The Advantages of Hiring a Graduate… and How to Spot a Good One!

7th November 2018

Despite usually a large amount of applicants, filling a junior position can actually be more challenging than most – how do you know what to look for when your candidates don’t have experience?

Abi Leigh from Manchester based marketing and creative recruitment company takes a look at the ins and outs of graduate recruitment for us.

The safer option is to hire a candidate with a few years experience, however that isn’t always the best option. There are many advantages to hiring a graduate, the most obvious being that they are cheap. Their salaries are lower and they are more willing to work flexibly (in return for good experience and training, though) which are clear pros. However – these things are irrelevant if they are not capable of doing the job. The REAL benefits of hiring graduates are as follows:

  • Graduates are excited. They are ready to make an impact; they have fresh ideas that have come from an outside view of not only your company but the industry too. That is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, fresh eyes can give you an insight you were missing, and an advantage over your competitors.
  • They are a clean slate. This is likely to be their first “real” job so they haven’t picked up bad habits or contrasting ways of working, they can come into your company and adapt to your working culture in a way that someone who is used to a different system cannot do as easily.
  • Graduates are no stranger to hard work and long hours. Millennials can get a bad rep for ‘having things easy’, but in reality we’re in a world where having a degree is no longer enough. Most (good) graduates will have spent the last 3 or 4 years of their life balancing their course, a part-time job, and voluntary work experience. That means there is no such thing as a ‘working week’ for students, Saturday and Sunday are exactly the same as every other day of the week. Students work harder than they’re given credit for, so hiring a graduate means you’re likely hiring someone who’s no stranger to a bit of hard work and graft.

The key word that is associated with graduates is risk. Hiring a graduate can be a big risk, sometimes it pays off – but sometimes it doesn’t. Here is our guide on what to look out for when interviewing graduates:

– Someone who can eloquently explain how they got to where they are, why they made the choices they did and what their goals are. Why did they choose their course? Why did they pick the modules they did? Where did they decide to do a placement and why? If the answer suggests it’s because it was the easy option, or because it’s what everybody else did, then that is a big warning sign. If they can tell you their goals, how they’ve worked towards them, and how their decisions have influenced their progress – chances are they know what they want (meaning if they accept your role, you know it’s a job they are genuinely passionate about and will therefore work hard at) and they have shown they know how to work hard and achieve a goal.

– Be very wary of how candidates explain work they did as a team. Often, particularly in practical courses, students are required to complete projects in groups. If they cannot explain what they did as an INDIVIDUAL then it’s possible that they coasted off the back of other students. But remember – they’re new to work and interviews so they could just be nervous or not wish to come across as arrogant, so if they do say ‘we’ a lot, question them further and find out how much of a role they played as an individual. If they can’t answer that, then probably best to steer clear.

– How much relevant work experience do they have? Students are usually actively encouraged to source placements during their time at university, either as part of the course or as extra curricular. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but how much work they did off their own back is generally a good indicator of both their work ethic and their passion for their career.

  • Another good indicator is how well they can manage their time. As previously mentioned, it’s likely they will have had to balance university, a part-time job, and work experience… so find out HOW they managed to do it. How good are they at managing their time? How did they organise their schedule? You’re looking for them to be able to address the list of things they have to do that day, and being able to prioritise the most important tasks.

Hiring a graduate is only a risk if you don’t know what to look out for. A lack of experience isn’t always a bad thing – yes a graduate may take a little bit longer to train, but often what you get in return is loyalty; hard work; and good results.