Graduate influx addressed at AGR annual conferenceOn 27 Jul 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. HowHR teams will cope with the expected sharp rise in the number of graduates overthe next few years was the central theme of the Association of GraduateRecruiters’ (AGR) 31st annualconference in Wales earlier this month.Latestfigures from the University and College Admissions Service show that 450,147people applied to UK higher education institutions for entry this autumn, arise of 2.9 per cent on last year.TheGovernment hopes this number will continue to increase, so that, by 2010, halfof all qualified young people – defined as those with two A-Levels or more –enter into higher education.Havingsuch a large pool of graduates to choose from may seem like an ideal situationfor employers, but the sheer number creates difficulties, delegates at theconference heard.TheRoyal Bank of Scotland, for example, has received 25,000 job applications for400 positions over the past two years. “A scary num-ber,” admitted AdrianThomas, group resourcing manager at the organisation.Sohow do you sift through that many applications without missing out onpotentially excellent candidates?Marks& Spencer responded to the problem by moving virtually its entire graduaterecruitment process online in 2003.Sincethe move, the retailer, which received 6,000 applications for 150 graduatepositions last year, has seen the number of successful candidates going throughits assessment centres rise from 27 to 37 per cent.JohnMcElwee, graduate recruitment manager at M&S, said online recruitment hasallowed candidates to demonstrate their skills and talents in a number of ways,rather than just being able to sell themselves in an interview. Theonline system has also boosted internal efficiency, with recruitment costs downby 40 per cent, he said.However,moving recruitment online can have its pitfalls, delegates were warned.Asurvey of 4,352 organisations, presented at the conference, revealed that 25per cent of respondents had seen a “significant downturn” in applications fromwomen since moving recruitment online.Thewomen questioned in the survey – carried out by recruitment firm Barkers, CityUniversity and HR software firm Konetic – highlighted the lack of a personaltouch as a key barrier to using online tools.Thisis a common failing of many companies that are too focused on the financialsavings of online recruitment, said Mark Blythe, joint managing director ofcareers specialist GTI.“Peopleget so excited about automation-related savings that they forget about thehuman dimension,” he said. “The perception among many careers advisers andstudents is that online systems screen out applicants without giving them alook-in.”Theycan also prove troublesome for graduate recruiters themselves, said Blythe.“Line managers expect graduate recruiters to pluck candidates from thin airbecause of technology,” he said.Acomment that brought nods of agreement from more than one graduate recruiter inthe conference audience.Quotesfrom the AGR conference DavidFairhurst, HR director at Tesco Stores:“HRis ‘customer unfriendly’ in the way it deals with graduates. Unless we changethe way we deal with young people as a segment, we are going to struggle withrising graduate numbers.”ValButcher, senior adviser for employability at the Higher Education Academy:“Wewould like to see tax breaks for employers to allow proper work experienceplacements as well as dedicated staff at universities to prepare students forplacements.”HarrietKenyon, manager for the International Leadership Development Programme atmanufacturing firm GKN:“Graduatesdon’t look at things and think ‘that’s too difficult’. They just come up with asolution because they want to make their mark.”M&Sonline recruitment: How it works–Graduates applying to M&S are firstly asked to fill out an eligibilitytest, covering issues such as willingness to work certain hours.–If they fulfil the criteria, they are then asked to fill out their personaldetails before taking psychometric tests – which M&S has tested forviability over a period of three years – on ability and occupationalpersonality.–Successful candidates are then invited to schedule themselves for an interviewat a regional assessment centre – which has cut down the number of ‘no-shows’. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.