For most of us graduate recruitment is no longer a drive focused on the massive open market bidding war that takes place in halls around universities across the globe.  It has now become a battle of brand attrition, where the high leading brands (such as Coca ColaProctor and Gamble, Deloitte, McKinsey, IBM, BP, WPP – you get the idea) jostle for the leading minds of that year.

For me, working from within lesser known employer has not been so much as how to grab the talent, but how do I get my voice heard amongst the well-crafted pitches of my HR colleagues supported by their armoury of advisors, handfuls of cash incentives, ample time for development and access to core information. Here one maxim has always guided me: choose your battles.

In the war for talent I do not have the resources to fight the arrayed armies of the larger brands, so I must find the small battles that I win repeatedly.  My approach is a simple one based on established business practice.  I adopt the principle of networking to give students what they need as they are progressing through University.  In effect, my employer becomes a mentor for the university throughout their education – we become part of their resource.  Never seeking to influence, always seeking to provide something that helps take their thinking forward and never looking to recruit them. This means we stand on the values we hold and above all, demonstrate this  over time.

One of my colleagues suggested that with networked mediation approach comes failure built-in, and to a degree they are right.  The number of graduates who join us has never been high (we only have 10 – 20 graduate openings per year, so our needs are not high) and we still apply open recruitment to our selection process.  But in terms of who we are (our brand) and social benefit,  the payback is enormous; a win win.

This approach helps me too, I learn from the graduates.  The graduate become part of my continuous professional development (CPD) not in debates about subjects such as Howard Gardners’ intelligence mapping or Hart’s views on Jurisprudence but also on new ways to deliver information (see which career, which degree) and more recently talk on extending the use of software such as Half Life or Black and White from a recruitment tool to a selection tool by incorporating psychodynamic principles – all of these discussions  have potential to translate into the business.  A true  WIN WIN WIN.