How to get great grads (even on a budget)

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Let’s face it: it’s a candidate’s market out there today. So getting high-quality grads over the line takes a bit (just who are we kidding here? A lot) of time, effort and investment.

Enter one of GradAustralia’s Graduate Attraction Consultants, Elliot Cirkovic. He’s been at the organisation since 2020, supporting companies to attract top-notch grads from universities across Australia. Before that, he held roles in both agency and internal recruitment, including 4 years in the graduate space. And, having previously been a State / National soccer referee, he knows how to tell it how it is!

That’s why we brought Elliott in for our Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent podcast. He told us why organisations need to know (and communicate) their offering, how clever job ads can get you noticed and why authenticity matters

Competition is heating up

It’s fiery out there – and you can feel the flames ebbing closer. So what can organisations do to navigate the feverish world of graduate recruitment?

Year-round marketing

Got budget for ongoing marketing? Use it, urges Elliott. 

‘Whether you are campaigning or not, it’s [ideal to have] a year-round engagement strategy,’ he tells us. ‘Previously, it’s been very campaign-driven: employers recruit once a year and are generally quite invisible…outside of that period.’

So if your name keeps popping up (either in their feed or IRL), you’re in with a shot come recruitment time. 

How to stop the scroll: the importance of great job ads

This generation of grads has grown up with a never ending flow of content. And they certainly don’t stop for the boring bits. 

 

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‘It’s becoming increasingly important to cut through the noise,’ says Elliott, ‘and a really good starting point for that is writing exceptional job copy.

Try Elliott’s top tips for compelling copy:

  1. Tell them what they want to know straight up (remember: you’re dealing with short attention spans)
  2. Abandon the ‘copy and paste’ approach. Massive appeal from a time perspective, yes – but you’ll never stand out from the crowd by doing same old.  
  3. Understand what you’re offering – and articulate it! Students want to know what your organisation can give them. Like it or not, you’re wooing them – not the other way around.

Go for quality over quantity

The beauty of a cleverly-worded, honest job ad is that you immediately eliminate applications (less time trawling through those? Don’t mind if we do). 

Besides, it’s far better to be upfront about what the job and salary are. Telling it like it is actually means would-be employees may only apply if they think they’re right for your organisation.

In the end, you’ll see the benefits – even if it takes more time and effort to get there.

Putting together good job copy…increases your ability to run your recruitment process – and you should actually save time,’ Elliott advises. ‘And if [an organisation’s] volume [of job applications] drops and their quality stays the same, that’s a huge tick for me.’

Why organisations need to meet grads in the middle

We’re always telling candidates to take the time to tailor their job applications – so shouldn’t companies do the same when recruiting? 

Absolutely, says Elliott. And always (always) keep your audience in mind – otherwise, it’s near-on impossible finding that happy halfway point.

‘You have to take a bit of a backseat and look more objectively from a student’s perspective,’ he reminds us, ‘and figure out what they actually need to know. A piece of well-written [job ad] content can get all your points across – in not that many words.’

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Helping candidates visualise career progression

Today’s emerging talent are far too savvy to accept a blanket ‘you’re going places, champ’ kind of narrative. 

No, no, NO. They want specifics, says Elliott.

‘What skills are they going to learn in the [graduate] program? Soft skills, hard skills – whatever you want to articulate – but the core things they’re going to learn. Are there mentors? Are there buddy programs? What social initiatives do you have?

‘And then outside of that, it’s where they can go within that business,’ Elliott explains. ‘We want them to visualise moving forward…we want to show them what the possibilities are for individual students.’

And a big part of this, says Elliott, comes down to communicating company culture.

Culture is key

It’s not always easy to communicate company culture. After all, it’s more about the feel of a place, rather than anything you can easily put your finger on.

‘Some graduates need support; some don’t need as much,’ Elliott says. ‘So it’s articulating what are the standards of your business? How do you actually operate as an organisation? And – what I think is the most important thing – actually getting feedback internally from your grads and responding to that feedback.’

Asking (and listening to) grads

Whether it’s via a survey, or more informal means, feedback from grads is invaluable for organisations. 

