Content Marketingrecruitment marketing

The art of appealing to graduates

By January 17, 2017 No Comments

Filling a role is no mean feat. The process of advertising a position, filtering the applicants, getting people in for interviews and subsequently offering someone a contract can be long-winded and convoluted.

However, a recent piece of research suggests that successfully hiring graduates is becoming an even more difficult deed to accomplish. According to a study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) more than half (52%) of companies failed to fill all of their graduate vacancies in 2016, while around one in five job offers were rejected.

This is perhaps even more concerning given that the UK graduate jobs market shrank by 8% in 2016 when compared with the previous year. According to the AGR, the fall in the number of jobs on offer was due to many companies having financial concerns in the wake of Brexit, but regardless of there being fewer roles, still it seems graduates are not falling over themselves to snap up the positions available to them.

We at Southerly understand that there are many elements to be considered when setting out to find new members of staff. We’ve discussed the importance of content marketing, company culture and recruitment strategies a number of times, but in the wake of the ARG’s findings now seems like the perfect time to once again highlight those points.

We at Southerly understand that there are many elements to be considered when setting out to find new members of staff

It’s an employee’s market

In the years immediately following the 2008 global financial crash we found ourselves very much in an employer’s market. Financial constraints and concerns around long-term stability meant companies were reluctant to hire unless absolutely necessary; their aim was simply to survive, not grow.

With so few job opportunities available, employers were inundated with applications every time they did make the decision to bring in fresh blood, and so found they were able to cherry-pick the most attractive candidates. They could whittle away the chaff and be left with only the most exceptional applicants, safe in the knowledge that these people would be more than happy to accept an offer of employment should it be made.

This does not, however, reflect the state of the job market in 2017. Businesses are now, once again, attempting to grow. That process requires the hiring of additional employees. Unfortunately for employers, there are only so many talented individuals out there, and their skills are in high demand.

The tables have turned.

These days, individuals hold the power. No longer are jobseekers clamouring for jobs: instead, companies are battling it out to secure the very best people by making themselves more appealing than their competitors. They are being forced to woo talent by offering incentives that resonate and stand out against those proposed by rivals.

These days, individuals hold the power

What do graduates want?

Establishing your business as one that people want to work for is not a simple task. Not everyone is enamoured by the same things; what one candidate looks for in an employer may differ wildly when compared to someone else.

However, it seems there are some particular perks that appeal more than others.

Establishing your business as one that people want to work for is not a simple task

Establishing your business as one that people want to work for is not a simple task

According to Accenture, 59% of graduates would prefer to work for a company with a positive social atmosphere and receive a lower salary, rather than receive higher pay at a company they regard as dull.

Also, the ability to learn and develop is high on the agenda for most graduates. 84% say they expect to receive some form of formal training once they take on their first job, while 65% admit they are looking for an organisation that will offer on-the-job training.

Graduates are becoming increasingly clued up on what they want once they leave university

Graduates are becoming increasingly clued up on what they want once they leave university, and it’s the role of the employer to create a company culture that not only appeals, but accurately reflects the nature of the business.

There are thousands of graduate positions out there, so standing out in a way that is at once genuine and unique is something that all ambitious organisations should be making a priority.

Do graduates have concerns

Of course they do. Leaving university and stepping into the working world can be daunting, and that’s largely because graduates do not know what to expect. They are unsure if they will be able to find a role that suits them.

A 2016 study carried out by Bright Network asked more than 2,000 university students a series of questions to ascertain how they felt about the prospect of post-education life. Part of this research aimed to shine a light on their opinions about the job market, including what they regard as the major barriers that could stop them securing a graduate position.

According to the findings, the top concern is that they will face strong competition from other graduates. The second is having a lack of experience, and the third is not having any contacts within a company prior to applying.

It is your role, as the organisation looking to take on these fresh-faced individuals, to tell them what to anticipate and exactly what you are looking for. Be honest about the type of individual you are trying attract, and lay out what you can give them in terms of learning and work experience should they be offered a role.

Cutting edge and contemporary

We live in a world where being digital is a necessity, not an option. Nearly three-quarters of all graduates say they will use a mobile app to search for jobs, while social media is now regarded by graduates as the most effective way of finding a position that suits them.

We live in a world where being digital is a necessity

Embracing technology in the workplace is also something graduates regard as essential, with 76% saying they believe digital advancements will positively impact their work experience.

Being part of an organisation that is innovative and looks to the future is exciting, and that’s something regarded by many graduates as a massive incentive.

The Telegraph example

At the beginning of 2017 Telegraph Media Group launched what the company is labelling a ‘first of its kind graduate scheme’ that will give successful candidates the most ‘diverse’ and ‘modern’ set of media skills in the UK. It’s a pretty large claim, but one it seems the news organisation is able to go some way to validating.

The soon-to-be introduced scheme, which could last for as many as four years and will be available to just four fortunate graduates, will see trainees gain a place on a multimedia course run by the Press Association. It guarantees work experience positions at a range of regional titles and digital companies and will offer the option of starting a part-time master’s degree at Bournemouth University, as well as attending a world-renowned journalism course at Columbia Journalism School in New York.

Ben Clissitt, the executive editor at Telegraph Media Group, has stated his belief that such investment in graduate talent is an ‘incomparable’ approach to hiring individuals seeking an enticing position straight out of university.

The Telegraph’s bold recruitment tactics are certainly making them stand out in comparison to their competitors, which is exactly what is required in such a competitive hiring environment. Of course, not all businesses have the capacity to offer such mouth-watering schemes or training programs, but this really shows how seriously companies are taking the process of luring the world’s best candidates.

The Telegraph’s bold recruitment tactics are certainly making them stand out

The bottom line

The hiring process should begin long before an advertisement goes live. Companies must first establish their culture, put in place training schemes and programs that can benefit both current employees and future hires, and also carefully consider the type of people that can help the company grow. This can be done by designing personas, which is a process we at Southerly strongly advocate.

Nor does the hiring experience end once a graduate has signed their contract. Rather, the company should be looking to constantly assist in their development and give them opportunities to expand their knowledge. As soon as an individual comes to the realisation that they have started to stagnate, or that they have exhausted all options available to them, they may begin to eye up positions elsewhere.

Businesses should be looking to nurture employees by affording them the chance to become a significant long-term asset. Such practices breed loyalty and trust, and can lead to employees refraining from seeking pastures new a few years down the line.

Businesses should be looking to nurture employees

Innovation and forward thinking are vital, as too is ensuring all employees are respected and feel as though they are valued. By building an environment that both jobseekers and current employees want to be a part of, you’ll be putting down foundations on which you can build a successful future.

About Southerly

We are a creative content agency. We are storytellers.


WeWork Central,
30 Stamford Street,


+44 (0)20 3397 4971


All suppliers please contact us at: