If you are an organisation that currently recruits graduates...
....you will be familiar with the challenges of recruiting the right candidates for your working environment. It isn't usually attracting the applicants that is challenging, but more selecting the right candidate for both the role and the culture of your organisation. Add another element to the mix - the opportunity to go and work in London for two years - and you bring more complexity to the selection process.
Pohlen Partners recently completed a graduate recruitment assignment for a professional services firm, to find ten recent graduates who not only had the academic qualifications but also the personal qualities that would enable them to make the adjustment to work and live in a different country.
We were asked to project manage and deliver this project from sourcing suitable candidates through to delivering those who met the agreed criteria for final interview with the manager responsible. This was not to be a high profile campaign but rather a targeted and discreet approach through relevant networks, to find appropriately qualified graduates.
There were a few factors which needed to be considered in embarking on the project:
- Ensuring that the right candidates were attracted without impacting on the general New Zealand wide graduate recruitment campaigns of this and other professional services firms.
- Ensuring the process was equitable for new candidates and those from the pool already recruited who may be considered.
- Working to a tight time frame and around university exams, with the deadline date of employment in London being 2 January 2007. The entire process was completed in three months.
- We were asked to put forward a final list of only those we were sure would succeed.
Once the core competencies required had been defined, a robust customised process was designed, with each element contributing to overall selection decision.
Defining the competencies
Academic achievement was essential, but considerable importance was placed on assessing candidates against a set of competencies that was drawn from research and experience around successful cross-cultural adjustment. Contact was also made with the previous intake of graduates, who had been working in London for nine months. This provided first hand information about their experiences and challenges.
Developing the attraction strategy
The approach had to be low key and unbranded, in the initial stages. A mix of approaches was used across all the major universities, with co-operation from the universities' careers centres. Once candidates had applied, information they received was branded.
With relatively large volumes of inquiries, an on line process was designed to provide candidates with information which would ensure that only those seriously interested and appropriately qualified would apply. Most interactions were managed through email, with the option provided for personal contact.
Interviews were generally conducted on site at universities. A structured process was designed for interviews, with behavioural questions based on the competencies. In addition, interviewed candidates were required to complete two tailored exercises to assess their suitability for the cross-cultural aspect of the role.
All final list candidates were asked to supply three referees, one academic, one work, and one personal.
This was a key source of information about each candidate selected for final interview with the client. Four assessments were used - verbal and numerical abilities, a personality questionnaire and a motivation questionnaire.
A comprehensive and tailored report was delivered to the client for each final interview candidate, summarising their strengths and weaknesses against each of the defined competencies.
Critical Success Factors:
A few factors made a big difference in the success of this project:
- A good understanding of the graduate market in New Zealand.
- Experience in recruiting graduates and finance roles
The ability to work through networks to source the right candidates.
- Thorough and robust recruitment processes that ensured that individuals had not only the necessary technical skills but also the personal attributes.
- An understanding of the factors that impact on successful cross-cultural adjustment.
- A sound understanding of what it takes to succeed living and working in the UK.
- Providing candidates with written information about the assignment. This pre-empted a number of questions and reduced the number of phone calls required.
- Efficient project management and a close working relationship with the client.
Before beginning work in London, nine successful graduates gathered in Auckland for a three day orientation, which included a half day workshop, delivered by Pohlen Partners, on the process of adjusting to living and working in other cultures, and specific preparation for London. We will be following their progress with interest.