Graduate jobs
Employers must recognise if graduate recruits display a lot of self-discipline and can work hard, they will deliver regardless of inexperience. Reuters

Anyone running a business should always be thinking of forward movement, innovation and the future. A good way to do this is to bring in recent graduates and to start including and encouraging those who show leadership potential. They might well be running your business in the years to come.

Some at the top shy away from candidates who are still "green." But my message to any business leader is that someone once gave you your first opportunity, so now it's your turn to do the same. Recent graduates obviously don't yet have the experience, but if they have the right mindset then there's heaps of potential.

When I graduated, I didn't apply for a graduate job, I wrote to a number of entrepreneurs who I admired. I knew that this was the area that interested and excited me, and that I could learn the most by working with those who were successfully building brands and businesses.

I got my first job with Anita and Gordon Roddick, co-founders of The Body Shop, two remarkable entrepreneurs and very special people. They taught me a huge amount.

Time and again, I meet graduates in a similar situation and my advice is always the same; if you have a career path in mind, try and get a job alongside, or working with, people who you are going to learn a lot from.

Both business leaders and graduates need to maximise the opportunities that are offered by what is commonly referred to as "the deep end". I think that it is really good for graduates to be tasked with things that are going to challenge them. This could be anything from selling products and services to frontline customer relations, to tricky strategy issues.

Ensuring that they really understand the nuts and bolts of the business is the only way to cultivate and fast track the right kind of mindset and skills that are really needed from new recruits. Ultimately, it is the development of the right mindset that will ensure future success.

Businesses could learn a lot from the Royal Marines, where those who want to become officers have to undertake the same tough training routine as the other ranks but with one important difference, the officer cadets have to complete the assault courses and endurance challenges in a shorter amount of time.

They are very quickly pushed to their limits, learning all the same skills and perhaps more importantly earning the respect of the marines who will ultimately be under their command.

Despite the clear success that can come from including new graduates, I do understand why some managers might have initial concerns. Often it is about looking past their inexperience and rather ensuring that you are constantly reminding both yourself (as an employer) and them, of their potential and the opportunities available if they apply themselves. I do feel that it is our duty to pass on as much knowledge to new grads as we can and that it is their duty to learn and take in as much knowledge as possible.

Learning comes from making mistakes more than from early successes. Graduates who have just come out of university can have strange expectations, which might mark them out as not right for your company. Equally though, looking at it coldly, if you hire a lot of graduates, you shouldn't expect all of them to end up as super stars. The key point is that some of them will and it is this possibility that makes me, and many other business leaders, very happy to give them a go.

When graduates do emerge as superstars it is very easy to see the impact that they have made. Years ago, I worked with a brilliant graduate who had the ground-breaking idea of letting all of our clients and even our competitors advertise on reed.co.uk for free.

We called this 'freecruitment' at the time. This paid off for the graduate as much as it did the business, and the young employee was given a £100,000 bonus for this one idea which effectively transformed our internet company and catapulted reed.co.uk into a market leading position.

So, what should you be looking for in a new recruit? At this stage in my life and career, many of my friends have their own businesses and are in senior positions.

When I talk to them, I have found that those who have the most business experience are much more interested in hiring individuals with the right mindset and character. They do not usually pay particular attention to what people have studied at university. This open-minded approach is the first requirement for finding the very best talent.

Clearly if someone is doing medicine or engineering they are set on a more vocational degree but beyond this there are a wide range of degrees that can bring relevance, skills and knowledge to the tasks and strategy at hand.

One example of this is a recent trend in hiring those with degrees such as psychology, philosophy, business studies, and other humanities subjects. Often recruits from these backgrounds have the raw ability and strength of personality to really make a difference. Transferable skills are incredibly important to any company.

Most of all beyond any degree, I strongly believe that the most important thing to be concerned with is finding out if the candidate has an appetite for hard work. If someone has a lot of self-discipline and can work hard, they will achieve a lot.


James Reed is the Chairman of REED, the UK's biggest recruitment brand and the largest family-owned recruitment company in the world. He is a regular media commentator on work and labour market issues, with recent appearances including BBC Breakfast, Channel 4's Sunday Brunch, Radio 5 Live and The Apprentice.