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Literature Review: Graduate Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment and selection forms the foundation of the core activities and processes underlying human resource management and such activities include the acquisition, training and development, and rewarding performance of workers (Gilmore, and Williams, 2009). The success and sustainability of most organizations is directly proportional to skills and competencies of the employees. Equally, the entry point into any organization is dependent on the effectiveness of the recruitment and selection practices of the hiring team within the organization. In light of this, competition in the UK employment market has increased tremendously over the past few decades. This can be attributed to the inability of the employment market to absorb the growing pool of graduates from institutions of higher learning. According to Mohamed Branine, (2008, p. 497), graduate recruitment is one of the leading and toughest challenges facing the majority of potential employers. Mohamed (2008) argues that the causes of this phenomenon can be in part due to the complexities associated with the selection of the most qualified individuals and as well, due to the availability of several graduates in different disciplines from Ivy League institutions. To that purpose, the demand for quality graduates will remain highly competitive, the most advantaged recruiters will be those with strong recruitment policies, coupled with exceptional training and development policies. In some instances, financial abilities of potential recruiters will play a substantial role in future graduate recruitment and selection processes.

Varied researches and studies have been carried out and written up regarding the aspect of graduate recruitment, the attitudes of graduates, and the attitudes of recruiters with respect to choosing their employers, and as well, the perceptions of graduates towards their formative years in the employment sector. Covered in past researches also includes the influences of management executives on recruiting activities, the strategies and methods used to conduct and communicate information regarding the recruitment process, and reliability and accuracy of the recruiting tools and instruments. Much of this research has, however, concentrated on different aspects within the recruitment and selection process in different organizations across the work.

Scope of this Literature Review

In setting the context for the research undertaken in this paper, this research limits itself to the discussion of graduate recruitment and selection process in the United Kingdom. It aims to cover the gap that existed in previous researches that have been covered and written up on the field of graduate recruitment and selection process by limiting the aspect of generalizations and concentrating on particular aspects. To that purpose, it will define the concept of graduate recruitment, examine the changes and types in the strategies and methods of graduate recruitment and selection used in UK-based organizations, and identify the reasons behind the variations in the changes and developments. Additionally, this literature review will examine graduate recruitment tools and mechanisms applied in various recruitment processes, and as well, highlight particular aspects that interest employers or recruiters during the graduate recruitment process (Raybould, and Sheedy, 2005). Finally yet important, the literature review will provide a consistent conclusion based on the analysis of the graduate recruitment and selection process in the UK and possibly offer recommendations regarding future researches in general, and the graduate recruitment and selection process in particular.

In this literature review, the term ‘graduate’ is used to refer to both undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) and postgraduate (Master’s degree) holders from recognized institutions of higher learning such as college or university. Therefore, any reference made herein referring to graduates will be referring to applicants holding either an undergraduate degree or a postgraduate degree. Majority of individuals in these categories is prepared to handle the complexities associated with diverse forms of employment and work. Simply put, their institutions equipped them with the requisite knowledge and skills required in the employment market.

Graduate Recruitment and Selection

Graduate recruitment and selection forms an essential part in the central activities underlying the management of human resources within many organizations. These activities include the acquisition of talent, training and developing the talent, and eventually rewarding the performance of the acquired talent. As such, the recruitment and selection process forms an integral part of the works undertaken by human resource management and other specialists involved in the graduate and recruitment process. According to Mohamed Branine (2008, p. 500) “graduate recruitment and selection process refers to the process of searching for and obtaining potential job applicants from graduates in sufficient quantity and quality so that potential employers can select the most suitable candidates to fill in their job vacancies (p. 500).” Universally, there is commonly accepted strategy or commonly agreed procedure of recruiting and selecting graduates due to the different recruiting needs and selection methods among many employers. The differences and variations in recruiting and selection methods among employers are dependent on the operations, size, and needs (Sackett & Lievens, 2008). The graduate recruitment and selection process is structured in such a manner that it involves planned rational activities comprising of particular sequentially linked phases within the employee resourcing process.

