The competition for recruiting the top graduates with a STEM degree has become ever more competitive. According to the High Fliers Research report on The Graduate Market 2019, overall, the UK’s top employers are increasing their graduate vacancies by 9.1%. The biggest growth is set to come from engineering and industrial companies, accounting and professional services, and public sector employers.
With more competition for the top graduates, especially STEM graduates, we’ve compiled some strategies you can use to find the best candidates for your business – no matter what industry sector your company operates within.
On campus strategies:
The first place to start connecting with future graduates is on campus. If your company is not a well-known name, using opportunities on campus may help the graduates of the future find your roles when they are ready to enter the job market.
Build relationships with university career services
Reaching out to university career services should be your first port of call when you are looking for graduates. Most universities hold career events and offer other opportunities to for potential employers to market themselves around campus, which can include sponsoring a society or sports team. You can also get in touch with relevant societies and clubs via social media and start to build a relationship directly with them.
If you are looking for certain skills, the university careers service can put you in touch with the head of faculty for the area of expertise you are interested in, and this can present you with opportunities that include guest lecturing, hosting your own on-campus event or becoming the recruiter in residence.
Another perk of building positive relationships with university careers services is to help to improve diversity. Some universities, such as Oxford, have programmes which help encourage female students to consider opportunities in industries where women are traditionally underrepresented.
Offer summer placements, internships or a year in industry roles
Many of the UK’s leading graduate employers offer some form of paid work experience to university students, and the number of positions offered is expected to grow by 1.8%, in 2019. Offering paid summer placements to students who have come to the end of their second or third years of study, can be an effective way to find the brightest and the best. Some of the benefits include:
- Cheaper and easier recruiting: offering talented interns a graduate job when they finish their course can help to keep recruiting costs down
- Spreading the word – when your placement students go back to university, they can help spread the word about your company and the roles on offer
- Recruiting graduates who worked with your company as students may mean these new hires can hit the ground running on their first day and may require less training
Many university courses now offer a ‘year in industry’ as part of the degree they offer. Typically, this means that a three-year course becomes a four-year course, with the third year being the year in industry. For students doing a ‘straight to masters’ programme, their course may end up being five years long. These types of degrees are popular with STEM students, with many of the top universities offering them. Organising a ‘year in industry’ placement at your company has many advantages to employers, which include:
- Many employers re-employ their ‘year in industry’ students when they graduate, which can save on recruitment costs
- A cost-effective solution to short term staffing and project work
- Some students, who have done a year in industry, carry out an employer inspired final project, which may benefit the employer
Take part in on-campus events
Many universities hold on-campus career events, which gives you access to their student body. Most of these are tailored to certain industries. Many of these events are open to students at all levels, so not only can you use this time to recruit for your current jobs, but you can also raise your profile amongst the graduates of the future. The best way to sign up to these events is to contact the careers office of the university you're interested in.
Guest lecture or help hold mock interviews
Guest lecturing or assisting the universities relevant to your industry in holding mock interviews, can help you to connect to a more targeted range of students.
Guest lecturing can be particularly effective if you are searching for specific skills, such as certain type of coding knowledge or engineering discipline. Choosing the course to lecture on carefully and picking a topic that will be of interest to the students and is relevant to their course, and its real-world application, is vital. The subject matter could include highlighting a specific piece of cutting-edge technology you have developed or a project you have recently completed.
Many universities, such as Imperial College London and Oxford University, offer the opportunity for employers to come onto campus and hold mock interviews with relevant students. This not only offers an excellent opportunity for students to hone their skills, but it can help employers train their interviewers and raise your profile on campus. Also, most universities don’t charge for this type of activity, so it can be a cost-effective way of gaining raising your company profile, as well as developing relationships with future graduates and the university.
Today's graduates are digital natives and ensuring that your company appears in the online space they inhabit will be paramount to attracting top talent. Engaging with students and graduates via social media and on your own website can pay dividends. While the digital space is important, face-to-face meetings still have their place, so don't rule out taking part in off-campus careers fairs too – especially if you are trying to find niche talent.
Many of today’s students and graduates can be found on some kind of social media platform. The current crop of students and graduates mostly fall under Generation Z. This emerging generation was born between 1995 and 2015, and are the first generation to grow up with social media as an ever-present feature of their lives; thus their habits can be significantly different from Millennials. In general terms, Generation Z does not engage on Facebook as much as Millennials do, preferring to spend their time on Instagram and YouTube instead. It is getting harder and harder to reach audiences with organic content, as social media channels continue to change their game to more of a ‘pay to play’ model for businesses and organisations. If you are looking at where to spend your advertising budget, creating paid geo-targeted social media campaigns on Instagram and YouTube can be an effective strategy. Another way to target this generation on social media is to utilise influencers. This can be especially effective when it comes to targeting women. There are a number of STEM influencers out there and partnering with them can help you raise the profile of your graduate programmes and jobs with your specific target audience.
When it comes to your own social media feeds, Generation Z is more interested in the human side of stories and don't want to see a company feed that is all about ‘me, me, me’. For recruitment posts, use videos of case studies or tell the story of your current crop of graduate employees.
When it comes to your own website, ensure you have a dedicated landing page for graduate recruiting. This page can be then used for any online marketing activities you choose to do, such as paid social, organic and search engine optimisation campaigns.
To ensure that your recruitment pages can be found by students, make sure they are optimised for search engines, by using keywords that your target audience are searching for in relation to graduate roles. When it comes to the page itself, ensure you have content that will engage your audiences, such as videos, case studies and clearly state which roles you have for graduates and the criteria for the jobs. If you are recruiting for graduate schemes, define what the scheme will entail and how to apply for it.
Take part in graduate career fairs
While today’s graduates might be digital natives, face-to-face contact will always be important. Off-campus graduate recruitment fairs, such as STEM Women Events, bring students from across a number of universities into one place, giving employers access to a variety of potential future employees across courses and disciplines, as well as potentially offering more diversity.
Our STEM Women events bring together women who have studied STEM subjects and employers looking for talented graduates. It is well known that the representation of women in STEM subjects and STEM industries is low, and our STEM Women events aim to create a nurturing environment where female STEM students and graduates can come together to meet employers. If you're interested in taking part in one of our STEM Women events, click here.