you.
  • Build a professional website
    Your website is the 'face' of your business online, even if you also use social media. Make sure that face is an appealing one to new graduates. Your site should be well designed, clearly written and attractive to people thinking of working for your business.
  • Use job boards effectively
    Along with search engines and advice from former college and university professors, job boards are where graduates go to find out about new vacancies. So be sure to go where they go, and advertise on job boards that target people in your market sector.

Three steps to effective online recruitment

It's not enough to simply be online. Companies that hire the best graduates understand how online marketing works. They use that knowledge to market their business to potential employees. This gives them the biggest possible pool of talent from which to draw their recruits. And you can do it too:

  1. Content is king
    Whether it's your website, your social media presence or your job advertisements, you must get the content right. That means understanding graduates' lifestyles and expectations, and explaining how your business can provide what they need. Tell them about your firm's mission and values, their opportunities for advancement and, above all, your company culture. Be positive and sell the best aspects of working in your business.
  2. Perfect presentation counts
    You are competing for talented employees with many other businesses. Your online presentation must be perfect. Think about everything, from design to photography and even videos. You don't have to spend a lot of money, but the more professional your presentation, the more likely you are to attract the best people.
  3. Engage with your audience
    This is the most important part of the process – and also the hardest. Take some time to understand your target audience and then engage with them. For example, you might use online contests such as a picture hunt, or post videos of your managers taking the ice bucket challenge, or sponsor a charity fundraiser. Demonstrating the human side of your business will encourage graduates to engage with you.
Take some time to understand your target audience and then engage with them.

Competing with big businesses

One of the recruitment problems for smaller businesses is the size of their competitors. Many graduates are swayed by the appeal of working at larger firms. That's especially true in accounting, for example, where the 'Big Four' international firms take in a lot of new graduates.

But much of that appeal is based on good marketing. You can fight back with good marketing of your own. Tell graduates about the benefits of working in a smaller organisation:

  • Fast career advancement
    It's often easier to move up through the ranks in a smaller firm than in a larger one. That's a big benefit to people looking for a clear career path.
  • Friendly culture
    Large firms can be impersonal places to work. Emphasise the friendly nature of your smaller business. Point out that many graduates leave bigger firms after just a few years, disillusioned by their experience.
  • Less bureaucracy and politics
    Office politics is a big negative for people who want to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Smaller firms tend to have less of it, and less red tape too. That makes it easier to get things done.
  • Varied work
    At a large firm, your potential hire might just be a small cog in a big machine, doing the same work day after day. But in your business they could have a more varied, diverse and interesting role.
  • Mentoring
    It's easier to interact with the C-level executives in a smaller business, and easier to learn from them. This is a big plus point for ambitious graduates.

Go beyond conventional recruiting

Graduate recruitment is a competitive business and you'll have to go the extra mile if you want to employ the best candidates – and hold onto them

  • Build talent pools
    Recruitment is an ongoing process, not a one-off event. A talent pool is a network of people who are either recruitment targets themselves, or might help you find new employees in the future. Your talent pool may include graduates you didn't hire, undergraduates, existing employees and even ex-employees if they left on good terms. Think of it as a database of talent that will help you hire new employees now and in the future.
  • Get your company's name in the press
    Undergraduates and graduates read industry magazines and newsletters. Make sure they see the name of your business. Reports, research and white papers make for good press coverage. So do comments about the latest events in your market sector. Hire a PR company if you need to – and stay visible.
  • Automate the recruiting process
    A large part of recruitment work is admin, so it makes sense to automate that and free up your time. Use applicant tracking software to manage the recruitment process. The best online tools will feed back into your talent pool, making recruitment much easier now and in the future.
  • Go where the graduates are
    Copy the big companies. Form links with colleges and universities to get the name of your business known to undergraduates. Do this networking in person if you can spare the time, otherwise use online connections to improve campus awareness of your business.
  • Recruit your own employees
    Everyone is a potential hiring target – including your own employees. Once you've employed them, hold onto them, because other businesses will try to lure them away from you. You can't prevent your employees looking for other opportunities, but you can give them such a great place to work that they won't want to leave.
  • Use the right words
    Psychology is a big part of graduate recruitment. Phrases such as "broaden your experience," "career path," "achieve your potential" and "team-oriented" are used by big companies in their job advertisements. You can do the same, and use direct, focused job descriptions to ensure you attract the right people.

Make the most of online graduate recruiting

Organisations that recruit the best graduates understand that the world is changing – and they have adapted to that change. If you want to hire highly skilled and motivated graduates, you need to do the same. This means hiring online, because that's where you'll find the people you really want to employ.

Never forget that recruiting is a two-way process. While you're interviewing a potential employee, they're also interviewing you. Be sure they'll like what they learn about your business, from the culture and the environment to the happiness of your employees – and even the healthy food in your vending machines.

With the right recruitment software and the right attitude, you'll be able to build a world-class team of high performing graduate employees – without spending a fortune.