The Association of Graduate Recruiters winter poll has revealed that the majority of employers are struggling to fill their graduate vacancies…

52% of employers did not fill all of their graduate vacancies last year.

We’re in a candidate-driven market at the moment, and so this news is not particularly surprising. Yet the impact for companies who are unable to fill their graduate schemes is significant.

Consider the impact on your business of having an unfilled position…

  • The time and financial cost of a recruitment campaign that didn’t fill its requirement
  • The opportunity cost of work not being done (delayed projects, reduced activity, customers neglected)
  • Not having the future managers that you were planning to grow and develop
  • The challenge of covering the role with employees who are already stretched to their limit
  • Impact of success and reputation of programme in the business

So the impact can be huge! What is most important here is having a solution to the issue. If you have found yourself in this position, do you have a plan b? Do you know why graduates are reneging? Whether you are struggling to fill vacancies now or are planning for your next graduate recruitment drive, here are a few considerations that may help you avoid this trend…

Know your plan B

When finalising your decisions around graduates you’d like to offer, it’s important you have an ‘understudy’ for every role; a candidate who you would also consider offering. This can be difficult as both you and the candidate do not want to feel like you are settling for second best.

Anyone who reaches the final assessment stage could be great for you, so it’s important to not draw comparisons between candidates and always make selection decisions based upon your identified benchmark.  Keeping the understudy candidates ‘warm’ and engaged is really important too. The candidate experience is becoming more and more critical to graduates so there is even more of a need to keep the understudies in the loop.

New sources

If you find yourself in a position where your choice of quality is limited and understudies aren’t an option, you still need a plan b! What are the current ways of attracting candidates? Graduates are not looking in the same places they were three years ago and so we need to respond to that and ensure we engaging on the right platforms.

Understand why

Understanding why candidates are turning down your offers of employment is critical. There are thousands of reasons why this could be happening, but here are some that frequently crop up and are worth exploring:

  • Have they gone elsewhere for more money? Is your offering competitive?
  • Was their experience throughout the selection process positive? Candidates are making decisions about you as well! What would they say to their mates at the pub about you/the process?
  • Was the job you offered what they expected/desired? In our experience, accurate communication of what the role will entail as early as possible is really essential to managing graduate’s expectations.

The AGR make an interesting point about graduate’s accountability when reneging an offer. In other words, when graduates sign an employment contract, do they appreciate the impact on a business if they change their mind? The answer is probably no. And why should they know? We have to remember that this is probably the first time they have had to sign an employment contract! Perhaps you could include this as an FAQ to ensure they understand what ‘accepting a job offer’ really means beneath the surface. If they were more aware of the impact, they may be less likely to commit if they’re not 100% certain.

I hope this give some insight into how you can prevent the huge impact of not filling roles you were expecting to. I’d be delighted to discuss any of these points with you if you’re experiencing them or when you are planning your next recruitment campaign.