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A beginner's guide to recruiting graduates

11 / 08 / 2023Dan Doherty

How to recruit graduates & students 

Thinking of recruiting graduates? Read on to discover the benefits of hiring graduates, where you can find them, and how to attract them.


The benefits of hiring graduates

Graduate recruitment can be a critical aspect of an organisation's growth and success. Hiring talent at this level can inject new ideas, energy, and skills into a company, fostering innovation and driving progress. In this blog post, we will explore the key aspects of graduate recruitment, including effective strategies, hiring tips, and creating impactful recruitment campaigns.

Over 350,000 students graduate from undergraduate courses annually, with the employment rate for working-age graduates now at nearly 87% in the UK. Thousands of employers across the country recruit graduates as a core element to their talent strategy, often called Early Careers, Emerging Talent, Future Talent, Entry-Level or Campus Recruitment.

Graduates can bring many benefits to an organisation:

  • fresh ideas and enthusiasm
  • digital-nativity and new skills
  • pliancy and succession planning
  • affordability and ROI


Before you start... research the market

Before you look at where and how you can attract future talent, you’ll want to understand your audience in terms of who they are, where they are and how they engage with your sector and companies like you.

You could run an expensive recruitment campaign but see it underperform through lack of data to feed in to the top end of the marketing funnel. GTI’s student market research consultancy, Cibyl, helps employers to take data-informed action to support, hire and develop the next generation of talent in their organisation.

Cibyl data looks at Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion characteristics, demographics, location, year group, values and skills, and gathers feedback on perceptions of your brand and industry. Combine this with insights into which audiences prefer which type, frequency and channel of engagement, and you’ll be able to develop a robust multi-stranded targeting strategy which meets your audience’s needs and expectations.


When to hire

Cyclical approaches are commonly adopted by larger employers when it comes to graduate recruitment. Annual recruitment cycles are still a common default practice in our sector with employers syncing demand plans, induction and development programmes with the standard education timetable. The ‘milkround’ season runs from September to November, with firms condensing their attraction and engagement strategies into a competitive and busy period. This approach makes it easier to plan budgets, headcount requirements and technology implementation and the system works for suppliers, careers teams and students themselves – as in they're all in sync with an annual repetitive loop.

However, SMEs often find more agile approaches serve better when it comes to hiring talent. This can mean relying on RPO or agency support to generate interest and applications as and when needed. GTI Recruiting Solutions, for example, can support any element of a recruitment campaign, from a small screening project to a large multinational campaign. This more flexible approach can see benefits in terms of early adopter partnerships and even early adopter prices.


Where can you find graduates and how can you attract them?

Attraction strategies are about how you, as an employer, can find your talent and the channels to do so. Whereas engagement (the subsequent step) is what you do once you’ve got their attention. This is often where the employer branding content and narrative plays a part in convincing prospective applicants to become candidates in your process.

Attraction can include face-to-face, online and hybrid strategies.  Some key approaches are outlined below.



Universities / Job Fairs – These are great for activating your brand to a broad audience or a more targeted one when focused on a faculty/industry. Some companies will use registration details to build into their candidate communications and nurture or alert them in the subsequent weeks and months.

You’re likely going up against many employers in the same industry and, in some cases, regionally, so make sure your representatives are fully briefed on your USPs, Employer Value Proposition (EVP) and reason for being there on the day.

Pop-Up Events – You could work with a faculty or students’ union to hire out a place on campus to engage with footfall and provide 121 conversations, gather research or hand out branded merchandise. Make it clear on approach why a student would stop to speak and what’s in it for them.

Sports Clubs & Societies - Societies are a great way to raise awareness of your brand and opportunities with large, targeted groups of students. These can be on campus per university, by topics, interests, or identity – such as environmental, computer science or black heritage. These societies aren’t limited to universities. Further afield there’s broader industry memberships regionally and nationally.

You can engage with these audience through mailers, newsletters, events, shout outs, or social media. They know what works for their members, and they can advise you on how best to target them. However, although effective, they can be quite expensive so do try to justify your spend with engagement and tracking ROI.

Guest Lectures – This is a good way to target specific students you’re looking to attract, with their full attention and an element of exclusivity. It’s important do your research on which universities and courses to target by size, curriculum, and time of the day.

