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Category Archives: graduate recruitment

By Caitlin O’Toole
June 16, 2009 09:12am

A YEAR ago, accounting and mining engineering students would be fielding two or three job offers halfway through their final year.

Now, they can’t afford to be choosy, and count themselves lucky to get a single offer.

Graduate Careers Australia research manager Bruce Guthrie said the economic uncertainty takes the shine off industries hit hard by the downturn, like formerly ‘hot jobs’ in mining and finance.

“A lot of employers have just been holding back a little bit, waiting to get some firm idea about what the rest of the year will bring,” said Mr Guthrie.

“Some employers decided maybe to be a little more prudent and either decided to delay hiring, or pay people and say ‘sorry we’ll withdraw the offer’.”

WHAT has your experience been of the graduate job market? Tell us below.

Related Coverage
Graduate Officer
Adelaide Now, 19 May 2009
Agri-graduates amongst the lowest paid
Adelaide Now, 31 Mar 2009
Plenty on grad’s plate
The Australian, 27 Mar 2009
Fewer booths at job fairs
The Australian, 18 Mar 2009
Uni grad beats credit crisis with 50 jobs, 16 Mar 2009 Even accountants, which formerly moaned about a skills shortage, are cutting back. ‘Big four’ firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers offered graduates $4000 to delay their start date, and Ernst & Young postponed graduate start dates.

Almost 70 per cent of graduates expect it will be hard to get a position because of the economy, according to a CareerOne survey. And almost half of grads aren’t working in the field they studied.

As architecture and building, accounting, engineering and business graduate programs mirror the economy, the less glamorous careers will hold up, predicts Mr Guthrie.

“Commonly those are areas in the teaching, health sciences areas, where demand for employees isn’t governed by the economy,” he said.

Headlines about layoffs and fewer graduate spots in the private sector mean graduates are turning to public service, where competition for graduate spots has jumped.

Applications for the Australian Tax Office’s graduate program, with its $49,000 starting salary and 15.4 per cent super, jumped from 1701 to 5312 applicants this year, most with tax, accounting, law or economics degrees.

Employers attending careers fairs have fallen 15 per cent, said Dawn White, president of The National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (NAGCAS).

But having to fight hard to get a job could have a silver lining, as fewer grads fall into the formerly ‘safe’ career options of law, finance or accounting and think seriously about what they really want to do with their lives, she said.

Although investment banks are still recruiting on campuses, fewer students are showing up for their information sessions, said Ms White.

Students are now less likely to enter banking just to keep their parents happy, even though there are still jobs and even signing bonuses on offer.

“You read in the paper of a company cutting jobs, and then they ring up the next day and want to recruit grads,” said Ms White.

‘Hot jobs’ like IT or banking are just trends, and students are better off thinking carefully about what they really want to do, she said.

Recessions push people to make a more conscious career choice and think about what they are good at and what they really enjoy, because the ‘safe’ career track is gone, said Ms White.

“It might have made people realise there aren’t any specific safe industries, so it’s more important to do something you enjoy and gain transferable skills.”

“It’s forcing students to have a look at their priorities and their reasons for getting into things,” said Ms White.,27753,25643410-5012426,00.html

May 19, 2009 – 7:01AM
Sun Yizhen considered her university degree in international trade the ticket to a prestigious career with a state-owned enterprise like Bank of China in Beijing. Instead, she found herself huddled against a freezing wind in a middle school parking lot in Huai’an, waiting to interview for a job with the local tax collector.

“I never thought I’d go for civil-servant jobs,” said Sun, 21. “But the financial crisis is something that none of us would expect. We’re just desperate.”

The global financial meltdown is taking a toll on this year’s 6.1 million Chinese college graduates and the 1 million still unemployed from last year. The government said the 2009 official urban registered unemployment rate may reach 4.6 per cent – a three-decade high – as collapsing exports drag gross domestic product to its lowest growth rate in nine years.

That is turning off the pipeline depositing new graduates with multinational corporations and state companies, forcing many students to lower their sights and consider the once-unthinkable for them: a civil-service career. The last test for central government openings attracted about 775,000 candidates – or 56 for every job, a 20 per cent jump from the year before.

Prospects aren’t any better in the US and UK. Just 20 per cent of graduating US students who applied for a job have one, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. That’s down from 26 per cent last year and 51 per cent in 2007.

The US unemployment rate reached 8.9 per cent last month. Of the 35,000 students surveyed, 12 per cent had plans to work in government, compared with 8.9 per cent last year, spokeswoman Mimi Collins said.

