How to Hire the Brightest Graduates for Your Business

Recruiting prospective employees straight out of university can be a great way to grow your business. Here’s how to find young talent

How to Hire the Brightest Graduates for Your Business

With a high level of ambition and training in independent work and critical thinking, a graduate can give your business a bright, fresh approach recent university graduates are a good option for a business in any sector.

This article will tell you:

  • How to find the best graduates
  • The benefits and risks of recruiting graduates
  • How to train and keep graduates

What are the considerations I should have in mind when deciding whether to employ a graduate?

While employing a graduate will mostly be a positive experience there are certain pitfalls you need to be aware of.


Their main benefits to a business are their drive and ambition – they’ll be keen to prove themselves and will probably work harder to do so. They’ll also develop a strong sense of loyalty, as it’ll most likely be their first job out of university.

Being relatively free of cynicism and bad workplace habits, they can bring a fresh approach. Of course, completing a university degree also requires some intelligence and critical thinking.


The flipside of ambition is that a graduate may not be content with a slow career progression or low level of responsibility and leave the company to pursue a fully mapped out career path. Because recruitment is seasonal, if you leave it too late to accept graduates, the best candidates may already have accepted job offers with other firms.

It can also be quite expensive to go down the graduate route as you may have to sort through thousands of applications and spend more time interviewing people who go on to accept other jobs.

What sort of graduate do I want?

Think about what kind of degrees would provide a graduate with skills that suit your business and what traits you would want a graduate to have.

Unless you’re looking for a specialist with a vocational qualification such as law you should keep an open mind when it comes to subject areas, as most degrees teach transferrable skills such as critical thinking and independent work.

Ideally you’ll be looking for a candidate with a 2:1 or above but be realistic about who you can attract. It’s not necessary to wait until final results are out before recruiting as most courses have ongoing assessment so you can make a conditional offer on what they have achieved so far.

You should also consider whether the position you’re recruiting for requires any additional skills such as a driving licence or another language and include this in the ‘person specification’ when putting out the advertisement, as well as whether the position requires ‘commercial awareness’.

How do I attract the best graduates?

The type of offer and how it’s worded are very important if you want to attract the highest calibre of graduate.

You can make your offer as attractive as possible by being really clear in terms of who you are and what you want and be sure to establish a job specification’ and ‘person specification’ before putting an ad out. Be realistic about what you can offer a graduate as they will quickly become disenchanted if the job doesn’t carry the benefits as advertised.

Offering a competitive salary is a must if you want to attract top candidates – an average graduate salary is around £20,000, though this varies by sector and region. The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) can help you find the average salary for graduates in your industry.

Working for a small business carries many advantages over a larger business and it’s important to emphasise these to potential employees. For example, the chain of command in a smaller business is much shorter, meaning new recruits will gain the chance to work with very senior people early on. More generally, a smaller company is more likely to give a graduate real responsibility from an earlier stage and make them a key member of the company.

How do I find the right graduate for my business?

With such a huge range of universities and courses in the UK, it’s important to focus on advertising to particular graduates rather than the graduate population as a whole.

Primarily you should target universities by going on the UCAS website and finding out which ones provide the courses you’re looking for graduates from. Ranking tables such as the Times World University Rankings are also useful.

You should also make yourself available to the careers service at your chosen university and tell them you have a vacancy. They can then circulate your details to potential recruits.

Developing closer relationships with local universities and getting to know the careers advisers personally would also be helpful. There may be students who have studied in the area and would like to stay there.

How do I meet graduates?

There are other ways to meet graduates than putting out advertisements on the usual channels. It’s advisable to try and make contact with talented graduates at an early stage.

Careers fairs are an excellent way of meeting letting graduates in a relaxed setting. Proper preparation is essential – make sure you have enough people to deal with enquiries and produce information booklets or sheets about your company and make sure you get your timing right: most fairs take place between November and March, and you should book by the preceding April if you hope to get a place on one. Some spaces at fairs are free, but there is often a cost – which can be up to several thousand pounds.

Another option is milk rounds, where you tour universities across the country to advertise your opportunities and recruit students. You can interview candidates on campus as part of this process; use this opportunity to shortlist people for further interview or possibly offer them an internship or work placement.

You could also try liaising with a university to organise a presentation espousing the benefits of your company. If you’ve employed graduates before, bring them along so they can discuss their experience.

Are recruitment agencies a good option?

It’s worth looking into the services offered by recruitment agencies as many of them specialise in graduates. Some simply send you CVs, while others offer pre-interviewed graduates – typically, an agency will charge around 15-25% of a graduate’s first year salary.

Recruitment agencies can also help identify the universities you should target and help you create an effective job advertisement. You can find an agency with the Association of Graduate Recruiters, or through university careers services – many of which have relationships with particular consultancies.

How do I advertise for candidates?

Advertising to graduates comes in many forms and you should choose whichever one best suits your needs.

One method is to advertise at the universities themselves by putting an advertisement on a student union bulletin board. This is usually very cheap and ensures your ad will be seen by lots of people.

You could also try advertising in student publications such as student newspapers, which offer relatively cheap advertising space. Or you could try Prospects – a UK-wide graduate newspaper handed out on campus.

Graduate jobs websites such as Milkround, Target Jobs, Adzuna and Graduate Jobs offer a good starting point, while some national newspapers publish dedicated supplements targeted at graduates. This is likely to be more expensive than student papers. If you’re in a particular industry it might be a good idea to look into advertising in trade publications.

How do I keep graduates on board?

After you’ve successfully recruited a graduate you need to make sure you keep them sufficiently motivated to encourage them to stay with you as they are much more likely than others to move on if you do not satisfy their ambition.

You could offer to assign them a mentor to oversee their development and provide them with a proper training schedule. Providing constant feedback and regular performance appraisals is a good idea as they will have come straight out of university where they were used to being evaluated with every step they took.

Increasing their salary is another way to keep them on side, but make sure this is dependent on them hitting performance targets. Giving them responsibility and delegating challenging tasks will ensure they feel a key member of the team.

1 Comment

  1. Great post, I would add that companies need to keep graduates ‘on board’ before they have even started. Even after an offer and acceptance the brightest graduates will inevitably receive further approaches and offers, so it’s important to stay close to them before they join and make them feel part of the company, for example, through invitations to events or sharing information eyc..

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