Give Grads A (Fair) Go

As the new year kicks in and business starts to wake up to 2017, what is typically a slow, easy start for most of us can be an extremely stressful start for new graduates. This is, after all, the beginning of their actual careers. Work experience and internships along with Uni paid jobs are now history and they come armed with a freshly minted degree, loads of enthusiasm, hope and promise, wide eyed innocence and a hell of a lot of trepidation.

They know it’s not easy to land a great job that is actually aligned to what they want to do and what they may have been trained to do. They have had this reinforced to them time and time again. They realise there are no guarantees in life and that it’s often “not what they know but who they know”. They are well aware that they are one of thousands of people trying to open a door and step into an opportunity that will launch their career. They are smart, savvy and somewhat prepared for the reality of job hunting and armed to take it all on the chin. But what they are probably not prepared for – and neither should they be – is the treatment they may receive from some hiring managers who have forgotten what it’s like to start afresh and forget how important it is to apply some sensitivity and understanding to what is a very stressful situation.

I believe us hiring managers have a huge responsibility when working with graduates. Our handling of them can be highly instrumental in shaping the managers and leaders of tomorrow and helping them to learn best hiring practice to take with them through their career. And, of course, who knows where they may one day land and when they may actually be the perfect candidate for you. Here are my suggestions for treating grads with the respect they deserve:

  1. DON’T IGNORE THEM
    We shouldn’t ignore anyone but certainly not young people who are looking to learn from the whole recruitment process. If they take the trouble to prepare a proper application then we can take the trouble to respond. Even if it’s just a standard “thanks but no thanks” reply. I try to at least make it slightly personal by acknowledging something in their resume or cover note or by commenting on their enthusiasm or congratulating them on completing their studies. At the very least thank them for showing an interest in your business and wish them well.
  2. TEACH THEM HOW TO BE/DO BETTER
    If you have a constructive comment to make about their application then definitely share it. Every time I have done this it’s been extremely well received. In particular, pick them up (in a kind and professional manner of course) if there are typos or inconsistencies in their resume or cover note that will completely compromise their application to any role. They may not realise. I understand how off putting an error-riddled cv is (and I also tend to steer clear of these applicants) but if no-one tells them then they will never learn.
  3. GIVE THEM FEEDBACK
    If they interview at your company and aren’t successful in moving to the next step or being offered the role then ensure they receive proper constructive feedback and they understand why their application isn’t progressing. It might be that they were late to the interview or didn’t look the part or they were overly nervous or their examples weren’t detailed enough. These are all things that can be communicated to them and what a help it would be for them to hear this and know what to work on. It’s easy for us to dismiss them the minute we lose interest but what does this teach them? Absolutely nothing and it’s also appalling manners on our part. It’s so easy to pass on proper feedback and the ongoing benefit of this is priceless.
  4. STAY IN TOUCH
    Teach grads how to network and how valuable it is to make meaningful professional connections. This grad could one day be launching an exciting new start up and wanting recruitment advice/support. Their best friend could be your next amazing candidate. Their mother could be a successful entrepreneurial and their dad a corporate high-flyer. You just never know. But more importantly, keep that door open and demonstrate graciousness and lead by example by letting them know that regardless of whether they get the job or not, you value them by bringing them into your network and showing an interest in their progress. LinkedIn makes this incredibly easy so there’s really no excuse.

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