Matt Stevens of TalentLens UK comments on the UK graduate recruitment sector.
This week the FT reported that graduate vacancies at the UK’s biggest employers will rise by 8% in 2015 to reach their highest level in more than 10 years.
The news comes after Britain’s top 100 employers reduced graduate vacancies by 25% during the recession and ponderous recovery.
In 2015, with an abundance of graduates seeking work, there will be no shortage of good candidates. A valid question for recruiters to ask therefore is how can companies ensure that they find the best?
According to an annual study of 100 graduate employers by High Fliers Research, sectors planning for large increases in their graduate intakes are finance, the public sector, professional services, retail and the military.
Standing out from the crowd
In the FT article, Martin Birchall, MD of High Fliers Research stated that the 2015 graduates are “emerging into the most buoyant graduate job market for over a decade, with a wider choice of graduate vacancies at the country’s most sought-after employers and better starting salaries”.
A fresh development is the release of data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency which reveals that 20% of graduates received a first class degree in 2014. This compares with 10% awarded firsts in 2004. In addition, 51% achieved an upper second (2:1).
At the top end, the 2015 graduate job market will be highly competitive, with employers facing the daunting task of trying to distinguish between a large amount of candidates boasting good grades, work experience and extra curricular activities.
In order to distinguish the best from the rest, recruiters have a variety of tools at their disposal. As previously noted in this blog, there are a plethora of recruitment methods, varying in their effectiveness and popularity.
Ability tests are ranked as the second most effective method (with assessment centres being the first). They help to provide a valid prediction of workplace task performance. Often used early in the process, they enable recruiters to sift out large volumes of candidates who do not possess the required level of aptitude area considered to be essential for a particular role.
As such, graduate accountants are commonly asked to sit numerical reasoning assessments, whilst graduate lawyers often sit tests eliciting their critical thinking ability. Inductive (also known as abstract) reasoning tests help employers to identify graduates with advanced observation and clear thinking skills who can handle the complexity of the modern workplace.
Ability tests reveal a candidate’s higher level verbal, critical thinking, numerical and inductive (abstract) reasoning. The results are a powerful predictor of workplace task performance and are a key component, contributing to an individual’s general mental ability.
Later in the process, with the pool of applicants refined to exclude the graduates who have not exhibited the required general mental ability, recruiters are then able to use personality questionnaires to hone in on candidates’ character traits and values. The results of the questionnaires are used to inform any interviews conducted during assessment centres.
Personality questionnaires provide a self rated prediction of behaviour / perception in certain occupational scenarios and thus will indicate a preference, which may or may not point to a fit with the organisation and role they are applying for.
The logic behind utilising personality questionnaires is that they provide rich information about a candidate. Whilst candidates who perform well in aptitude tests are more likely to be able to learn and perform well in the role, personality tools can uncover values which might be in sync or at odds with the culture and demands of the hiring company.
Even if they have met the required academic and ability criteria, hiring someone who is going to find it difficult to align themselves with the company ethos would be counter productive. With a great deal having been written about the so called millennial generation and an oft reported tendency to regularly switch jobs, it is important that organisations ensure their recruitment and on-boarding procedures are robust enough to promote early and sustained engagement.
Failure to do this will increase the chances of a scatter-gun approach and a reliance on popular but comparatively subjective methods, such as using references and relying on an individual’s judgement of a candidate’s character. By utilising psychometrics, employers add objective measurements to their armoury and consequently take steps to avoid risk.
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The FT; Employers bullish on graduate jobs; 12/1/15
BBC; Record numbers graduate with first-class degrees; 15/1/15