You could look at presenting some interesting trends in your industry or show the application of theory, linked to the curriculum. Subtly you can sell the expertise your company has and indirectly show you’re keen to hire people in the audience. Although do remember you’ll need to dedicate time to preparing, travelling, and delivering.

Employability Skills Sessions – There may be particular skills you want your graduate hires to have, so what better way to add value and heighten your brand’s reputation than giving something practical and useful to students? This could be collaborating with other local employers on a set topic like communication, or even delivering mock Assessment Centres to put students through their paces. CV surgeries and interview tips are other ways you can provide value to students.

Faculty/ Careers Service Engagement – You could look at targeting specific students via careers services or academic contacts within your target/local university departments. Careers advisors and academics may refer individual students who may have already expressed an interest in your industry sector or send an email to students about your opportunities, events and other engagement.

Paid Internships – Hiring interns to work for weeks, months or even a full year, allows you to reap the benefits of brand advocates back on campus, helping to raise the awareness of your brand. Many firms use internships as a way to offer graduate roles sometimes a full year or more in advance – which brings down their time to hire and cost per hire.

An additional by-benefit of this is new intern-turned-graduate joiners who can hit the ground running on day one, making the induction process much quicker and easier for you.



Brand Ambassadors – These can act as extension of your team, helping to share your messages online or verbally and visually on campus. They can promote your upcoming presence on campus as well as run events and hand out merchandise. Ambassadors have the added benefit of bringing you intel on local trends as well as referring possible applicants to your positions. Some firms even use these opportunities to provide a candidate pipeline for their graduate programmes and roles.

PR – Positive press coverage on things you’re doing around diversity and inclusion policies, attention to societal issues and environmental pledges will no doubt appeal to students. Similarly, if you’ve won awards for being a leader in your field you will find it much easier to hire students interested in that area.

Sponsorship – This could range from supporting course fees of underrepresented groups you’re trying to recruit into your company or sector, through to events, societies, guides and more, that you can synonymise your logo and brand towards. This is a great way to make a statement to your audience of your intent and belief in the activity you’re associating with.

Note: this doesn’t always have to be monetary based, it could be dedicating time, resources and tangible items like technical kit or use of offices for students.

Competitions – Offering students a chance to compete for prizes such as mentoring, monetary prizes and work experience/roles, will showcase your brand to students who’re keen to demonstrate their skills to you. These can be run as online assessments, video presentations or face-to-face finals, hosted on campus or in your offices.

Employer Events – You could host events online through webinars or onsite in your office and invite students to come to listen to current graduates as well as senior managers – gaining an insight into what it’s like to work at your company. These events can take some organising and may need some light budget – but you’ll likely experience great conversion rates from attendance to application and then into hires and retention.

Partner events - You can also get involved in third party events. For example, targetjobs runs specialist events such as IT’s not just for the boys, Future Female Engineers, Inspire and Aspire which are all focused on underrepresented groups and offer employers the opportunity to become an event partner, contribute to the content, and meet highly engaged students to develop a pipeline of talent for their organisation.



University Careers Platforms - Posting your roles on university careers service platforms is another way to show students you are a credible employer. Most careers portals are easy to access and some can even feature your ad or send it out as via email to those who have opted in. GTI’s targetconnect platform enables you to reach all/any of our partner universities with one-click, saving your team’s much-valued time to be focused elsewhere.

Job Sites – There’s many job sites and aggregators out there for volume, regions, diversity-targeted groups, and many other focuses. The site most used by graduates (according to High Fliers) is targetjobs which, alongside gradireland (its sister platform in Ireland), also offers careers advice and guidance, provides online learning opportunities and hosts events with leading employers.

Social Media – Good organic content shared by your brand’s social team and especially your colleagues can really showcase an employer’s EVP. This can be the people, culture, environment, industry presence, perks of the company and staff satisfaction.

Programmatic Ads however, go deeper into the feeds and eyeballs of your target audiences who may not currently follow you. This allows you to broaden your following but provide a more direct narrative to prospective candidate networks. TikTok and Instagram lead the way for Gen Z usage and receptiveness for seeing careers related content.


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