Hire the best that money can buy

How should employers react to the explosion in the number of graduates? Roger Trapp reports
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The Independent Online
Any graduate knows a degree is not what it was. This is not to say that it can be obtained any more easily. It is just that it appears to be less valuable, less of a passport to employment.

This is partly a result of the recession and the structural changes that have become bound up in it, which mean that managerial jobs are less plentiful, and probably less long-lived. But it also has a lot to do with the fact that there are many more graduates than there used to be. Degrees are no longer in short supply.

There has long been such a situation in the US, and research based on that experience has a lot to teach British graduates and their would-be employers. The research is due to be unveiled at the start of the Institute of Personnel and Development's annual conference in Harrogate today. In particular, the 125-page report Delivering the Promise by the Glasgow- based human resources consultants Yellowbrick highlights five key insights to help employers deal with the explosion in higher education provision.

Since many of the participants in the year-long project are organisations with British operations, such as IBM, Motorola, Colgate-Palmolive and Price Waterhouse, some of the trends are already appearing. But for the benefit of those without a US connection, here are five of Yellowbrick's most important lessons.

First, competition for the "best" graduates will intensify, so employers need to have a clear idea of what "best" is for them and compete to recruit such people with a strong and differentiated message.

Second, the emphasis in graduate recruitment will change from what the report terms a "get them in the door" exercise run by relatively junior staff to a strategically important process that demandsinvolvement from senior management.

Third, employers will make increasing use of targeting. Not only will they focus on key institutions - probably fewer than 10 core universities - they will also concentrate on particular courses and lecturers.

Fourth, the recruitment cycle will not follow the academic calendar as closely as previously. There are signs that recruitment timetables will be more closely allied to the needs of business than before.

Lastly, glossy graduate recruitment brochures will diminish in importance. Instead, there will be greater use of vacation jobs and sandwich placements, which will have the twin advantages of helping with increased workloads at key times and acting as extended "two-way interviews".

Colin Graham, co-author of the report, said he hoped the research would provide a base of market intelligence with insights and ideas on how to compete for talented graduates. "British companies are trying to get to grips with the new realities of the graduate labour market. The US has a head start at dealing with many similar issues and we can definitely learn from their experience," he said.

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