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Hiring the best graduate talent

School’s out and there are graduates about! Now is the time to be attracting fresh, new talent to your agency, so make sure your candidate experience is up to scratch with this advice from JourneyHR

We are seeing more and more agencies investing in hiring grads to help grow their businesses. For some of the larger agencies, grad shows are a great way to assess and attract fresh talent. Smaller agencies we have worked with have built close relationships with design courses, colleges and universities offering internships and work experience as a way of assessing people before offering them a permanent place at the table.

Finding the talent

First, you have to remember that grad fairs take place across the country – not just in London or in the top five ranked universities. It sounds obvious, but we’re always surprised at the number of agencies that write off a candidate based on where they have received their education, without even opening the portfolio.

televisor555_dreamstime_l_86274625-copyWith students facing almost £30k debt on tuition fees alone, it’s no surprise that many students pick a university close to home to save money. Others may opt for more flexible degree options that allow them to work at the same time – or maybe they just love another city or have an extra-curricular hobby that needs them to be elsewhere. As a business, are you guilty of considering the same universities or sources of talent time and time again, or disregarding alternative options? If so, your talent pool just became a talent puddle.

 

Getting noticed

Once you’ve spotted the talent, will they notice you? An agency’s culture really needs to come to life during the selection process. (This applies not just to graduates, but all your potential employees.) Agencies can no longer rely on a simple good cop/bad cop interview and expect the candidate to leap at a job offer.

jemastock-dreamstime_l_72027447-copyWith websites like Glassdoor becoming more and more popular, today’s candidates often know more about the employer than vice versa. For those agencies serious about hiring, it’s essential that the candidate experience is consistent from end to end, and that any communication has the right tone from the outset.

It’s also well worth auditing your reputation as an employer before arranging an interview. Regularly checking Glassdoor and other social media sites, spotting trends in exit interviews, and asking clients or recruiters for honest feedback is a sure-fire way to understand any challenging questions you could face and identify reputation issues you’ll want to counterbalance.

Bringing them in

More and more candidates are looking for transparency and values that fit their own. You can be sure that any excellent candidates you meet are also interviewing elsewhere, so it’s important to leave applicants with a positive impression of the agency. This is especially important when applicants come into your office. Are you actively demonstrating the values that you believe in? For example, do you boast about having the best technology, yet still ask people to sign in using a pen and paper? Do you shout about winning awards in the interview, but then hide them out of sight? Is the chance to work collaboratively touted as a key selling point, yet everyone sits silently in cubicles? Actions speak louder than words, so no matter how vibrant or creative you say you are, you’ll need to prove it if you want to make your mark.

This also means that we need to treat applicants with care and consideration even if they don’t make the cut. Make the time to get back to candidates who apply to you directly and give them feedback if you have met them face-to-face. We live in a small world and these simple gestures go a long way.

A flying start

Once a grad is on board, their training can begin – there is often a big leap from studying design to design practice and a combination of both internal and external training will be invaluable in making them an effective member of your team as swiftly as possible.

akhilesh-dreamstime_l_15469607-copyThe first question to ask is: “does the person understand their job and what is required of them?” New employees need know how the business works, as well as other people’s roles and what tools are available to help them make the most of any probation period. (Some agencies have increased the probation period from three to six months, but if an induction is thorough and the process is well managed, a decision should be clear in 12 weeks.)

Once they have this information, it’s important to put regular catch-ups and opportunities for feedback in place. These need to be two-way conversations – not only about how they are settling in, but also what additional support might they need. Investing time in their growth and development at this stage will not only reap long-term benefits, but also make for an enthusiastic, engaged employee; one that will stick around and become a real asset to your team bringing that creative flair you first noticed at the grad show, to your business.

Graduate design shows

A few shows underway and coming up: 

Until 30 June: University of the Creative Arts, Canterbury 

27 June to 5 July: Norwich University of the Arts 

5 to 6 July: D&AD New Blood, London E1

28 June to 8 July: New Designers, London N1 

24 June to 2 July: Royal College of Art, London 

 

About: Aliya Vigor-Robertson, Co-founder, JourneyHR

Aliya and her business partner Sue run an HR Consultancy called JourneyHR. They have a brilliant team of creative industry HR specialists who work with a large community of award winning clients helping them attract and retain their talent.

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