Quite recently I was rummaging through my inbox and I stumbled across a headline that peaked my interest; Graduates are unprepared for work, time to fix. The link led me to a discussion featuring an article by HC Online that centered on a study conducted by the International College of Management Sydney (ICMS). The researchers surveyed around 500 Australian students and found that 76% of responding students were not confident in their understanding of current workplace environments. The piece discussing the study’s findings went on further to state that employers were possibly “vulnerable to hiring graduates with unrealistic assumptions about their role, salary package and on-the-job conduct”.
With the findings posing as a perfect catalyst for discussion of a perennial topic, graduate recruitment, a typical intellectual debate ensued between the participants and eventually two distinct schools of thought emerged. One half of the debaters argued that graduates are ‘clean skins’ and that it is essentially the employer’s responsibility to ensure that they onboard the graduates effectively and develop their capability. The other side was of the view that it is the graduates’ responsibility to venture out into the professional world and garner experience through various channels available to them (e.g., volunteering, work experience etc.).
I find myself sitting somewhere between these two opposing views, somewhere in the middle. I also strongly advocate that it is the employer’s responsibility to educate and socialise graduates through a structured process that assists them in realising their potential. On the other hand, graduate recruitment is a competitive process and it should be up to the graduate to arm themselves with the appropriate experience and any other competitive advantage they are able to achieve.
At the risk of being labeled a fence sitter, I actually wanted to touch on one point that I find somewhat contentious. I want to focus on the vulnerability of employers in hiring a potentially unsuitable candidate. In my opinion, employers are in no way vulnerable to recruiting incompatible graduates. I mean it is possible, but unlike other recruitment processes, graduate recruitment affords employers access to a highly diverse and large talent pool of candidates. Rather than a position of vulnerability this should be viewed as a position of power. Being able to select from hundreds or even thousands of individuals can only be perceived as a positive problem to have with the multitude of resources available to employers to help them identify quality candidates.
To help them achieve this goal organisations have typically relied upon selecting those with higher than average GPAs and experience to select the best graduates. There are some rather glaring limitations with this approach. Firstly, in relation to experience graduates face a number of obstacles:
Secondly, focus on recruiting only those with extremely high GPA scores is ultimately reducing the diversity of the talent pool that you are looking at. Just think about it for a second, organisations could actually be missing out on candidates who were able to balance full time jobs, family commitments, and still managed to achieve satisfactory results at a tertiary level. Isn’t this the ultimate graduate? Someone who is resilient, resourceful and can manage multiple demands at the same time? The truth of the matter is that while GPA goes some way towards predicting success in the workplace (0.32; Roth, BeVier, Switzer & Schippmann, 1996), performance at a tertiary level can in no way be equated to performance on the job. There is simply more to delivering value in a profit driven organisation than writing a daring and thought provoking essay; not that there is anything wrong with that. All I am trying to say is that in my experience the two environments appear to be complete polar opposites.
The other main challenge posed by the use of GPA within a recruitment process is the lack of standardisation of the grading process across universities. For example, is a distinction at Griffith University exactly the same as a distinction at Monash? This of course brings into question a whole raft of equity issues. Evidence based research has certainly concluded that there are much more efficient, sophisticated, and accurate means of selecting star graduate performers (see Schmidt and Hunter, 1998). Nonetheless I think it’s still important to concede that the GPA does play an important part in identifying quality graduates; however the cynic in me argues that the GPA has been historically used as sifting mechanisms to reduce overall cost per hire....and this legacy remains unchallenged. In saying that though, when your HR department is slammed with thousands of applications for 20 or so graduate positions, cost per hire becomes a very important consideration or it has been in the past.
In the past, the cost of processing and recruiting candidates through large volume recruitment drives has inhibited recruiters from gaining the true value that can be realised for both the organisation and the individuals they recruit. Modern recruitment platforms in the market place allow HR professionals to seamlessly shortlist and rank graduate applicants in order of suitability in a matter of minutes. Since cost is no longer an inhibitor, the question the industry is faced with now is what do we actually focus on and how do we go about it?
In my opinion we need to shift mindsets towards hiring for value and potential rather than just focusing on experience and GPA. I’m sure most of you have heard the old adage “Who you are is just as important as what you know”. The most objective and accurate method enabling organisations to explore this notion has to be psychometric assessment. In a way psychometric assessments afford organisations the ability to identify candidates that are not only technically capable (what they bring), but also suited in terms of their personality or values alignment (who they are). Furthermore, psychometric assessments demonstrate time and again that they are invaluable in identifying candidates who:
Graduate candidates are increasingly having to embody a ‘jack of all trades’ archetype to contend with the varied and emerging demands of the contemporary workplace. So why not make sure we use the full arsenal available to us as organiations to ensure that we select the best suited graduates with the most potential to complement and service the organisation’s current needs as well as the challenges visible, or perhaps hidden, on the horizon. Graduate recruitment needs to focus on factors such as cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, and the personality orientations or attributes of graduates in addition to more traditional qualities such as graduate experience or track record and GPA to ensure that they are selecting candidates who are not only going to fit better with the organisation, but also provide and deliver long term value.
What are your thoughts?
About this Post
This post was originally published by Onetest on our HR and psychometric testing blog.
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