In the UK, a December survey of 100 firms by London-based High Fliers Research Limited showed that they had reduced recruitment targets by 17 per cent since September and expected to hire almost 3400 fewer graduates this year than planned. The UK jobless rate was 7.1 per cent in March.

Yet the number of entry-level positions for graduates in public service increased by 51 per cent in 2008-2009. A third of 1017 final-year students from 30 universities say such work is more appealing now, the survey said.

China’s Communist Party is especially sensitive about student unemployment as it approaches the 20-year anniversary of the student-led Tiananmen Square uprising in June. The State Council said in January that creating jobs for new graduates was the government’s top priority.

“Students, please rest at ease,” Premier Wen Jiabao said in December while visiting Beijing University of Aeronautics and Aerospace, state media reported. “We are putting the problem of graduates’ employment on top of our agenda.”

The labor ministry said it would lend money to small- and medium-sized enterprises and subsidize salaries for positions in the countryside.

The China Disabled Person’s Federation received more than 4700 applications for a community-organiser position, said Wei Chunfeng, a human resources official there. The starting salary is 3000 yuan ($US440) a month.

“Civil-servant jobs just became suddenly attractive again,” Wei said.

China’s official jobless rate doesn’t include rural workers migrating from one province to another, a population the labor ministry puts at 130 million. A survey of the entire population last year showed the estimated unemployment rate may have reached 9.4 per cent, the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in December.

Only 20 per cent of graduating seniors landed work in the first quarter this year, down from the historical average of 70 per cent, said Sherman Chan, a Sydney-based economist at Moody’s, an economic analysis unit of New York-based Moody’s Corp.

Since changes were introduced in 1978, China’s economy has averaged 9.9 per cent annual growth and is now the world’s third-largest behind the US and Japan. Wen says GDP must expand 8 per cent a year to create enough jobs in the world’s most populous nation.

The Washington-based World Bank, a multilateral lender established after World War II, predicts growth will slow to 6.5 per cent this year. China is one of five major economies – joining Australia, Brazil, India and Russia – that are still growing, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

By comparison, the world economy may contract 1.3 per cent this year, said the International Monetary Fund, the Washington-based lender with 185 member nations. The US economy shrank 2.6 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

A dearth of opportunities for China’s best and brightest may present a challenge to Communist Party leaders, who say the economy must wean itself from dependence on low-cost manufacturing and develop the auto, shipbuilding and steel industries.

“Failing to find those students proper jobs would mean a great loss of human resources, thus irreversible economic loss over a long term,” said Li Xiangwei, head of the college graduate employment department at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Students from the best schools who cannot find employment will go abroad for work or graduate school and may not come back, said William McCahill Jr., vice chairman of research firm JL McGregor & Co. in Beijing.

“For the U.S. it’s been a great source of innovation and technological growth,” he said. “That trend might be a bit accentuated.”

Eric Ma, 25, is earning his master’s degree in logistics from the Shenzhen branch of Tsinghua University – ranked in U.S. News & World Report as the No. 2 school in China. He interviewed unsuccessfully with Procter & Gamble Co. of Cincinnati and Lenovo Group Ltd. of Raleigh, North Carolina, and said he couldn’t even get in the door at Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc. and New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson.

He said he beat out 1,000 others taking the test for a resource management position with the National Development and Reform Commission in Beijing.

“Graduating from the most prominent university doesn’t help very much this year,” Ma said.

Students are under great stress to succeed, said Li of the human resources ministry. China has a one-child policy. Parents in eight of the biggest cities — including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – spend about a third of their incomes on education, according to the Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

“Every student carries the hope of the entire family, so there would be great social impact if they can’t find jobs,” Li said. “The government is under pressure.”

Civil service is nicknamed the “gold rice bowl” because of its stability, annual pay raises and benefits packages, Wei said. Most of the more than 10 million civil servants work in government and law enforcement, and in related agencies.

Sun, a slender 5-foot-3 (1.6-metre) woman, said she never considered that route while attending Beijing Technology and Business University. She interviewed to be an interpreter with Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, the nation’s biggest maker of equipment for telephone networks, and a customer- service representative with Beijing-based Bank of China, the country’s third-largest by market value.

Her worried parents encouraged her to take the civil- service test in November, she said in a series of interviews by phone and in person in Beijing. She focused on jobs outside the capital because she believed there would be less competition.

She said she expects to earn between 2000 and 3000 yuan a month. Her family calls her a “little gold collar,” meaning she can live comfortably as a civil servant because her hometown is less expensive than Beijing.

“It wouldn’t be my dream job, but when I look around at my classmates, I think, ‘Oh God, I finally got settled!”‘ she said.

