For hiring companies, the rules of engagement have changed. Compensation and benefits are not the only or most important cornerstones to successfully recruit new graduates. Potential employers are now being asked questions around learning and development opportunities, career progression, wellbeing programs, diversity and company values.

Given today’s competition for talent, candidates often find themselves in a position to choose from multiple job offers. Deciding which opportunity to pursue is often a complex decision, especially for new graduates who are looking to launch their careers with companies that will help them grow personally and professionally, as well as empower them to be their true selves.

For recruiters looking to attract top talent, positioning the business as a landing place of choice for university graduates is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, well-structured policies, constant re-evaluation of their offering, as well as programs that speak to the needs and demands of graduates today. Whether it’s a multi-national enterprise or a rapidly expanding startup, a prestigious brand name is not always a guarantee that you will attract the top candidates.

The following five approaches to positioning a company as an employer of choice for new graduates:

Career Pathways That Reward Professional Growth Over Tenure

The opportunity to gain an inside track on advancing skills is critical for new graduates embarking on their first full-time role. However, developing career advancement paths as part of recruitment and retention strategies cannot be a cookie cutter approach. When interviewing a candidate, focus on highlighting growth opportunities in an open-ended way.

Share details on what they will learn, training tools and how the onboarding process is tailored to help start them on a path to success. Words that resonate with today’s candidates include growth opportunities, autonomy, decision-making and initiative. Be inspiring: share how people can contribute to the goals of the company and its vision.

Two-Way Dialogue in Interviews

Soft skills are an integral part of any employee’s success within an organization. During interviews, find ways to gauge qualities beyond the technical qualifications for a position – such as eagerness, ambition, curiosity and drive.

Open-ended questions around handling challenges, their perspective on previous work experiences, what-if scenarios or their thoughts on what collaboration or creativity means to them, can help provide some valuable context. It can also open opportunities to generate a two-way dialogue while showcasing your initiatives in those areas.

Corporate Social Responsibility Front and Center

New graduates are increasingly interested in topics such as the environment, diversity and equity, wellbeing and mental health and social justice. A growing number of candidates want details around corporate social responsibility programs, commitments to sustainability, inclusion and other societal issues.

Candidates expect more than a “yes we are committed to those things” response. You must be authentic and be able to detail the actual initiatives in place, how they are managed and maintained (e.g., are they employee-led?) and where employees can play a part in supporting them.

Competitive Compensation

Studies have shown that compensation and benefits packages remain a top priority for university graduates seeking employment. Evaluate and analyze your own offerings on an annual basis and adjust them accordingly based on market conditions, competition and demand.

Flexibility in All Things

The pandemic has taught all of us the importance of a flexible workplace model. This has long since evolved from a stopgap measure to an ongoing expectation on the part of new hires, who want to have a say in where, when and how they want to work.

The demand for flexibility extends well beyond work hours and location. One thing you can offer, for example, is a wellbeing allowance program that enables your team to choose the wellbeing options that work best for them (up to $1,000 per employee per year). This has been very well-received by employees, and popular discussion point when it comes to recruiting new graduates.

Enhancing the recruitment and employee experience is not a project with an end date. Having the right elements in place to be a top recruitment choice is a collective and continued effort from everyone.

Maggie Da Prato

Maggie Da Prato is the Head of Talent for the Americas at Dialectica, an information services company with the vision to shape better business decision making worldwide, with offices in Montreal and Vancouver as well as New York, London and Athens. Dialectica aims to double its workforce in Canada by the end of the year and reach 500 employees by 2025.