650 CVs accepted. None hired.

Aug 12, 2015

650 accepted CVs.

120 shortlisted.

46 first interview.

16 final interview.

None hired.

The numbers above are real. They describe the actual recruitment experience of a large retail chain whose business model depends on the annual recruitment of the best graduate talent to run its stores.

With the pick of the UK out there you would think a top employer could easily attract the graduates they are looking for, but apparently it’s not that easy.

Not only do graduates compete against one another for jobs, but top employers around the world also compete with one another to find the best talent. They invest thousands on their graduate recruitment programmes to find really bright and ambitious people for purposely reserved graduate entry level roles.

Research by Highfliers suggests that a quarter of the country’s leading employers increased their graduate recruitment budgets for 2015. The average cost of recruiting one new employee is between £4,333 and £7,750, so you can do the maths on graduate employers such as Teach First (who advertised 2,060 graduate vacancies in 2015), PwC (who advertised 1,570 vacancies) and Deloitte (who advertised 1,100 vacancies).

650 Accepted CVs

According to Highfliers many graduate employers actively market their graduate vacancies at an average of 19 UK universities. This includes a mix of “local recruitment presentations, campus careers fairs, skills training events, promotions through university careers services, online advertising and social media”. Our case in question used many of these methods and as a result accepted 650 CVs from the graduates who applied.

120 Shortlisted

The work of shortlisting those 650 CVs will have typically involved taking a look at what sort of experience a graduate already has, the skills listed, the goals stated in the personal statement and of course details of formal education and grades but recruiters will also look at how well the applicant presents his or herself in writing. Is the CV clear, easy to ready, well structured? Is it pages and pages long and full of spelling mistakes? Are there gaps in dates where your activity is unaccounted for? Many will look at your interests, hobbies and travel experience too. Overall, your CV must match the criteria of experience, skills and aptitude that describes the kind of person the company is looking for. In this case those 650 people were reduced to 120.

46 First Interview

Most companies make the decision on who interview by first conducting a telephone interview. Over the phone a company can get a real sense of your personality type and interest in the job just by listening to your voice, how well you present yourself and how you answer certain questions. The graduates in this recruitment process needed to sound confident, enthusiastic and clear over the telephone and by the looks of things 46 passed and were invited to a first interview.

16 Final Interview

Surely there is a gem or two among the 16? The header recruiter at this department chain told me that during the final interview one of the candidates was asked what she thought of the store, to which she replied, “I haven’t had the chance to have a look around yet… do you think that would be a good idea?” Another looked as though she’d had a really rough night on the town and could barely resist the temptation to sprawl over the desk. Were these the best on offer?

None Hired

Apparently so as none of them were hired. Now I found this story very difficult to believe, that out of an initial influx of 650 applicants this department store could not find a single person worth hiring. But the story is not unusual. In a survey carried out in May 2015 by global management consultancy Hay Group 90% of respondents said they believe that fewer than half of graduate applicants in the UK have sufficient people skills for the roles they are applying for. Hay reported that 77 percent of graduate employers have admitted that they have had to hire graduate staff who weren’t suitable due to a lack of choice.

The question we must therefore ask is, Given their importance, why aren’t soft skills taught?

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