Employer brand

Attracting graduates: a new wave of employer brand

The graduates of today are the future leaders of tomorrow. So getting your company noticed at a pivotal time in the careers of these bright young prospects is crucial.

Gen Z and beyond have experienced turbulence much like any other generation. But when it comes to the outlook on careers, the environment and the future, they have been exposed to a much thicker wall of negativity, which employers will have a partial responsibility in helping them break through.

Employers need to not only work hard to bring their employer brand to this new wave of prospects – they need to inspire this generation into believing anything is possible once again. It’s a big challenge, but it’s a vital one to ensure that the right talent is nurtured, retained and driven in the right direction. 

Overcoming challenges with graduates

There are typically two main scenarios employers are finding themselves in with graduates.

  • They are inundated with applications for certain roles
  • For more specialised roles, there is a smaller pool of talent and competition is high

First let’s look at the most common situation: receiving too many applications.

This can be a problem for a number of reasons that will affect your ability to recruit quality graduates…

Problem…Too many people with similar skill sets are applying and it’s difficult to distinguish who might be most suitable based on their application alone, suggesting there’s a flaw in the application process.

Solution…If you are using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), there should be options available to introduce more detailed screening questions. These answers should give you insight into an applicant’s personality, communication skills and general motivations for the role before considering their skill sets. 

Your team should also set some common rules for what a good applicant looks like. For example: they must include a cover letter, they must have tailored their cover letter to your company, they must have a nicely presented CV – those kinds of things. This sets parameters that can help you weed out those who haven’t made the effort. 

Additionally, ensure your employer brand’s mission and purpose are coming through enough on your job creatives – give candidates an accurate feeling of what it’s like to work for your brand, and they will likely deselect themselves if they don’t feel they are a good fit.

Problem…Too many applicants are under-qualified for the role they’re applying for – this may mean the application process is too easy or the information provided is misleading.

Solution…If you’ve been a victim of the ‘Indeed effect’, where applicants are just clicking apply to your role even if it’s not aligned to their skills, you can consider the following ways to reduce the amount of unsuitable applications you are receiving:

  • Consider promoting your roles on more specialist jobs boards, as this will prevent the vacancy from being accessible to anyone and everyone 
  • Review your advertising creatives – are they giving out the wrong message about the roles? Is the company’s expertise shining through? 
  • Make sure the essential skills, experience and qualifications are clearly defined in the job description or landing page 

Problem…There’s no time to view the volume of applications coming through with any kind of detail – leaving you missing out on talent and those who don’t hear back feeling disconnected to your employer brand.

Solution…Again, this is where putting in some key filter questions can come in handy. You can use the answers to help determine the quality of the application before committing to reading the CV cover to cover.

For more high-level roles, you may ask the candidate to include a portfolio or include a short task as a first or second stage of application. Make sure this is clear in your job description, as plenty of people who don’t have the skills you need won’t want to proceed based on that request alone.

Lastly, ensure your ATS is set up to give automated responses to applicants. Make it clear that if they are unsuccessful they will not be contacted (providing that there’s no time to respond to each individual), but be sure to encourage them to apply for future roles again after 6 months, a year, or whatever time frame you choose. 

Next, let’s explore scenario two: small or hard-to-reach talent pools for specialist roles. 

This can also create an equally overwhelming amount of problems for your team.

Problem…Your specialist roles aren’t being filled because your offering isn’t strong enough. 

Solution…Graduates in niche industry areas are likely looking for the role that’s going to benefit them and their careers the most.

When looking at your employer brand, think beyond just the salary and benefits. What are the candidates actually going to benefit from by being your employee as opposed to another brand? 

Candidates need to feel excited about the future, not just the initial role they’re taking. Financial security and a decent roster of benefits are an expectation for many and alone are often not enough to inspire a big career move. 

Problem…You may be losing talent to competitors. 

Solution…When an applicant turns down your job offer for another opportunity elsewhere, it’s important to keep the window of opportunity open.

Ask them politely what your company can learn from their experience and what they could be doing differently, and add them to future candidate pools. Teams can then follow up in 6 months or a year via LinkedIn to make them aware of any new roles available. 

Problem…You are not receiving a decent quantity of applicants.

Solution…Reviewing the media placements of your employer brand advertising should be your number one priority. Are your teams promoting the roles in the right places? Are they targeting aspiring developers with ads on Facebook instead of Reddit? Or hiring for a remote role in very specific locations?

Consider putting out an incentivised survey on LinkedIn or appropriate channels to gather first-hand insight into where someone might look for a specific role. 

Problem…You are struggling to find the exact skills needed for your specialist roles.

Solution…Graduates aren’t going to come with the exact skills needed to join your organisation and hit the ground running from day one. In the longer term, it’s worth really thinking about how important these skill sets are to the business. Do they warrant creating a company-sponsored degree? Or an in-house training programme? 

These kinds of opportunities help to mould prospects into the kind of employee your brand needs, and give them on-the-job training and experience. It’s a very time-consuming commitment, so you need to be sure that the investment is worth the outlay and disruption. 

What are the priorities for graduates?

Depending on the industry and the individual, priorities for graduates will vary from person to person. A recent study by Bright Network did help to shine a light on what graduates as a whole are prioritising, some of which we’ll explore here…

They want to be upskilled

95% of members want to be upskilled directly by employers. Having a clear path of progression and training allowance can help graduates understand how your company can take their career to the next level.

They want a genuine commitment to inclusivity and diversity

Many employers preach about inclusivity but fail to live up to the reality. Having HR provide training on important subjects such as unconscious bias, celebrating a wide range of holidays, a commitment to fair pay and having dedicated strategic training programmes are all small steps every company can take towards becoming more inclusive and diverse. But a few gestures aren’t enough – the commitment must be ingrained in your employer brand.

They want to know that employee mental wellbeing is a priority

53% of Millennials were already burned out from work pre-pandemic, up to 59% today. Gen-Z is a close second, with 58% reporting burnout post-pandemic, up from 47% in 2020. While working from home orders and more flexible working have been introduced because of the pandemic, it doesn’t mean the workload has reduced in any way. Having a company show they put people before profit and prioritise mental health will be a key driver for many graduates.

They want to work for a company that’s actively reducing their environmental impact

If graduates are painstakingly separating their recycling each week, using metal straws and reducing their carbon footprint, they want to know that the company they work for is doing their bit, too. It’ll take more than an annual beach clean to impress candidates too – the products, services and practices your brand undertakes need to work hard to reduce short and long-term impact. This is increasingly becoming a dealbreaker for candidates. 

Does your employer brand need to work harder to accommodate graduates?

With only 42% of students saying they feel prepared to enter the world of work, being there for them at this confusing time can help them build a stronger connection to your employer brand.

Make sure the application process is clear and uncomplicated. Don’t avoid questions about salary and progression. Have your company’s mission dominate your employer brand. They are the talent of the future, and in many cases the talent of right now too. 

How you communicate your employer brand is vast – social media, emails, videos, adverts and more. Staying on top of your messaging and adapting your creatives with a constantly moving market can be a challenge – but BAM by Papirfly™ can help you digitise your employer brand, simplify your processes and help teams create infinite promotional materials every month. 

Find out more or book your demo today.