This is a follow up to this blog about the recruitment and interview process. Hopefully it will have gone well, and you will have a preferred candidate to make an offer to. If so, there are some things to be aware of:

Feedback following interviews: This can often be difficult, as in many cases a candidate may perform well, and another may just have pipped them. It’s not always straightforward to quantify this, particularly when there is a strong shortlist of candidates who are all of an excellent standard,. Small margins can make the difference. Though it is always good for the unsuccessful ones to know that they have done well, to encourage them.

Feedback can often be invaluable to candidates, and can make the difference between them getting their next job or not; maybe even with the same employer, if they use the feedback positively. An example being in a technical test where they weren’t as strong in a particular area, which is something they can then work on.

It shouldn’t take long to give brief feedback to the recruiter, either by phone or email. Most applicants are grateful for it.

Making an offer: On occasion, employers will make a ‘lowball’ offer; less than the market rate, or sometimes even less than the candidate is already on, or what was advertised. This is not necessary, and can cause a sour taste; especially as a higher offer usually comes if it is rejected.

In general, it’s best to consider what the market rate is, what others are on internally, and what can be considered a fair offer. Sometimes there will still be negotiation on an offer, and it will need to be increased, but to a realistic amount. This is where a good recruiter can be invaluable as a go between. I always discuss salary levels with clients and candidates before the process begins, to check the same ballpark figure is there- and will also discuss this when an offer is made. I will let a candidate know if they are being unrealistic; and if I feel the offer an employer is about to make will not be accepted I will let them know- potentially preventing an awkward situation.

The other thing to bear in mind is that if a lower offer is accepted, then there is the risk that the candidate may be tempted to move at some point for a more realistic salary.

When a candidate gets two offers: Sometimes a candidate may receive an offer from another business during the selection process. If an interview has not been set yet, I would recommend getting them booked in asap.

Or they may have an interview booked in for another job after an offer has been made. In this case I would discuss with the candidate how they feel about it; often the other role would not be their preferred option, in which case I would advise they cancel it and accept their preferred offer.

But if they were interested in the other role, and they would like to attend the interview, I would recommend allowing them a bit of extra time. Then when they do accept, there can be confidence on both sides that they have made the right decision and are fully committed. But also, if an employer insists on an immediate decision it can cause bad feeling; they will possibly either decline the offer, or accept and go to the other interview anyway.

Having said that, there has to be a cut-off point, or there is a risk of other candidates being lost from the process. Up to a week is reasonable I would say. I would always ask a candidate to let the other business know they have an offer, and to ask them to bring that interview forward; and if they don’t, then question if that business is fully committed to them.

Once an offer is accepted: Send out something formal in writing by email asap. This would ideally be a contract, but at least it should be confirmation of the offer. Without this, candidates can become a bit uneasy- especially if they have to give notice on their existing job, or cancel other interviews. Having this in writing is not only a comfort, it’s also a strengthening of the commitment.

Starting and going forward: It’s important to keep the new starter feeling welcomed and supported, particularly in the first few weeks. I will also keep in contact with them during the initial settling in period, and can help with any issues for the first few weeks. But they need to feel supported at work too. Sometimes assigning a buddy or mentor to guide them can be beneficial.

It’s crucial that you or the line manager speaks with the graduate regularly, letting them know when they are doing well, and giving constructive feedback where needed so they can improve. Even if a graduate is doing well, they may not know it- and we all like to be praised for doing a good job. And if they are not doing so well then there may be a reason, and a little bit of support and encouragement can help.

If you have a working from home policy, then one of the downsides can be a lack of contact between younger members of staff and experienced colleagues; even just being around them can help, observing behaviour and picking up little things. So this is something to bear in mind. Also, some graduates may not have the equipment, infrastructure, or room, to work from home effectively (particularly those from a lower socio-economic background).

Once the new graduate is settled in and contributing, you need to make sure they continue to develop and are challenged. Also, monitor pay-levels to make sure they are competitive. If there is any dissatisfaction with anything then there is a chance they could start looking for a new role; or at the very least be more receptive to a headhunting approach from another business. This does happen.

An example of where it is done well is a client of mine who has taken on 13 engineers at different times over the last 3 years. All but one are still there. I spoke with the graduates and asked what they enjoyed so much, and reasons given were that managerial staff were approachable and helpful; they got on with their colleagues (showing that good people were chosen); the business did good things for them such as Christmas nights out; and a couple had moved into different jobs within the business. Possibly most importantly, they were challenged every day and were using their brains.

Another client of mine lost several graduates to a direct competitor. It’s a horrible thing to happen. It’s particularly true in industry sectors where not a lot of experienced candidates are available. A graduate with a year or two of experience is very attractive to other employers.

They were doing a lot right when onboarding the graduates:

Providing support and guidance, investing in training and development, and giving responsibility. It’s interesting work, and something that gives job satisfaction. They are good people, there’s a nice atmosphere in the office, and they do a lot of fun things for the team.

Overall, a great place to work.

Yet they were still losing people. Research and investigation was done to find the reasons, and they found that after a year or two the graduates were being paid at below market value.

The competitor was contacting their graduates (it’s not difficult to do) and telling them that they could give them more money. In some cases a rise of up to 4k a year.

So, while they were doing a lot right to keep the team happy, at the end of the day the reason why a lot of people go to work is to earn money. And it’s human nature that some (though not all) would take that extra money.

They made sure it didn’t happen again. Their starting salary of 26k is competitive (some offer more, but plenty offer less); and, crucially, staff are now on 30k after a year. And people have stopped leaving.

Such a rise will not be needed in all positions, but if you are finding that graduates are leaving after a year or two then think about pay, and also some of the other things mentioned above. There is often a reason.

I hope this blog has been if interest. If you have any comments or would like to discuss anything in more depth please let me know. You can read more content related to the SME graduate employment market here

Matthew Parry,
Director. SME Graduate Employment

Email: matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk Telephone: 0370 774 9500

This blog is also covered on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cjh6Tu51IY

SME Graduate employment is a specialist graduate recruitment agency. Covering permanent roles, fixed-term contracts, student / undergraduate and graduate internships, and sandwich placements. All areas of the UK, and most industries and job types.

If you would like to find out more about the services I offer please contact me by email matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk or phone 0370 7749500 (local rate number) You can also see other content I have written here