How to optimise the graduate selection recruitment process

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How to optimise the graduate selection recruitment process

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

When recruiting apprentice and graduate candidates it is easy to think an interview and references alone will be sufficient as long as the basic academic qualification requirements are met. Indeed, it is not unusual for organisations to state grades on their job adverts and websites, but is this truly an accurate predictor of future success?

The problem of selecting graduates based on grades

Recruiting and selecting Graduates

Government policy has been to expand the academic system. At the same time the number of students achieving the higher grades has exploded since the GCSE was introduced in the mid 1980s.

Questions have been asked around the standards of these qualifications and the students who achieve them. Ofqual have certainly said that their research found significant concerns.  Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive of Ofqual, quoted in 2012, said it was impossible to justify year-on-year grade inflation in A-level results. She told the Sunday Telegraph: “If you look at the history, we have seen persistent grade inflation for these key qualifications for at least a decade. It is virtually impossible to justify and it has done more than anything else to undermine confidence in the value of those qualifications.”

Recent CBI Education and Skills Survey research highlighted that 47% of employers are not satisfied with the business and customer awareness of graduates, 31% are not satisfied with their self-management, 25% are not satisfied with their team-working and 23% are not satisfied with their problem-solving.

So how can we ensure the graduates we recruit are suitable?

Ability tests online can assess capability around verbal and numerical reasoning, problem solving, and data checking for around £60 + VAT per test. These can be set at multiple levels and benchmarked against comparison groups in various sectors. Moreover, it is also possible to assess engineering related skills such as spatial reasoning and mechanical comprehension for the same cost.

The differing levels of tests start with those aimed at trainees and apprentices and then move up through the various levels to those aimed at high flying graduates.

Assessing non-academic competencies and soft skills

Too often important behavioural competencies are not measured directly by any academic qualification. This can be a serious issue if the role involves management or leadership responsibility either now or in the future.

We recommend several different work sample tests which assess managerial judgement, at graduate level and above. Then there is, of course, online personality assessment using tools such as OPQ or HPI which can be directly benchmarked against the target comparison group.

How exactly does it actually improve the recruitment process though?

  • It’s very cost effective, reducing risk at the selection stage of the recruitment process
  • Provides essential methodology for highly selective hiring, a key component of high performance working
  • Reduces staff turnover
  • Improves leadership in the longer term
  • Improves company culture through better behaviours
  • Filters candidates who lack the underlying capability to succeed

Photo by cescassawin

Matthew Davis is a Chartered FCIPD and Chartered Marketer FCIM qualified HR/Human Capital consulting professional

Matthew Davis is a Chartered FCIPD and Chartered Marketer FCIM qualified HR/Human Capital consulting professional. Experienced in most aspects of resourcing, business psychology, performance management and organisational development consulting as well as team leadership and budgetary management.


graduate assessment for recruitment and selection

With solutions starting at just £60 + VAT per candidate your organisation really can improve at very low cost the likelihood of successful hires and in so doing build a better team for the future.


Selecting graduates and apprentices this year?

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Here are our thoughts on how to get ahead in the race for the best.

With youth unemployment at an all time high, our clients are naturally being deluged with candidates who, on paper, appear suitable for employment.  So how do you avoid making selection a lottery? Is stipulating tertiary examination grades the answer?

The most reliable selection method for most types of recruitment is to use assessment centres which are often preceded by an online psychometric assessment. This allows our consultants to design feedback interviews that can be combined with role-play as well as individual and group exercises from which our assessors can score against your organisation’s competencies.  At the end of the centre we can use standardised scoring processes to rank candidates in order of performance so that high potential is identified.

Whilst assessment centres can be quite expensive if you are recruiting for low volumes, they are ‘the gold standard’ in employee selection at this, and indeed at every, level with proven, high predictive validity.

The alternative approach is to use online assessment.  We were recently approached by a new client who was concerned that one of their new graduate recruits was underperforming and showing very limited cognitive ability.  We tested the candidate using personality and ability tests online and immediately discovered that he scored poorly against his peers.  Our ability to benchmark candidates is a powerful tool which ultimately helped inform the client as to the employee’s potential.  Now they would be reluctant to hire without testing.  The cost of online assessment is less than assessment centres; however it is not quite as reliable as many competencies, such as problem solving using ‘in tray’ exercises or measuring a candidate’s interaction with others, are still best done face-to-face.

Whilst stipulating tertiary academic examination grades can be useful, we find that, unless they are at post graduate level, academic exams rarely effectively assess critical thinking in a work environment.  In any event academic qualifications fail to assess ‘soft’ people skills.  One major, recent study carried out in the US suggested there is no correlation between academic qualifications and future job success. This may be for a number of reasons but it is borne out by our use of ability tests and personality assessment in selection which often highlight mismatches between tertiary exam grades and actual performance in work related ability tests. Furthermore, for apprentices we normally also recommend the assessment of craft related skills such as mechanical comprehension or following instructions.  Such critical skills rarely form part of any formal school study.

If you would like to discuss your own organisation’s plans for this year’s output from universities, colleges and schools, then please do contact our team. Now is the time to start planning for the summer period of assessments.