Employer brand

Graduate recruitment: 4 major employer branding mistakes to avoid

Mistakes are important. They help us learn, grow and improve over time. Unfortunately, many brands fall into the same bad habits in their attempts to attract, recruit and retain an evermore sophisticated wave of graduate recruits. 

At the same time, today’s graduates can access and assess potential employers more closely than ever before – researching company culture, values, career development opportunities and more in a matter of clicks.

Repeating the same mistakes with your graduate brand prevents you from engaging this fresh, hungry generation and losing top talent to your competitors. To help you better tap into the graduate talent pipeline in an increasingly fierce job market, this guide will help you steer clear of common blunders. 

As a company with years of experience empowering organisations worldwide to unleash their employer brand, below we outline 4 major graduate recruitment mistakes and our top solutions to avoid them.

Graduate recruitment statistics infographic about increased graduate applications - Source: Institute of Student Employers

Graduate recruitment mistake #1: Not understanding your audience

The core of a strong employer brand is knowing your audience. What are potential new hires looking for from an employer? What do they know of workplace culture? How do they like to be communicated with?

These questions will encourage very different answers, depending on the age, experience and background of whom you ask. A graduate fresh out of university or college will have different wants, ambitions and tendencies than someone who has worked for 2 or 3 decades.

So, to ensure you connect with the next generation of candidates, you must tailor your employer brand strategy to meet their expectations. And for that to succeed, you must understand what Generation Z wants from employers.

What do today’s graduates look for in an employer brand before applying?

Today’s graduates are firmly Gen Z, a generation that is estimated to make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025. They’re as digitally-driven as it gets – the first generation that doesn’t recall a time before the Internet was widely available.

As such, how Gen Z consumes content and judges an employer’s reputation is far removed from those who came before them. They are hypervisual, resilient and less entitled – and have preferences that modern organisations must prioritise in their graduate recruitment campaigns:

Gen Z recruitment and workplace stats around identity, work-life balance, remote working, diversity, values and environmental impact - Employer brand infographic

Gen Z candidates want transparency over salary

While Gen Z is less single-minded on salary than past generations, they still want to be paid fairly and well. 65% of Gen Z candidates say that pay transparency is one of their biggest motivators for applying for a job, so you should make this prominent in any job descriptions and adverts you share.

Gen Z candidates care about workplace diversity and inclusion

Today’s graduates prioritise a diverse, inclusive work environment more than generations before. According to research by Monster, 83% of Gen Z candidates say a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion influences who they apply to, and 69% are more likely to apply to jobs where the employer branding reflects an “ethnically and racially diverse” workforce.

Beyond this, graduates also have strong feelings toward sustainability efforts, environmental practices and social responsibility initiatives, and want to work for companies whose values align with their own.

Gen Z candidates are tech-savvy

Gen Z has been brought up on smartphones and social media, so employers must focus on these devices and channels to reach graduates on their level. But beyond this, Gen Z also cares about the quality of technology they’ll use in their job – 70% of these employees would leave a current role for one offering better technology.

Gen Z employees statistic stating that 70% would leave their current role for one offering better technology compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers - Source: Adobe

Gen Z candidates want flexibility

Work-life balance is one of the major concerns of graduate recruits. Gen Z candidates are 77% more likely to check a vacancy that mentions “flexibility” than one that doesn’t, while 72% of Gen Z employees have either left or considered leaving a job because their employer didn’t offer a flexible work policy.

Gen Z candidates want to learn and grow in a role

Finally, Gen Z is conscious about upskilling and evolution. 67% of younger recruits want to work for companies that actively teach skills to advance their careers, so promoting learning and development programs in your employer branding is a powerful incentive for today’s graduates.

Graduate recruitment statistic - 76% of Gen Z employees believe upskilling is key to career advancement - source: LinkedIn

The solution? Tailor your graduate recruitment strategy

Taking what we know about graduates, Gen Z and their employer preferences, you should use this to craft a distinct employer branding separate from your other campaigns.