12 May 2009 6:15am

Extensive research into its target market, and some strategic alliances, have helped Pacific Brands turn around “appalling” mis-hire and time-to-fill rates, according to its GM of talent and organisational capability, Russell Kronenburg.

It was taking, on average, 181 days to hire design managers when innovative designers “had the potential, with one product, to deliver about $300,000 additional revenue in a day”, he told the Australasian Talent Conference last week.

At the time, two in five designers were leaving the company during their first year.

Pacific Brands opted to spend some time “confirming our understanding about what employees valued about us”, and what external people perceived about the company (and what might attract them), he said.

It found that part of its problem was the lack of a “fantastic relationship” with the design community, and that its competitive, corporate-style recruitment approach didn’t appeal to the best designers.

“Our strategies in the way we were talking to them were wrong. Our solutions were wrong.”

It responded by addressing four key areas:
internships and design projects – to give students “real world” experience. “To be honest, I don’t even care if they come and work for Pacific Brands, I don’t care if I can use their design (because it’s their IP). What I am really keen about is how they become a better designer so that at one point in time, if they ever come into our business, I know that they’ve had real world experience and they’re able to solve our needs and our consumers’ needs.”

Employee development – “it’s about how do I build technical capabilities for some of our more creative and innovative people? Often they love this world of creativity, but they hate constraints. They often don’t get a lot of development because no-one knows how to solve their development needs.”

Pacific Brands partnered with academic institutions around the world and Kronenburg says these are “an untapped source”;

Research – “how do we partner with people to advance research for the industry, from a consumers’ point of view, and possibly even how do we tap into it?” and

Recruitment – Pacific Brands opted not to use external recruiters to source designers because that wouldn’t achieve its aim of building relationships with the design community.

“I didn’t want to give that to an external recruiter because what we would miss out on is the relationship that we could build with people that may not necessarily want to come and work for us tomorrow [but might in the future].”

Long-term focus
Kronenburg says large employers must focus not only on their own talent needs but also those of the broader industries in which they operate.

Initially, he said, the strategies Pacific Brands employed were “about our needs” and the design community was “a bit concerned and sceptical. We found it didn’t unlock a lot of doors for individuals and the community”.

As a result, the company embarked on “other initiatives that were about long-term viability… In doing that, we’ve enabled ourselves to be in a different space”.

The initiatives included:
building (“really cheaply”) a LinkedIn forum called the International Fashion and Apparel Association. Kronenburg manages it and oversees who joins, but there are no constraints on the community. It has about 1400 members worldwide who ask each other questions. Although it wasn’t built as a recruiting portal, he said, “we have found some fantastic people from it”;

going to universities to help students with their interview skills and talk about their portfolios;

knowledge exchanges – giving designers the chance to be guest lecturers at overseas universities; and

industry design projects – winners get to work at Pacific Brands for a limited time, giving it “access to the best design talent in the marketplace”.

Kronenburg said that as a result of all the initiatives, “we’ve got access to a much bigger talent pool of designers than we ever had before.”

“We now have people graduating from universities around the world who would have never known about Pacific Brands previously who now know about us and want to come and work for us.”


12 March 2009 8:21am

The economy may well be on a slide and headcount freezes in force, but it’s vital to get the talent you are hiring productive as fast as possible.

A new report from Aberdeen Group outlines what “best-in-class” organisations are doing to assimilate their new talent.

“Layoffs, mergers, cut-throat competition, downsizing, rightsizing: these are buzzwords that make up the daily news,” say the authors in Fully On-Board, a report based on a survey of more than 600 HR and line managers from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. “They are also a reflection of an increasingly competitive business landscape.

“As a result… organisations are forced to achieve greater operational efficiencies – in other words, to do more with the same or less. This, in turn, places greater emphasis on increased productivity, to which key-employee retention is essential.”

Some 84 per cent of leading employers, the authors say, are currently actively developing or utilising “culturalisation” strategies in order to retain their talent, and are, consequently, up to three times more likely than “industry average” or “laggard” organisations to “build a community of employer brand evangelists”.

“Assimilating employees into the organisation’s cultural fabric and reaffirming their employment decisions… is a growing best-in-class process differentiator,” they say.

Assimilation strategies include:
involving senior leadership, by having them meet with new employees early in the onboarding process to answer questions or address concerns about the company;

enabling communication between new employees and colleagues prior to starting dates, whether through communities of interest or social networks; and

assigning a mentor or coach to new employees for the duration of onboarding.
Employers can also engage new workers through their onboarding system, the authors say, by:
being prepared – have all IT (including computer systems and email addresses) that new employees will need up and running prior to starting dates. Provide them with the tools and information on networks needed to connect them with other employees.

