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Sowing the Seeds of Future Success

By Margaret Kubicek
Personnel Today magazine -
Published: Wednesday July 25, 2007

Websites such as MySpace have redefined a generation, and HR needs to keep up with how young people communicate and work. Margaret Kubicek finds out how to catch recruits young

Use of the internet is now an essential part of the mix in graduate recruitment, but the rapid pace of technological change – along with the MySpace generation’s growing appetite for emerging technologies – can pose a challenge for employers competing for talent.

Moreover, the internet presents a potential legal minefield for employers, who are increasingly going online to check out prospective employees using Google and other search engines.

“It’s important there is someone in the organisation who has their finger on the pulse of the latest technologies,” says Suzy Style, head of graduate recruitment for Accenture. “It is essential for today’s recruitment market, graduates expect that now, but it can be daunting, even overwhelming. Every year, things move on and change so much.”

Accenture has extended its online offering for graduates over the last year or so, and now has everything from podcasts and podscrolls – downloadable formats for portable media players – to careers blogs.

“It’s a different way of accessing information,” says Style. “We have case studies of work we’ve done, what it’s like to work here in terms of the culture and training opportunities, and interview tips.”

The company also has a strong presence on lifestyle sites such as Friends Reunited, as well as career sites and job boards. Nevertheless, Style feels strongly that the more traditional recruitment methods still have their place. “You need to have a presence across publications, online, and at universities and fairs,” she says.

“A balance of technical, face-to-face interaction and manual processes is essential, so graduates have a personal touch, we have full control, and there’s reliability in the process.”

News messaging

Transport for London (TfL) revamped its recruitment site last year, introducing jazzy video profiles of graduates, unscripted and shot in high-profile locations throughout the capital. It has also brought in a news messaging service for graduates using an RSS feed, and an online ‘scheme matcher’ tool to help graduates decide which TfL strand they might pursue.

“We increased the number and quality of applications we received this year,” says head of graduate recruitment Paul Siaens. “When you go on our website now it’s clear exactly the kind of person we want.”

The principles behind the approach taken by the likes of TfL and Accenture have strong appeal for the MySpace generation, says Jayne Cullen, graduate specialist for TMP Worldwide, which designed an innovative campaign for Yell using the online virtual community Second Life (see below).

“This generation’s learning styles are very different from young people five or 10 years ago,” says Cullen. “It’s all about shared learning and collaboration. That’s why these social networking sites are so popular. Young people want to participate, have a conversation and be part of a community.”

Online business networking is the MySpace generation’s ‘natural next step’ from social networking, says Peter Cunningham, UK country manager of the global business network Viadeo. “You create visibility for yourself and put your profile together professionally,” he explains. “Graduates are much more technically aware – they’ve known the internet most of their lives.”

Alan Townsend, chief operations officer of Monster UK & Ireland, believes a key driver for graduates is the feeling they are “a bit special,” he says.

“They want to be treated differently. But innovation online is about going far beyond simply putting the graduate brochure on the website,” explains Townsend. “It’s now about an interactive experience,” he says. “Graduates want to see a demonstration and gain an understanding of the role online, and perhaps also a way to benchmark it [against other roles in other organisations>.”

HR departments within employers at the more avant-garde end of the spectrum are introducing an element of fun to their careers sites, through features such as games, virtual tours and day-in-the-life graduate diaries.

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