How to attract the best young talent through your graduate scheme

The tables have turned. Competition has intensified in the recruitment market, with pressure now on how employers can attract the best young talent rather than having the pick of the crop.

The number of graduate roles grew by almost five percent last year alone and it’s clear more businesses are seeing graduate schemes as a springboard to achieving a globally competitive workforce.

So, how can you stand out from the crowd when it comes to your graduate scheme? Emma Davidson, an alumna of the Express Graduate Academy and area retail manager for London gives her top tips…


Today, graduates are digital by default and expect companies to be visible in the online spaces they inhabit.

Dell has done this particularly well. Instead of relying on traditional text-based job adverts, it created a new Global Talent Brand and Tools team, tasked with increasing the online visibility of its graduate programme. The team redesigned Dell’s global career websites, launched a job search optimisation site and developed a campaign of sharable candidate-focused blog posts and videos. This allowed Dell to support and maintain a consistent, globally relevant employer brand identity at an affordable rate with rapid turnaround times.

A physical presence remains important too, but there’s a growing movement away from traditional university careers events. Coined ‘reverse job fairs’, students become the hosts. They’re often more relaxed and intimate, putting less pressure on students but still allowing employers access to the best talent the university has to offer, a win-win for both parties.

Graduates turning down or backing out of job offers meant over 800 graduate positions were left unfilled in 2016. Be realistic and have contingency plans in place to protect yourself such as a secondary top-up recruitment round and reconsidering previously rejected candidates.


Are equal opportunities being put into practice when it comes to your company’s graduate recruitment? In some industries, problems with diversity begin way before employers arrive on the scene. For example, the Institute for Policy Research has found enduring ethnic inequalities in university subjects including the arts, medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences. However, this does not exempt employers from taking a proactive role in helping to solve this issue.

Review whether your graduate scheme recruitment process unintentionally excludes certain people. For example, EY decided to remove all academic details from CVs to eliminate unconscious bias and in just a year, it saw the number of recruits from state schools rise by 10 percent.

The personalities of some candidates may be the opposite to what you think makes a good employee. However, focusing solely on conventional benchmarks for your scheme – such as solid communication skills, teamwork and the ability to network – may systematically screen out talented individuals.


In The Times top 100 list of the most sought-after graduate roles, Aldi trumped Google. Businesses can no longer rely on just being a ‘cool’ brand for its scheme’s popularity. Your scheme should focus on key experiences which satisfy graduates’ eagerness to learn; if new recruits feel they aren’t being challenged they will lack motivation and if they’re being pushed too far, they might give up.

A rotational structure is a good solution. Inevitably, there will be areas of the business which some enjoy more than others, but this approach supports a holistic understanding of the business. It also helps to integrate new recruits into the wider social culture.

Starting a peer-to-peer mentoring program can support professional growth within a safe environment, offering newbies the chance to learn from best-practice, how to accept failures and overcome common hurdles.


If you think all Millennials care about is money, think again. When salary is removed from the equation, support for achieving a healthy work/life balance is a deciding factor when choosing to stay or go.

Employee perks can help show your employees you care. At little cost to the business, flexible working initiatives can give them an option to do great work, in a way that fits their lifestyle. Offering well-designed social spaces in the office with areas dedicated to relaxing and allowing employees to eat away from their desks, such as the Express HUB, can also help promote a happier and healthier behaviour.

Once you’ve invested the time and resources in developing a great team of graduates, the last thing you need is for them to jump ship. According to PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, career progression is rated as a top priority for Millennials, so having a clearly mapped-out progression route for graduates can help communicate the long-term benefits of staying with your business.

By Emma Davidson, area retail manager – City of London, Express