Arrange frequent informal reviews with line managers and regular briefings with senior leaders. Have managers define and communicate expectations and goals within the recruit’s first week;

beginning early – commence the onboarding process for new full-time employees upon acceptance of the employment offer. Some 67 per cent of “best-in-class” organisations do so;

including forms and tasks management – ensure employees are “entered into systems” (such as the payroll and superannuation) and receive all appropriate equipment as soon as possible.

“The ability for new employees to accurately and quickly complete all required forms is key to help them concentrate on the job at hand, get up to speed quickly, and be productive”; and

measuring engagement – analyse and act on employee satisfaction surveys and performance reviews. Keep responses in mind when dealing with recruits.
Employers should also consider extending the application of onboarding beyond new hires, the authors say.

Work groups that come to a company as the result of a merger or acquisition, or individuals who accept internal transfers “can benefit from assimilation into or knowledge of the organisation’s culture, vision and goals”.

Going from “laggard” to success story
According to the authors of the study, an onboarding “laggard” is an employer that is currently experiencing a decrease in employee retention and engagement rates.

They outline a number of simple and inexpensive steps to turn languishing employers around.

“Laggards” should:
identify the business issues they want to improve, then assign specific metrics to determine “pain points” that can be addressed by onboarding;

start small, assimilate new hires through simple, cost-effective “buddy” or mentor systems;

frequently measure engagement and retention within the first year of each worker’s employment to “pinpoint” where onboarding processes need to be strengthened;

encourage organisational buy-in by inviting senior leaders to take part in meetings and orientation; and
automate, where possible, forms and tasks management to ensure data accuracy and time savings.

by John Zappe
Feb 24, 2009, 5:00 am ET
While you digest the consequences of eliminating your college recruiting consider one of the benefits of maintaining — or starting — an internship program: You’ll have an uncrowded pool to swim in.

Steven Rothberg
As you might already suspect, internship opportunities for college students this year have been severely curtailed. Numbers are hard to come by since many internships are informal or are called something else. However, Steven Rothberg, founder and president of tells us his site has about 10,000 jobs categorized as internships, which is half what it was a year ago.

“The number and quality of internship opportunities are significantly down this year over last,” says Rothberg, noting that it appears the majority of those available are unpaid. Again, no hard numbers on paid vs. unpaid internships — “that’s impossible to track,” he says — but from his conversations with employers, “They are either eliminating the program entirely or they’re eliminating the compensation.”

This comes at a time when the competition for what used to be called summer jobs has rarely been keener. Because companies across the U.S. have been retrenching, this spring’s crop of graduating seniors will face a tight job market. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) issued in October showed employers expected to hire the same or fewer students than they did last year.

“Overall, hiring looks flat for now and some employers are indicating some movement to cut back,” Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, said when the report was issued. “In August, approximately one-third of employers said they were going to trim their college hiring; in our current poll, however, 52 percent said they were going to adjust their college hiring downward.”

Now, four months later, that projection looks almost optimistic. Thus graduating seniors who would have entered the labor force in years past will now be competing with juniors and sophomores for internships, says Rothberg.

“This Spring’s going to find a lot of college seniors taking unpaid positions,” he told us. “If they can’t get a paying job, they’ll be looking for the experience for their resume.”

Richard Bottner
Richard Bottner, founder and president of Intern Bridge, a consultancy that helps SMBs develop and administer internship programs, tells us, “This is a year unlike any other year.” He’s referring not only to the scramble for jobs by college students, but to the opportunities for recruiters.

“Recruiters have a bigger advantage this year than in any other year that my generation has experienced,” says the 24-year-old. “It used to be more balanced” between internships available and the students seeking them, he explains. Now, “recruiters will find it easier to find better talent. There’s a lot more competition out there for every internship.”

He laments the conversion of paying positions to unpaid because it takes out of contention students who simply must earn money for school. On the other hand, Bottner says it makes even the low-paying positions far more attractive.

“This is a year that many of the smaller companies should be able to compete for really top talent, if they don’t cut out the pay,” says Bottner, who has been advising the small and medium sized businesses he focuses on to “pay what they can, but pay.”

Though Rothberg’s view is that it is better to offer an unpaid internship than none at all, he, too, says recruiters with paying jobs should brace for the onslaught of applications. “They’ll have their pick,” he says, even if their company isn’t one of the big names.

His advice to students is to take a job “any job and then intern part-time.” Even fast food jobs, Rothberg suspects, will look better and better to college students as the end of semester nears. “Any job that is associated with a paycheck will be a cool job,” he predicts and most students “would rather get the experience than nothing at all.”

