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Early CareersBeing thriftily creative is a necessary skill these days as budgets tighten and expectations rise. Recruitment is certainly not exempt from this trend and the average cost of recruiting a graduate is on the rise, which means smart-recruiting is a must.

As you know, time and money are important resources for big and small recruiters and need to be used wisely. Algorithms are being used more and more to increase efficiencies but the average cost to recruit a graduate is still high at £9,338 (AGR.) I’ll be exploring ways in which you can reduce your cost per hire using my almost 20 years’ experience and help you become a smart recruiter.

I co-founded Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) in 1997. GRB is a recruitment agency with a purpose based on graduates helping other graduates launch their careers and reach their potential. Since then my team of experts have transformed businesses, big and small, across the world by sourcing high calibre Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates. The lessons I have learnt from these various recruitment assignments across a broad spectrum of industries has put me in the fortunate positon to distil leading best practice for our own recruitment strategy.

Graduate recruitment is central to our ethos. We believe the right graduates can inject enthusiasm, fresh ideas, new blood, critical thinking, the latest knowledge and, over time, can lead the organisation forward. Little or no experience is an advantage. We wanted raw recruits starting their career so we could develop them to our style of business. Our vision for our own internal recruitment policy has been to stay true to these beliefs and practice what we preach. We successfully achieved our recruitment objectives through fa variety of channels but the following six were key.

1. Local Universities

To start, we made the easiest step by contacting our local Universities – Brighton and Sussex. We mapped out all the influential people who could help us get in front of potential recruits and made appointments with the following departments.

Careers Service – We have worked with Brighton and Sussex University Careers Service for 18 years, having regular meetings with the Heads of Service. We run workshops and attend both the Fresher’s Fair and the annual Careers Fair.

Business Studies Course Department-I contacted my old lecturers, course leaders and tutors and as a result we were invited to do talks and participate as judges on a Dragons Den style event twice a year. We also provide an annual cash prize for the top Business graduate awarded during graduation.

Alumni Association -We were invited through Brighton Alumni Association to make presentations to Business students on our story as local entrepreneurs. We used the social media opportunities provided by the Association to contact recent graduates.

Enterprise Network:BeePurple is the University of Brighton’s enterprise network and enabled us to reach entrepreneurial students from diverse backgrounjds. We provided sponsorship for events such as the Santander University of Brighton Enterprise Awards.

KTP: In conjunction with the university’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), we embarked on an innovative two year technical project involving the assistance of an MSc. graduate from Brighton University. This part government-funded scheme has proven to be a great exercise to forge yet another link with a local university and provide expertise for a specific initiative.

Mentoring Programme: We were keen to work with students on a one-to-one basis and also engaged with the Brighton University Mentoring Programme in 2014.

Result: We have hired more graduates from Brighton and Sussex Universities than any other.

2. National University Relationships

From our success with local Universities we scaled up our efforts to include activities with over 30 different Universities across the UK. This took more resource and time but has been instrumental in our commitment to target the best graduates the UK has to offer and fuel our growth.

Result: Our first hire was a Spanish graduate from the University of Bristol in 1997.

3. Talent Pipeline

In 2011, we decided to recruit a student for a year’s sandwich placement and have successfully hired four students from Portsmouth, Birmingham, Plymouth and Sussex Universities. In 2015, we launched an Internship programme to give seven students from Sussex, Oxford, Manchester, Bristol, Warwick, Durham and Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg a flavour of recruitment and begin long term relationships. We aim for them to act as ambassadors for GRB and enable us to reach new pools of talent at their Universities. We also hire local school children for work experience.

Result: One of our interns enabled us explore the graduate recruitment market in Germany from her base in Berlin.

4. Referrals

Are you aware of American sociologists Mark Granovetters theory of weak ties? His research revealed the value of personal connections in finding employment but not through close friends but acquaintances. This provided a perfect basis to ask our staff to advertise roles through their social circles giving us access to an untapped resource.

Result: One of the current Directors was an acquaintance I had from when I did my first graduate job in 1995. He has been with the company for over 13 years.

5. Professional Associations and Accreditations

We also joined professional associations to reach newly graduated candidates and have been active with the AGR, Chartered Institute of Marketing and CIPD at a local and national level.

Result: Achieving Investors in People accreditation in 2014 helped our candidate attraction and retention.

6. Social Media

Access to more potential recruits has mushroomed with social media and this has enabled us to increase our exposure especially through Facebook and LinkedIn which has played a part in influencing potential recruits.

Result: We made a hire directly through LinkedIn and she has brought in new clients like Decathlon and Avios.

From the two original founders in 1997, we now have around 60 staff who are all graduates across our offices in Brighton and London. They were all recruited using the above model. It has enabled GRB to grow steadily, remain profitable, be flexible and come through a double dip recession. Our reputation built over 19 years has made attracting new hires easier, especially with the opening of our London office in 2013. Looking to the future, we plan to expand globally and have begun researching the graduate market abroad.

Key learning points

Don’t rely on one method. A blend of offline and online works better. Partnerships with your local University is key and helps you scale up from there to others as your company grows. Of course, other SMEs will need to adapt their strategy and technique to factor in industry, location, resources and target market.

Don’t let budget get in your way. We took the long view that graduate recruitment was an investment in our future, and whilst careful with our finances, we also looked at other resources we could provide, especially our time, getting involved with students on the ground.

Maximise your investment. Whilst retention of key staff is important the reality is that some will leave. Training, development and reducing churn through succession planning and a strong talent pipeline are then vital to maintain momentum within your business and extract maximum value from your graduate hires.