Graduate recruitment and selection process comprises of two aspects that can be broken down to its constituent parts. Having defined ‘graduate’ to refer to undergraduate and postgraduate degree holders, the terms ‘recruitment’ and ‘selection’ can be defined as separate constituent parts. ‘Recruitment’ entails the process of generating a pool of capable people who qualify to apply for employment positions in certain organizations. On the other hand, ‘selection’ refers to the process of whereby managers and recruiting officials utilize specific instruments to choose particular individuals from a pool of applicants in which a person or persons are more likely to succeed in that particular job position and this is mainly dependent on the goals of management and respective legal requirements. Raybould, and Sheedy, (2005, p. 63) posit that, however the two functions (recruitment and selection) are closely connected, each function calls for the application of different sets of skill and expertise, and they are fulfilled different members within the hiring process. As such, the recruitment activity can be outsourced to outside agencies but the selection cannot be outsourced and this explains the reason as to why it is advantageous to treat the two items separately.

Speaking of the roles, the recruitment and selection process plays a pivotally important role in any organization as far as shaping the performance and effectiveness is concerned. For instance, if organizations are capable of acquiring workers with the requisite skills, knowledge, and aptitudes, then, it becomes obvious that these organizations are capable of making accurate predictions regarding the future abilities of the selected employees/workers. This premise suggests that following an effective and efficient strategy in recruiting and selecting workers enables organizations to avoid undesirable costs such as high staff turnover costs, poor performance among workers, and dissatisfied customers (Raybould, and Sheedy, 2005). Eventually, it engenders a mutually beneficial employment relationship within the organization and it can be evidenced by increased commitment among the involved workers. To this purpose, the recruitment and selection process forms an integral part in the organizational process of leading and managing people and the recruitment and selection process is increasingly important in the strengthening of competitive advantage within that organization.

The UK Graduate Recruitment and Selection

The objective of this review is to examine and uncover the effectiveness of the recruitment and selection process among UK-based organizations. As noted, graduate recruitment and selection process forms an essential part in the central activities underlying the management of human resources within many organizations (Gilmore, and Williams, 2009). These activities include the acquisition of talent, training and developing the talent, and eventually rewarding the performance of the acquired talent. Mohamed (2008, p. 497), even though the number of individuals entering the higher education market has doubled over the past two decades, many employers still find it difficult to recruit the type of employees that fulfill their hiring needs and requirements. The list of desirable qualities among employers has become sophisticated desirable qualities from job applicants. The Association of Graduate Recruiters reports recruitment and hiring agencies receive thousands of applications from graduates, but the employers still find it difficult to find the applicants who meet their quality.

Could there be a problem with the recruiting and selection process? Do graduate applicants fail to fulfill the hiring needs, qualities, or qualifications? These are examples of questions that need answers in order to understand the reasons as to why employers still find it difficult to get the right candidates for their jobs (Shiona, 2010). Despite the availability of limited vacancies, potential employers have had to cope with increased volumes of job applicants. Mohamed (2008) argues that employers in the UK search for graduates, who are capable of adding value to their economic strength and well, enhance their reputation. Employers often recruit workers whom they can train and develop in order to utilize their skills and knowledge (Roberts, 2005). Nevertheless, what does it take to be a good graduate? What processes do employers use to identify good graduates? Another important revelation of the recruitment and selection process within the UK job industry is the relationship between the employment (graduate) labor market and the higher education sector. While higher education is supposed to nurture and prepare graduates for the job market by enhancing knowledge and learning, it is not their duty to secure employment opportunities for the graduates. This can be attributed to the fact that the higher education market is responsible for preparing graduates to fit the needs of different employment sectors thereby making it difficult to provide training to specific individuals. An exploratory study by Carless (2007) revealed that institutions of higher learning play critical roles in ensuring efficiency and efficacy among graduates. Studies by Silvester, Anderson, Haddleton, Cunningham-snell, and Gibb (2000, p. 16) point out that the graduate recruitment and selection process in the UK has undergone tremendous changes in the recent past and the majority of such changes entail the streamlining of selection procedures to reduce costs. Among the highly adopted strategies are the use virtual selection methods such video interviews, telephones, and internet means.