Both men do agree on this: Companies that hire interns now will be better positioned for the eventual recovery. Says Bottner, if the internship is well structured, something Intern Bridge can help ensure, then “the student the company hires and who gets something valuable from the experience is going to be a prime prospect later on.”

Fewer than one in 10 employers definitely plan to reduce the number of 2009 graduates they hire next year, according to a new survey.

Graduate Careers Australia’s research – the release of which has been fast-tracked due to the uncertain labour market – found that nearly three-quarters of employers will definitely not cancel their graduate programs.

Only nine per cent of employers have solid plans to reduce their graduate intake in 2010, however 70 per cent of employers say they would consider reducing their numbers.

 GCA’s surveys identify that the top three selection criteria for graduates are: interpersonal and communication skills; passion, a knowledge of the industry, drive and commitment; and critical reasoning and analytical skills, problem solving ability, lateral thinking and technical skills.

“Work that is interesting and challenging” is the most important factor for new grads considering a potential employer, followed by good training opportunities, and the chance to develop new skills and achieve work/life balance, the survey found.

Generally, male students place more value on the extrinsic rewards of employment, such as above-average earnings, opportunities for advancement and the potential for international travel.

Female students are more interested in intrinsic rewards such as conducting interesting and challenging work, working for an environmentally sound company and making a contribution to society, the research says.

A multifaceted HR strategy, including flexibility, internal promotions, overtime banking and an image makeover, has helped technology giant ThyssenKrupp become one of the planet’s most enticing employers for graduate talent, according to its chief personnel officer, Ralph Labonte.

The German conglomerate realised it had an “image problem” when its CEO attended a recruitment conference and attracted little attention from promising graduates, says Labonte in the new strategy + business reader, Capturing the People Advantage.

The company makes very few “end products”, Labonte says. “This means we have to explain our place in the business world to potential job candidates. This isn’t easy… People have short memories.”

The management team, therefore, realised it had to rethink its recruitment strategy in order to attract, retain and develop graduates and remain competitive in a talent-starved job market.

HR, he says, had to move beyond treating personnel development as a part-time job and provide the company with a steady stream of junior talent and skilled technicians, and step up internal training.

ThyssenKrupp subsequently developed a strategy that pushed it up the global employer of choice league table for young engineers, from 29th position in 2000 to 12th currently.

The strategy involves:

  • an image campaign, including a multi-year advertising campaign that outlines “the amazing things that happen because of the work of our employees”.The company regularly attends career fairs, cooperates with universities and sponsors sporting events and teams. High school students interested in maths and the natural sciences are invited to complete projects at summer camps.

    “We can never stop presenting, advertising and explaining ourselves,” Labonte says;

  • professional development, whether through the “corporate management development” division or training offered to young recruits.Graduates enter the company knowing they will become highly trained, Labonte says, and young managers know “that we’re prepared to invest in their futures”;
  • non-traditional hiring, such as the creation of careers for talented people, as opposed to looking for talent to fill specific roles.”When we find great people, we’ll hire them first and then look around to see what they should do”;
  • flexibility and overtime deals, such as lifelong overtime accounts.”Employees who put in overtime now can save the hours in an account and redeem them later in their careers,” Labonte says. “For instance, you could retire six months early using the hours accumulated in such an account. And the company benefits from deferring the wages.”

    In some sectors, young workers without such long-term goals can collect hours in an overtime account and take days off work on full pay when workloads are low;

  • a code of conduct at the corporate level that stipulates exactly how managers are expected to interact with employees. Discrimination is forbidden and workers are guaranteed “living wages”. Primary and secondary suppliers are also expected to adhere to the guidelines.”We are not shy about firing managers who break these rules. Because we enforce the code, our employees all around the world know they can trust us”; and
  • internal promotion, with 80 per cent of executives promoted from within the organisation. Succession plans are regularly reviewed and updated and “high-potential” managers are encouraged to rotate across the organisation’s five business segments.
Rotation program

Also speaking in the strategy + business reader, Saudi Telecom Company’s (STC’s) HR vice-president, Salah Al-Zamil, says that a management rotation program is key to internal leadership development.

All promising junior managers at STC are expected to spend time “in the field”, in finance, in the technical departments and in market-facing functions.

There was resistance to the strategy at first, Al-Zamil says, but managers returned to their former departments “wearing new hats and making recommendations for improvements”.

“It is sinking in that this is really a career development tool,” he says.

“And now it’s company policy that 25 per cent of our organisation should rotate every year.”

Graduate recruits and other newcomers to the company work within a more “standard framework”, Al-Zamil says, but are still offered the flexibility to work in a variety of roles to increase their knowledge base and improve their long-term career prospects.