Plugging the Leak in Christchurch's IT Graduate Talent Pool
A war is being waged between employers and graduates. A war of retention and value. Whilst working alongside the Christchurch IT market over the last few years, I have noticed a number of issues with the employer-graduate relationship.
On one side there’s a resounding disparity between what graduates are taught and how they should approach actually getting a job, whilst on the other, employers are often uncertain on the return of investment from hiring a graduate, and will often hold back from taking advantage of potential talent based on this perception of value.
This gap has created a leak in Christchurch’s local IT graduate talent and both sides need to change their frame of mind in order to stop talent with great potential being forced to look at other markets.
The Fear of Hiring Graduates
Many employers here hold back from taking advantage of the rich and diverse IT graduate talent pool. That fear is fuelled by the current perception that a graduate will leave for greener pastures the very moment they become productive. This leaves quite an expense for any organisation, regardless of size, as the employee often leaves just about as soon as they start adding value. This fear isn’t baseless, but instead of using it to justify ignoring the graduate talent pool altogether, it should be used to approach candidates intelligently and with diligence. Although the recruitment and onboarding of a new starter has tight time constraints, making it difficult to provide good mentoring from the start, a strong onboarding process is your first weapon when it comes to getting more value out of graduates for longer.
Onboarding should set out to achieve two things: to ensure that the new starter has everything they need to complete their role to the best of their ability, and to teach them about the culture of the company they are now a part of. Meeting these conditions will make graduates feel as welcome as possible, and if you follow this up by imbuing their role with some responsibility, they really will feel valued by the company. This builds loyalty and will give graduates a reason to stay for longer.
The Value of Graduate Programmes
A graduate programme is great way to invest in recruiting graduates that demonstrate impressive potential but are yet to acquire working experience. They provide a great deal of flexibility for both you and the graduate, allowing you to easily rotate them around your different departments, teams and roles. This will also add to their skillset, meaning that they will quickly start adding more value to the business.
Providing support and mentorship right from at the start and through the first couple years of a graduate’s career is key to building skilled and loyal employees, combined with a strong onboarding process.
Due to the flexibility of these programmes, they can offer fantastic training and development opportunities, making them increasingly popular with IT and technical industries where having particular skills is a necessity. The flexibility also allows these programmes to be the building blocks of a much larger recruiting strategy, where you can onboard graduates, get two to three years of value from them and replace them with more graduates when they either leave or move up into a more specialist role.
The Post-Graduate Attitude
From the graduate’s perspective, it’s easy to see an IT market which appears to be against you. Not hearing back from applications, sending cold emails and being stuck trying to get past an interview, is understandably exhausting and it’s forgivable to be considering other locations. However, the problem isn’t the Christchurch IT market, it’s your approach.
You often hear about graduates who ask about money up front or are unclear about their goals and objectives. Going into an interview and stating your desire to secure a job at any cost is never a good look. I’ve seen this first hand after putting a fresh-faced graduate in front of a client. When asked about their long term plan, they went on to explain that they were looking to spend a year with them and then move on elsewhere. This is job interview suicide! There is a huge gap between what Universities are teaching graduates during their studies and what they need to do to secure their first role.
To bridge this gap, you need to seek specialist advice. It’s a great idea to contact an experienced professional, or someone you admire in your field, and ask them for guidance or mentorship. These are the people who can give you a first-hand account of how to be successful in your chosen field, and what you need to do to achieve that success. Recruitment Consultants liaise with employers on a daily basis and have a unique understanding of what they need. Sitting down with a Consultant can give you the edge needed to stand out from the crowd, so use our inside knowledge to learn how to approach these employers if you have the chance.
The Basics of Approaching Employers
When you approach a potential employer, they will quickly try to gauge whether you meet the requirements for the job and if you’re a good investment, as low retention can be very expensive. Before they make the decision to interview you, the impression you leave will rely on your resume and cover letter.
A good resume and cover letter will share the same purpose (prove you have the experience and skills for the job) but will have distinct differences. A resume is used to summarise your experience, qualifications, skills and interests, usually with the use of bullet points. Your cover letter is your sales pitch, selling you as a potential asset to the employer’s business. We’ll go into more detail on how to create a great cover letter in a future blog, but make sure that you do use one and that it is tailored to the role you’re applying for.
With social media so ubiquitous now, you also need to use other ways to make yourself visible. Make sure you are on LinkedIn, and that your profile is set up to a high standard. You should also go through your other social networks and ensure that you would be happy with a potential employer seeing the content on those channels. And although making yourself visible online is a good first step, making yourself visible in the flesh is just as important. By attending MeetUps, conferences and other networking events, you can connect with individuals in your industry and potential career opportunities.
As it stands, the Christchurch IT market is missing the mark when it comes to utilising graduate talent. The current state is causing potential talent to look at other markets in order to gain experience, and at the same time most graduates aren’t approaching employers in a way that will quell the fear of giving them a chance.
Both parties have work to do in order to close this gap. If you’re an employer who wants explore their options when it comes to engaging graduates, or a graduate who needs advice on how they approach employers or help with finding vacancies in Christchurch IT market, then take that first step by getting in touch.