But implementing changes based on those insights is a must.

‘You need to communicate…’this is what we’re doing about it’ so it gives the employee a sense of ownership,’ Elliott tells us. ‘And it makes them quite sticky to the business because you’re actually taking steps to do something about [their feedback].

‘Graduate programs should never stay the same,’ he adds. ‘They should always be moving with the times because generations change astronomically.’

And that, friends, is how you increase retention. Well, that and telling emerging talent what other benefits they’ll enjoy by working at your organisation. 

So…what else is on offer?

Elliott’s biggest piece of advice here is (once again) to remember to tell students what you can give them.

‘A lot of [companies] have exceptional programs, but they’re not very good at articulating them,’ he warns us. ‘If you can’t…get a student excited about wanting to [take part] in that program, it falls short and you’re doing yourself a bit of an injustice.

Again, put yourself in their shoes. A 22 year-old who’s never worked in a corporate may not actually know about the benefits you now take for granted. But those little extras can mean a lot to new grads.

‘Still mention to students ‘you get a phone, you get a laptop, we have weekly meetings’ – whatever it is,’ Elliott advises. ‘It gives them an understanding of what you’re doing as a cohort and a business.’

Other benefits will differ across workplaces, but always tell it straight.

‘The salary is one component, but what are the benefits outside of that? Work / life balance is a good thing to highlight if you offer flexible work arrangements or have 9 day fortnights,’ Elliott says. ‘I’ve got clients who have gyms, wellbeing programs, bonus structures, additional super – all these different things.’

Of course, every student is different, so play it safe by communicating everything on offer. 

‘Diversity might be a very important thing…so if you have big diversity targets, you need to articulate what you’re doing in that space,’ Elliott explains. ‘Or sustainability – that’s important to a lot of students now.’

Whatever it is, be firm about what you do welland what you’re working on. This isn’t the time to stay quiet!

Building a brand in the grad space

It’s never been an even playing field when competing for top talent. For starters, everyone wants to work for the big brands. On top of that, those well-known companies generally have far more budget to play with. 

And that’s great for those organisations. But what about the smaller outfits with slightly less clout?

Elliott says it’s about good, old-fashioned budget reviewing.

‘Budget is a big conversation we have,’ he offers, ‘and I think it comes down to going through it with a fine-toothed comb. For example, how are you advertising your program? What university relationships do you need to have? Do you need to go to physical career fairs? Do you need to post on free job boards?’

Competing with those high-profile brands is still challenging, he says, so it helps to be realistic about who you want to attract.

‘I think it’s about understanding what it is you’re offering – and actually appealing to students in comparison to what’s out there on the market,’ he explains. ‘[But] brand is a tricky thing to compete with because it comes from years and decades of building that brand.’

Many companies only want the top 1% of candidates – but there’s untapped talent out there in the other 99%. And your best bet is to be true to your company values from the outset. 

Bottom line? It has to make sense for your…bottom line.

Knowing your numbers: maximising your ROI

However tight (or titan-like) your graduate recruitment advertising budget is, it’s up to you to spend it wisely. 

You need to be able to track your return on investment and figure out what you’re actually spending,’ Elliott says decisively. ‘And if you’re investing in something that isn’t delivering what you want, you either need to reinvest in something else – or pull the pin entirely.’

The downside? At some point, you might have to have to put your hand up and admit a particular tactic hasn’t paid off. 

 

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On the upside, Elliott has this to offer: ‘The risk of being left behind is much worse [and] I think you’re in a much better position if you can own that decision.’

Moral of the story: think smarter, not bigger. 

Getting your grad programs humming 

Scouting out your next grad intake is no mean feat – but it’s worth getting right. After all, we’re talking about your future leaders here!

Know what grads are looking for and what you can offer them. Perhaps your graduate recruitment strategy needs a rejig – or perhaps you’re already hitting the mark. Wherever you’re at, your best bet is to be honest, approachable and flexible. 

For loads more of the latest advice on finding (and keeping) today’s top talent, tune into our Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent podcast series.

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