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Beyond the Inscrutable Graduate Selection

Beyond the Inscrutable Graduate Selection

“If you can’t bedazzle them with brilliance, befuddle them with bullshit”. Unexpectedly hearing W.C. Fields eloquent words, my interest aroused, I looked up from the novel I was reading and quietly paid attention to the conversation between the two immaculately dressed young men sitting next to me on Jubilee Line. It was soon apparent that they were returning from a graduate interview at Canary Wharf and for one of them the interview process had not gone as well as hoped. The other was attempting to console and counsel his friend. They left the train at London Bridge. I set aside my novel astonished that their perception of graduate selection put such emphasis on the gift of the gab.

With over twenty years of close involvement with graduate initiatives and entry level hiring across many countries I am familiar with the meticulous planning and attention to detail given to such talent acquisition. Multiple assessors observe each attribute in each candidate very closely and careful attention is given to the choice of assessment methods at top graduate programmes. In my opinion it is nearly impossible to fool an experienced graduate selection panel and any such attempt is easily spotted. Therefore, to put it mildly, any candidate approaching graduate jobs with such a mind-set is not setting themselves up for success!

Graduate and entry level recruitment take pride of place in the talent strategy for most organisations. They generate a lot of attention and keen interest. For many businesses they form the backbone of talent strategies and the pool from which future managers and leaders are identified. Considerable investment is set aside for Graduate Development programmes to ensure that new recruits understand the business, its culture, its people and its ethos.

Speaking to talent acquisition experts over the years, they have echoed my view that good graduate assessments are always rigorous in their approach and extremely insightful when it came to candidate assessment. Careful thought is given to the capabilities, attitudes and competencies required at entry level and assessment processes chosen to ensure that multiple assessors evaluate every attribute thoroughly using different exercises. If something did not go well for a candidate there would always be other exercises and opportunities where they could perform better. Appreciating that professional experience is often limited at entry level, these exercises are designed to simulate and provide candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and capabilities.

Entry level assessments evaluate a wide range of attributes and dimensions to reach an overall assessment opinion on a candidate. These include Communication and Influencing abilities including written, verbal communication and persuasion skills. Social capabilities include the ability to work together harmoniously with people, resolve conflicts and manage cultural diversity. Leadership, Personal Accountability, Discipline, Dealing with Change and Pressure are also important dimensions that are often taken into consideration.  Above all, I find that employers value employees with a ‘can do’, ‘nothing’s too much’ sort of work- ethic and who demonstrate creativity and innovation in tackling business challenges.

So reflecting on what I had heard in the tube I feel sorry for the two candidates and hope they soon realise that graduate selection is pretty serious business and not inscrutable. To succeed they would require considerable preparation, much more than just an air of over confidence that their eloquent quote would suggest.

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