Peter Pychtin, expert in graduate recruitment and founder and director of GradSift, an AI assessment and analytics platform for graduate recruitment.

Data: The Graduate recruitment challenge.

What’s the biggest challenge faced by graduate employers in Australia and New Zealand? The answer is access to data. That might not have been the response provided in a recent survey of 110 graduate employers but it is the root cause. 

In the Australian Association of Graduate Employers survey the top two challenges nominated by employers were their struggle to meet diversity hiring targets and to successfully compete for quality graduates. Both of these are a function of sourcing strategy and assessment practices.

Employers use a combination of marketing channels and university activities to reach students. From specialist graduate job boards and social media to careers fairs, campus presentations and university resources. But their effectiveness is at best measured at a very high level. How many applications did we receive (volume) and how many did we hire (quality)? 

Scarce data on marketing and university activity effectiveness

What employers lack is detailed data to drill down and develop a targeted marketing plan. For example, to understand what actually influenced a female ICT student to apply to their program. Or what’s proven to be the best way to reach out to students with a disability. Or to find a correlation between how high quality students initially learn about a graduate program and what activities or events subsequently convince them to apply. 

Employers could capture and analyse their own data but they don’t. Why? Because it’s not what they’ve done in the past. Instead they rely on shotgun marketing, falling back on volume as their sourcing strategy, and that’s not inexpensive. From the same survey, 110 employers spent A$4.8 million in marketing, an average spend of $47,000.

That then causes a bigger issue for employers. The sheer volume of applicants to be screened and culled. The surveyed employers spent A$8.6 million, around $80,000 each in assessments to get down to the 3.3 per cent of applicants who they actually hired. 

Broad “what we look for” statements attract more of the “wrong” students

Compounding non-targeted marketing, employers advertise using very broad statements of “what we look for in students”. Most students can tick all the boxes, so “right” and “wrong” students all apply. It’s really frustrating for students when 63 per cent don’t even get to the first assessment stage. 

Many employers will resort to cognitive tests to initially cull applicants. But the tests are used in isolation of other candidate data. The result is around half of students who are bluntly culled possess highly sought after interpersonal skills. That’s exactly the quality of students employers want. Yet their assessment approach is working against them. 

Data analytics will transform graduate recruitment

But what if an employer had data that reliably defined the profile of their offer candidates? For example, “we prefer students with a combination of proven leadership, career-related work experience and dual or post-graduate degrees”. If that was part of “what we look for” what would be the outcome? More of the “right” applicants and less of the “wrong” applicants. That’s better for employers and fairer for students. It doesn’t stop a student from applying. But if that employer was number six on the student’s preference list, they might choose to skip that application and go to number seven where their chances are stronger.

So why do employers use generalised “what we look for” statements? Either they don’t have the data or they can’t describe it in terms that a student can realistically self-assess. With the right analytics tools, employers can begin developing their own offer candidate profiles.

The era of data analytics is coming to graduate recruitment. Between marketing and assessment spending, there’s an estimated 35 per cent efficiency saving available – an average of $45,000. Deep data insights will eventually transform how employers go to market, ultimately creating a more efficient process for students and employers alike. 

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