For example, graduate recruits typically want to see diversity and inclusivity, so ensure the imagery of your campaigns makes this immediately apparent. They want career development opportunities? Dedicate a whole section to this on your recruitment website or brochures.

By tailoring your graduate brand around this audience’s priorities – adjusted according to your specific industry and company values – you are far more likely to leave a positive impression on top candidates.

Graduate recruitment mistake #2: Failing to use the right marketing channels

As mentioned earlier, Gen Z is the most tech-savvy generation to date (until Generation Alpha enters the workforce in a few years). Old-school approaches to promoting roles and your overall employer brand are becoming less and less effective – advertising in newspapers is hardly effective when 46% of graduates apply for jobs on their mobile phones.

Where you promote your employer brand is just as crucial as how you promote it, so you must consider the right channels to get your message across.

Social media is a standout example. 95% of the UK’s leading recruiters in The Times’ Top 100 Graduate Employers utilise social media in their talent attraction efforts, while over 50% of college grads use LinkedIn to research graduate job opportunities.

73% of job seekers aged 18 to 34 found their last job through social media - Employer branding and recruitment statistic - Source: Aberdeen Group

Videos are another powerful tool to connect with graduates. With Gen Z having grown up on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, video content stands out as a powerful way to communicate your messages in a way they actively enjoy.

But these aren’t the only ways to successfully reach modern graduates – also consider:

  • Creating a dedicated portal or page on your website dedicated to graduates, highlighting the perks and information that resonates with them
  • Attending university career fairs and campus engagement events, where your representatives can speak to interested candidates one-on-one
  • Developing graduate internship programs that allow them to understand your company culture and help you assess their potential
  • Using online job platforms such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster and more that graduates readily turn to when seeking out opportunities
  • Distributing brochures and leaflets at local universities and colleges to offer something different and more personal to today’s digitally-centred recruits

Furthermore, make use of your existing employees where possible. Younger candidates are far more likely to believe the experiences of a current employee when researching an employer than the employer themself.

 Employee advocacy - 66% of job candidates want to hear more from a company’s employees - Source: Workleap

Clever usage of employee testimonials, interviews and videos on your recruitment feeds can help graduates truly understand your work environment, and inspire graduates to examine your opportunities more closely.

But this poses a problem – with so many social networks, forums and channels you can use to reach graduates, how do you maintain an active presence on these while staying within time and budget limitations?

Investing in a powerful employer brand platform can empower your teams to produce high-quality assets for all potential digital and physical channels remarkably quickly. With smart, predefined branded templates, your teams can produce content faster for every touchpoint, giving you greater coverage for your graduate recruitment for much less effort.

 Papirfly success story - How IBM achieves brand consistency across their global recruitment campaigns with the Papirfly employer branding platform

Graduate recruitment mistake #3: Inconsistent branding

Today’s job-seeking graduates know the importance of protecting their own online presence. 70% of employers use social media to screen potential hires, so top recruits understand they must keep a clean, unproblematic image on their profiles.

Similarly, modern companies must take the same sensible approach to communicate a clear, unified and consistent image across every recruitment channel they use.

Think of your employer brand as your promise to potential recruits and existing employees. Any inconsistency or deviation in this image can quickly erode the confidence and trust of your audience. This costs you applications and sends top candidates to your competitors.

 Consistently presented brands are 3-4 times more likely to have excellent brand visibility - Source: Marq

What causes breaks in brand consistency? There are multiple reasons, but some of the most common include:

  • Departments and locations working in silos, resulting in individuals misusing your graduate brand or making errors, which over time will cloud your brand’s identity
  • An overreliance on external agencies, who are not as closely tied to your employer brand, causing misinterpretations
  • An abundance of recruitment channels can cause inconsistencies to creep in – having one look on your website and another at a campus presentation can create a disconnect

You never want potential candidates to get the wrong impression of your mission, values and company culture, or perceive your employer brand as chaotic or disorganised. Brand consistency is key to building trust, so how do you maintain this?

