Firms offer £10,000 to lure top graduates

Golden hellos: Fresh out of university, the best students are being tempted by bonuses and share options - as well as salaries of up to £30,000
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The Independent Online

Graduate recruiters are predicting a new boom in lucrative "golden hellos" for Britain's brightest brains, as multinational firms compete to employ students from élite universities.

Graduate recruiters are predicting a new boom in lucrative "golden hellos" for Britain's brightest brains, as multinational firms compete to employ students from élite universities.

Share options and large recruitment bonuses are being offered by the major finance and consultancy firms alongside suit allowances, "settling in" payments and large interest-free loans for recruits.

Andersen Consulting, the world's biggest consultancy, announced yesterday that it was offering recruits a bonus package worth £10,000 over two years. The company, which aims to employ 650 graduates over the next year, said its offer was in response to rising graduate pay in the City, sparking predictions of a renewed "battle for talent" among the international corporate giants.

One in five graduate recruiters offer "golden hellos" or other incentives to graduates, according to a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which found that the best graduates could now command salaries of up to £30,000.

Earlier this year the Government was forced to introduce a package of training grants and "golden hellos" worth up to £10,000 to tempt graduates into teaching.

But most commercial incentives are worth less than £2,000, far below the latest offer.

Carl Gilleard, AGR's chief executive, said employers were turning to incentives to secure the best students. "At the top end of the market, the war for graduate talent is very intense because we have got a group of business who are fighting for the same students," he said.

"They are looking for the best brains; people who can make an immediate impact on the business, who will be a huge investment in terms of becoming the very senior management of the future."

He said top companies were increasingly wooing graduates, selling themselves as employers through briefings and meals at high-class restaurants. Figures published yesterday by Cambridge University careers service showed a rise in average graduate earnings to £18,760, £500 more than the national average.

But careers staff said the university's top graduates could command packages worth up to £35,000 a year, in some cases including share options and bonus payments.

Gordon Chesterman, deputy director of the service, said City employers were offering recruits equity to compete with dot.com employers who tempt bright graduates with the prospect of lucrative share options. He predicted a rise in bonuses as rival firms compete for the best talent.

He said: "The investment banks have been doing this for some time, but they offer interest-free loans, relocation allowances and settling in payments. It is often a lot cheaper for a firm to throw money at the problem rather than interview hundreds of students and advertise for jobs. When a student is made an offer that represents a considerable investment by a firm."

Steve Tatton, editor of Incomes Data Services' management pay review, said: "We do find golden hellos like this and it is being resorted to more and more."

Ian Watmore, Andersen Consulting's UK managing partner, said: "We offer opportunities and training second to none, but... in a competitive market for the best talent the financial package we offer plays an important part."

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