How scoffing at students could hurt your business in the long run

In a country as small as Ireland, it pays to be nice when you’re recruiting graduates.

By Ruairi Kavanagh Editor, GradIreland

WITH THE IRISH economy set to reach full employment, the recruitment landscape has shifted in favour of those with skills who are looking to enter the workforce.

Yet how can employers make sure they are getting the right skills for their organisation and how can graduates best educate themselves in a constantly evolving world of work?

Throughout the employment landscape, there is a consensus that we are at a point of major disruption and transition between a past of job security and stability, and a future where dynamic job roles and continuous learning are key to a successful economy.

While many acknowledge this major transition, not everyone is fully prepared for what will it will require.

In some countries – like Germany or Singapore, for example – an increasing number of employers are focusing on apprenticeships as a way of ensuring young people are equipped with job-ready skills.

Meanwhile, Denmark is creating ‘roadmaps’ to show employees how their jobs will evolve and what they will have to do to make the transition.

While students generally understand the concept of ‘employability’, they can become frustrated by jobs that don’t clearly define what is involved and where that particular role can take a graduate.

Employers increasingly speak of the value of soft skills, yet most job descriptions are still quite rigid and traditional in terms of how the roles are described.

According to surveys conducted by Gradireland, most employers say they’re increasing the number of graduates they hire, yet roughly three in five graduates are worried about their future careers.

What’s more, many employers say they experience significant challenges hiring the graduates they want, which highlights a fundamental disconnect between the two sides.

With that in mind, if you’re looking to hire graduates over the coming months, here are some tips about what you should and shouldn’t do:

Don’t rush to judgement

According to the American Society of Human Resource Management, most hiring decisions are made a little over four minutes into a job interview, but rushing to such a hasty judgement with a student or graduate recruit can be a mistake.

When you advertise for graduate roles, many of the candidates may not have any prior experience of the recruitment process. They don’t always know how to show what they can offer. “How is that my problem?” you may ask.

I’m not saying that first impressions don’t matter, but don’t mistake nervousness as a sign that they can’t do the job.

What’s more important is honesty and the ability to listen, to collaborate and to develop. So it pays to give students some space to shine. A good idea is to meet at careers events where the atmosphere is more informal.

You can talk more openly about what you’re looking for and the student is more likely to engage with you.

We work with a lot of companies to set up skills workshops or speed mentoring sessions at these events, which gives the graduate the opportunity to show you what they are made of and what they still need to learn. You’re in a better position to make a judgement then.

Value transferable skills

Talk to a graduate to find out what they have done that could transfer well into your business. This could be a project or assignment which displayed an ability to tackle challenges outside the particular subject they studied.

Maybe they’ve done some work experience or an internship with another company in your area that could give you more insight?

There is always more beneath the surface than you think. Ask them to send you a link to a portfolio or a presentation they have made; it’s a great way of making a more informed judgement of their skills.

It’s nice to be nice

While everybody needs to take correction and learn from it, there is nothing to be gained from being wilfully dismissive of a graduate who is friendly, open and enthusiastic. Likely, you were once that person.

If someone has an interest in your business and has done their research, they are worth having a polite conversation with, even if you do not believe they are the right fit for your business.

While it may not have an immediate impact, unnecessary things like abrasive or dismissive emails – or indeed not replying at all – can do damage to your brand in the eyes of students and jobseekers.

If students come to talk to you, they are likely to be seeking a career in your industry, or a closely related one, which in a country like Ireland can mean that paths cross again.

The graduate recruitment process, whether through campus, fairs or recruitment drives, can in many instances be exhausting and draining for both sides – there’s nothing to be gained from being impolite.

Ruairi Kavanagh is editor of Gradireland, which hosts a live event for students and graduates at the RDS Dublin tomorrow from 12pm. Tickets are free and available online.

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