What do IT graduates look for from an employer?
It’s that fabulous time of year again, when hundreds of young, energetic, ambitious hopefuls toss their mortarboards into the air following years of study. Yes, it’s graduation time! The time they’ve long daydreamed of is upon them – the time where they will finally enter the world of work. They’re hungry and ambitious. They’re more focused and resourceful than ever, and they have high expectations. Are you ready for them?
There’s heavy competition out there for the best talent – are you a position to attract them? Will today’s tech savvy graduates want to work for you? Are you shaping a culture that attracts and retains top talent?
We’ve been doing our research, and have been helped greatly by the wonderful graduates we’ve placed in our time (as well as the ones we’re speaking to now). So, what do graduates really look for when applying for that all-important first job?
Here’s what we discovered (in no particular order of preference):
Small business or tech giant?
From the candidates we’ve spoken to, most seem to favour smaller businesses. Why? It seems many grads believe that in a smaller company, they will have more opportunity to influence things, and that there will be more opportunities for promotion and recognition. It seems the opportunities and social culture of smaller companies are more appealing. Many graduates have confirmed they’d rather not work for the world’s biggest companies, to be anonymous, just another employee, a small cog in a big machine. One grad suggested “I don’t want to be a small fish in a huge pond.” There is also the fear of not fitting in with a ‘big company’ culture. However, there are some that would still prefer the prestige of working for a well-known, global organization.
One thing seems to be common amongst all graduates – career development. They all want to secure a role that offers growth, both personal and professional. They want to be challenged, to have the opportunity to try new things, and to grow and develop. They want flexibility and variety. They don’t want to be stuck in the same role year after year using the same technologies. They want to keep up to date with the latest and greatest technologies and be at the forefront when it comes to trying new technologies and new ways of working. Candidates seem interested in finding a company that they will stay with for the long term, a company that will continue to offer opportunities. So candidates will look not just for the money, but for the opportunity!
This ties in with career development. Once the excitement of being in the sparkly world of work has worn off, these feisty young go-getters may wonder where they’re heading. Where’s this role taking them? Make opportunities very clear. Set a plan. Share the company’s vision and let them know they’re part of the plan. It’s not just about attracting these budding young brains of the future, but retaining them. If they have a disappointing start or if things turn stale, the overall plans for the team or organisation can be stunted. Harness the power of your young workforce and tap into that raw talent. Provide regular appraisals and set (and keep up with) a realistic development plan. Offer training courses, and the opportunity to gain further certifications or accreditations.
It’s not all about money and prestige. Everyone needs to feel appreciated. The more we feel appreciated, the more we want to give. It’s human nature. Your young workforce is no exception. Get to know them. What makes them tick? What do they care about? Show them you care about them, and their desire to learn and thrive.
People / Culture
Another extremely popular response – people and company culture. Most grads have just experienced one of the most sociable chapters of their lives – university. People are important to them. They make the world go round! Ever asked someone why they love their job so much and their reply “It’s the people that make it”? Today’s graduates want to be amongst like-minded, passionate people. They want to establish real, meaningful relationships with co-workers, in and out of work. So team events, lunches, sports activities, company trips etc are all increasingly attractive.
An intangible, complex concept. To some, company reputation is as important as the salary – a positive reputation; a strong, clear corporate identity; financial stability; profitability and growth prospects… important to many. But on the increase are other more critical factors, which include strong ethical practices and demonstrable social responsibility. Is the company ethical, admirable, trustworthy, respectful? Do they support good causes? Do they treat their employees well? Candidates these days are more switched on, and they’re being more careful with their choices. Get this right and you could be on the way to creating a robust pipeline of quality candidates.
Let’s not forget our intellectual, socially and politically aware graduates have experienced a deep recession and, it’s fair to say, a rather bumpy economy. Uncertainty – no one likes it. If candidates feel insecure it will almost certainly have a negative impact on their performance. Make them feel valued. Reassure them. Invest in them. Personal development and career satisfaction are top priorities for graduates, but job security seems to be becoming just as important these days, especially as many graduates see this first step in a long term commitment and not just a stepping stone.
Work life balance
This is a big one. Graduates want flexibility and variety. They want to have the freedom to live and work in the location of their choice, with some degree of flexibility when it comes to work hours and work from home options. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that employers who have the best culture and work environment will attract and retain the best talent, and that high levels of trust will almost always enhance performance. Some people work better early in the mornings, some would rather stay in the office late, some work better from home. Candidates need to find the right match for them, to assure longevity with the company.
Coaching / Mentoring
One of our recent graduates commented on how being paired with an ‘older, seasoned veteran’ was invaluable for him when he entered the world of work. Graduates want to feel challenged but supported, and having someone who has ‘been there, done that’ to provide advice, guidance and feedback can be very inspiring and comforting. A mentor can be invaluable to a candidate, in helping them to connect the dots between their abilities and potential, and their goals, achievements and successes.
We’ve covered why career development, company reputation and job security are important factors for graduates when taking their first job. We’ve looked at how some care more about a good work life balance, or the chance to make an impact. We’ve seen how, to some, what matters most is where the job will take them and what skills they’ll learn, which will hopefully lead to a higher paid, more prestigious role in the future. But to some, it’s still about the cold hard cash. To some, the starting salary is everything. It’s a marker of success. The impact of tuition fees, student debt, or perhaps even a new mortgage – whatever the reason, the starting salary is still an important factor for most graduates and remains high up on the chain of importance. If a company isn’t offering a competitive salary, it risks losing out on the best talent. We’ve witnessed it first hand – we’ve taken graduates down the recruitment process where all the boxes have been ticked – company, location, role, technologies, people – and at the last hurdle the company has lost the candidate to another company who was simply paying more.
Other factors that were mentioned in the responses:
- Challenging work
- Opportunity to run with own projects in the future
- Relationship with manager & supportive management structure
- Company bonus and additional benefits (car, gym)
- Location (organisation / office)
New graduates will soon be flooding the market. What are you going to do to attract them and harness their raw talent?
At Corben Consulting we recruit IT Graduates who have Computer Science, Software Engineering or related IT degrees. If you want to talk about recruiting IT graduates for your team – get in touch!