A central home for your employer brand guidelines

Establishing a distinct online destination for everything that dictates your employer branding – brand guidelines, colour palettes, your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) – means everyone responsible for producing your campaigns can refer to this whenever necessary.

Developing a true brand hub keeps your content consistent and aligned according to your core identity.

A single source of truth for your digital assets

Next, investing in Digital Asset Management (DAM) can give your teams worldwide access to a dedicated library of approved, on-brand assets, imagery, videos and beyond.

Again, this provides a single source of truth for your graduate recruitment collateral, so your campaigns never deviate from your brand message.

A collection of locked-down design templates

Using templates does more than accelerate asset creation; it also ensures certain elements such as your logo, design elements and imagery are formatted correctly on every new asset produced.

This provides a robust framework for your teams to work within, and means they can adapt content inside these bounds to translate your employer brand to local markets.

Having these as part of one comprehensive brand management solution boosts your efforts to attract top talent across the globe.

 Discover how to translate your employer brand for local markets - Link to Papirfly guide

Graduate recruitment mistake #4: Having a poor onboarding process

Imagine this – you’ve successfully attracted a hungry, motivated graduate to your team, and they passed their interview with flying colours. The hard work ends there, right?

Wrong. The recruitment process may be over, but your graduate brand must still work hard to nurture a sense of belonging within your latest recruit.

Especially because Gen Z is a generation of job-hoppers. 83% of Gen Z employees describe themselves this way, while over 22% of workers aged 20 and older spent less than a year at their jobs in 2022.

Retaining top talent for the long term is a persistent challenge, and starts with your onboarding process. This sets the tone for new arrivals, and a negative experience can instantly have them eyeing the exit door.

79% of employees say onboarding programs help them integrate and understand company culture - Source: Talmundo

Poor onboarding experiences may also hinder your efforts to attract graduates in the future if someone shares their negative experience online. On the opposite end of the scale, a positive onboarding experience is estimated to improve retention rates by as much as 82%.

So, what steps can you take to enhance your hiring process with effective onboarding?

Establish company mentors and “work buddies”

Entering the workplace is a daunting prospect for many graduates. Providing a mentor or buddy can help them ease into this transition and allow them to settle in far sooner.

Plus, it helps build a community within your organisation, providing your graduate hires with reassurance and familiarity from the outset.

 87% of organisations say a buddy system speeds up new hire proficiency
 - Source: Enboarder

Provide everything they need from day one

No new employee wants to arrive on their first day flustered about what they’re doing or where to go. Ensure new hires feel comfortable from the get-go by preparing everything they need to get started, including:

  • Setting up their workstation
  • Printing off all required paperwork
  • Organising all login details and entry cards they need
  • Presenting them with a schedule or calendar
  • Creating a dedicated employee handbook

Invest in introductory videos

As we highlighted earlier, Gen Z is much more accustomed to video as their preferred form of content. Creating accessible, repeatable videos that explain your company culture and your new hire’s responsibilities helps them understand your business sooner, while allowing your existing employees to focus on their tasks.

Introduce new hires to relevant training programs

Finally, demonstrate that you’re invested in their career development by setting them up with training programs and courses related to their work.

By giving new hires access to these learning courses, they will feel more empowered to deliver for your organisation. Your company benefits from a more motivated, skilled employee, while they form a more positive impression of your brand.

 Papirfly employer branding infographic - 4 ways to improve graduate onboarding

Support your company’s future with a great graduate brand

Your graduate brand is an integral part of your organisation’s long-term strategy. Ensuring you can consistently attract, engage and appeal to the next generation of candidates is key to a sustainable, lasting workforce – so it’s vital you get your campaign execution right.

By dodging the mistakes above, you go a long way to stealing a march on your competitors to seal the services of top, up-and-coming talent. Applying the techniques and strategies we’ve outlined, coupled with effective brand management software and a solid recruitment team, you can keep yourself firmly in the focus of young, aspirational job seekers.

If your talent acquisition challenges extend beyond your graduate recruits, find more excellent tips to attract and retain top professionals in our ultimate guide to employer branding.