In January 2015, recruiters working alongside the Top 100 Graduate Employers were anticipating an 8% rise in graduate intake compared to the previous year. The reality is that the annual increase was only 3.3% as over 1,000 graduate positions were left unfilled with applicants choosing to either delay their place or renege on the agreement completely.
Where did all this talent go?
Every year thousands of educated and globally connected graduates leave university and enter a discrepant environment where they are overwhelmed with opportunity, yet fettered by debt, housing and lack of vocational experience.
The graduate market is raw talent unsure of who to trust with their key initial career choices. More than ever, companies need to offer graduates more than just a salary and a job title. But how do they do that? Graduates need full reassurance that this company truly believes in them and can offer fulfilment and empowerment both inside and outside of the office.
For a student in their final year, it is difficult to imagine what life is like inside of a large, global company. But this challenge is understandable, how can a brand that operates on a global scale offer a candidate a sincere view of their company culture when it is so diverse and inhabited by thousands of people?
Large companies are very aware of this; with 61% of employers believing that one of their main obstacles for the upcoming year is to improve the student perception of their brand. Whether it is through gamification or a new, rapid application process, companies are opening up to the idea that there is a new type of applicant out there.
For students and graduates, a company is a brand and the job application process, or transaction, is becoming identical to ordering a pizza, or buying a pair of trainers or even organising a taxi.
The balance is changing; companies need to persuade students that they are the right fit as much as students need to persuade them that they are qualified.
If companies want to approach students and graduates disillusioned by the job market then they need to go to them and join the conversation with a new approach. Social media is offering employers the chance to rebuild trust and approach graduates in a far more salient way.
Last year alone, three-fifths of Top 100 companies conceded that they had decided to put more emphasis on social media. However, most don't know how to begin the conversation once they get there.
HR managers need to talk with the graduates they have hired in the past, collect their experiences and translate this into sincere, honest stories to then host online across their social media streams.
The challenge is to engage with potential applicants on the platforms where they spend their time, with content that is accessible and creative. To be a part of the graduate conversation it is integral to present your brand in a positive, congenial way to encourage the graduate audience to not only interact with it themselves, but also share it with their own peer group and across all of their channels.
Social media facilitates casual stalking, it allows people to learn a lot about someone they connect with and receive large amounts of information at once. As a result, this habit is slowly moving its way into the job search. The easier you are to find as a company, the more applications you will receive and, conversely, the more anonymous you are the less candidates you will receive who are genuinely invested in your opportunities and company values.
To attract graduate talent, companies need to look internally before looking externally. They desire graduates that fit the profile of the employees they already have. This effectively means that their strongest advertising tool is sitting right next to them.
HR managers need to talk with the graduates they have hired in the past, collect their experiences and translate this into sincere, honest stories to then host online across their social media streams. With this a company will find candidates that really match the culture they have spent so long trying to cultivate.
The 18-24 demographic trusts their own peer group, and if their peer group can convince them their company is the place to be then that holds significantly more weight than hearing it from a CEO or director.
Without property or equity, their profession becomes their asset and the fulfilment they garner from their work is what drives them.
So, where did all the graduates go? The more relevant question to ask is; where didn't they go? Millennials are placing increasingly more weight on to their professional choices. Without property or equity, their profession becomes their asset and the fulfilment they garner from their work is what drives them. This new well-connected generation of graduates are becoming more open to companies that acknowledge the way their relationship with candidates has evolved.
Companies, or brands, that are aware of their cultural fabric, and can articulate their business story; their individual stories and their company mission are getting ahead in the graduate recruitment market. Graduates want companies that can offer more than a salary and job title, they want companies to offer a lifestyle and an experience. The way to achieve this is by rendering the context through the personal and trusting that the people behind the company have a voice that speaks louder than the company name itself.
Nathan Ouriach is Head of Creative for a Manchester based start-up called GradTouch; an agency predicated on bridging the gap between students, graduates and the employers looking to hire them.