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How to Build an Effective Graduate Recruitment Campaign

Given the struggle that many organisations face to attract the best candidates in today’s competitive labour market, graduate programmes have become increasingly popular across all sectors as a means to attract great talent in the early stages of their careers.

With Ireland’s unemployment rate at an 11-year low of 5.4% in April, recruitment is more difficult than ever. But given that 90% of working graduates are choosing to stay here instead of emigrating, it’s important to not overlook this key segment or risk missing out on the best young talent by approaching them as you would an experienced hire.

That’s why an exceptional graduate recruitment campaign is critical. Over 120 employers and course-providers were looking to hire over 5,000 employees at last year’s Grad Ireland fair — so a bog-standard campaign just won’t cut it if you’re looking for a piece of the pie.

Here are four key points to keep in mind when creating your graduate recruitment campaign.

1. Align your values with your target audience

Generation Z is entering the workforce and these tech-savvy young adults want employers whose professional purpose aligns with their personal purpose. So, when it comes to attracting Gen Z, you need to show that your organisation offers what this group actually values, like opportunities to give back and the freedom to grow and develop.

Dell Technologies surveyed over 12,000 Gen Z-ers in 17 countries and discovered that 75% expect to learn from peers on the job. Meanwhile, a WGSN report points out that while salary is important, Gen Z grads will ultimately choose an employer “based on a positive and flexible work environment over one that pays more.” In addition, recent research from non-profit consultancy DoSomething Strategic found that 29% of Gen Z respondents actively seek out brands based on socially-conscious behaviours and values.

On Facebook’s careers site, the social network lets grads and interns know upfront that they will not only get to jumpstart their careers but also do meaningful work. Specifically: “You’ll hit the ground running, learn from the best in the industry and build products for billions of people around the world. There’s no limit to the impact you can make at Facebook.” How’s that for purpose?

Basically, it’s all about positioning your organisation in a way that will resonate by focusing on things that matter to them. Do you have a strong CSR message? What about a learning and development programme? Don’t wait until the interview stage to mention these efforts — putting them front and centre in your recruitment campaign can be a big draw for graduates.

How to Build an Effective Graduate Recruitment Campaign
2. Speak the same language

Chances are, your organisation already has a distinct tone of voice, but how you communicate to customers or experienced hires might not translate to a graduate recruitment campaign. Consider who you’re targeting — Generation Z has an average attention span of eight seconds, communicates with images (think memes, GIFs and emojis) and prefers attention-grabbing headlines over long-winded explainers. They’re also busy studying for exams and completing assignments and don’t have the time or bandwidth to break down complex communication into digestible information.  

That’s not to say you need to throw out your entire brand book and reduce your graduate recruitment marketing to a series of Instagram Stories. But it’s worth bearing in mind that your target audience is far more likely to engage with content that reflects their own communication style.

For Grant Thornton’s latest graduate recruitment campaign, the company focused on a tone of voice that was friendly, accessible and personable and featured plenty of hand-drawn elements, playful photography and bright colours across all touchpoints.

Put yourself in Gen Z’s shoes and take a good long look at your current graduate recruitment efforts. Are you communicating your message and value proposition clearly and quickly on channels they use, in a language and format that resonates with them? If the answer is no, it’s time to rethink your approach.

How to Build an Effective Graduate Recruitment Campaign
3. Take your careers website to the next level

Candidates will rarely land on your careers website ready to apply — they want to learn more about your company, your purpose and your culture before they commit to an application. In fact, according to Talent Board’s 2022 Candidate Experience Research Report, company career sites are the most important aspect when researching career opportunities for 59% of candidates in EMEA.

As Gen Z candidates grew up in a digital world, they have extremely high expectations when it comes to website design and online experiences. Slow-loading websites and lengthy forms are a deal-breaker with this generation and they’re more likely to be on their phones than a desktop. So, to attract top graduate talent, your careers site needs to shine in a way that’s mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and relatable.

The same goes for the application process — Gen Z prefers video content, so it makes sense to allow them to apply with a video instead of a traditional CV or cover letter. Take Jameson, for example. Anyone who wants a role in the company’s international graduate programme submits both a written application and a 2-minute video, giving them a chance to tell their story, their way.

When updating your site, think about what appeals to your target audience: authenticity is important, relevant content is key and they want to know upfront about opportunities for career development. Video interviews, blog posts and photography featuring real graduates will build credibility, while an employee journey map can help students connect the dots between the programme and their future careers.

4. Utilise social media

According to the Global Web Index, Generation Z averages a whopping three hours per day on social media and it goes without saying that if you’re not right there with them, you’re missing out a massive opportunity to connect on their terms.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to be present and posting on absolutely every social network — a recent Visual Objects survey found that YouTube is the most popular social media platform among Gen Z, followed by Instagram and Snapchat. So if you’re planning to run an ad campaign on Facebook or LinkedIn, you could be barking up the wrong tree.

If your goal for social media is to capture the attention of and engage with potential candidates to ultimately drive traffic to your website and inspire them to apply, it’s important to choose the right channel to deliver each message you want to send. And don’t forget: bite-size, visual content is the way to go, so consider short vlogs and social media takeovers.

Why not take a leaf out of Southern Rail’s book? In 2017, a 15-year-old intern named Eddie Smith was given permission to post “Hi, Eddie here! Here on work experience and ready to answer your questions!” on the company’s Twitter and #AskEddie quickly became a viral sensation. People tweeted everything from “Can you drive a train?” to “Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” and he answered them all.

Deutsche Bank uses social media and video innovatively to showcase their graduate program and corporate culture in a way that appeals to potential new talent, as it provides an engaging look into the graduate program and corporate culture


The Deutsche Bank graduate program YouTube videos aim to provide an authentic look at the experiences of young people who have joined the program, showcasing the opportunities available and giving viewers an insight into what a career in banking looks like.

Recruiting top graduate talent in today’s competitive environment is tough, but not impossible. Speak authentically to your target audience, position your company, purpose and culture in a way they can relate to, and reach them on their own turf. Not only will you connect with Gen Z grads on their terms, but you will stand out in a sea of sameness.

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