Traditionally, organizations in the UK recruiting industry found it a lot easier to recruit candidates from the list of job applicants, who accepted any form of job offering (Mohamed, 2008, p. 498). In the contemporary UK job market, thousands of applicants can apply for vacant job positions but it becomes a difficult task to recruit the ideal candidate. This can be attributed to the different trends and developments that have occurred in the recruitment and selection methods. Increased competition among graduate employers, technological advancements, and socio-economic and political changes are other factors that have led to complexities in the recruitment and selection processes. Keenan (2005) postulates that the recruitment and selection process in the UK follows a sequential process referred to as the resourcing cycle.

Resourcing cycle of the recruitment and selection process

As earlier mentioned, the recruitment and selection process follows some defined sequences characterized by distinct and inter-linked stages. These sequences are referred to as the resourcing cycle of the recruitment and selection process. This cycle begins when graduates identify an available vacancy and ends when the selected candidate lives up to the expectation of the case by performing to the required standards. To graduate, the organization is a prospective employer while to the organization the candidate is evaluated to fill the vacancy (Raybould, and Sheedy, 2005). In order to ensure that best candidates are selected to a particular post, it is forcefully crucial that the recruitment and selection process be handled in a timely and professional manner characterized by effectiveness and efficiency.

The first step of the recruitment and selection process entails the announcement of a vacant position within an organization. This move is subject to thorough decision-making by members of the management regarding the strategic impacts within their organization (Tineke, & Maddy, 2008). At times, situations exist where a vacant position resulting after an employee leaves are organization is replaced with automated machines. If the decision is made that, the vacant position requires to be filled, job specifications are drawn down to reflect the duties and requirements needed for that job in addition to requisite skills, experiences, and personal attributes. The next step involves the process of attracting candidates in order to produce a large pool of applicants from where the ideal candidate will be selected. Very often this function of the recruitment and selection process are outsourced to recruiting and hiring agencies in order to eliminate the number of unsuitable candidates applying for the vacant position. The third step is the resourcing cycle that entails shortlisting the number of candidates to a manageable level whereby it will be easy to make an employment decision (Tineke & Maddy, 2008). The selection process generates an optimum number of job seekers and the majority of applicants are rejected during this stage. Many things happen during this stage because the recruitment tools and strategies are applied during this stage including interviews, face-to-face meetings, and other forms of communicating the selection procedure.

Once the recruiting tools and methods have been utilized, recruitment decisions are made and the actual selection is made. Nonetheless, the selection process does not mark the end of the job recruitment and selection exercise because their abilities and capabilities to perform the allotted job to maximum cannot be ascertained. To avoid uncertainties regarding the capabilities of selected individuals, a probationary period is imposed whereby the performance and potential of employees is assessed and evaluated. This period marks the transition period or the post selection phase where the selected employees are inducted and integrated into the organization. This is a critical process because the selected candidates are taught several issues relating to the organization such as the organizational culture, normal routines, and ethical processes within the organization. The final stage under the resourcing cycle is the evaluation of the entire post-selection process and conducting a reflection of the lessons learnt from the entire process and as well, suggesting future implications.

Statistics of Variations in Recruitment and Selection methods

According to survey findings undertaken to determine the causes of variations in recruitment methods used by employers in UK, each year, 91 per cent of employers and potential graduate recruits prefer the internet as the ideal method for large organizations (Mohamed, 2008, p. 504). Closely behind the internet at 89 per cent was the use of career literature such as Prospects, Prospects Today, and GET directory ((Mohamed, 2008, p. 504). Other methods such as milk rounds and career fairs were less popular after the survey findings estimated its popularity at 45 per cent each while recruitment agencies was the least popular at 15 per cent (Mohamed, 2008, p. 504).

Similarly, the survey also considered the cause of variations in terms of selection methods used by employers in the UK graduate recruitment and selection industry (Mohamed, 2008, p. 506). From the survey, the use of CVs and Cover letters was mostly preferred by small and medium-sized employers while the use of assessment centers and aptitude tests were less preferred by most employers (Mohamed, 2008, p. 506). Shortlisting of respondents before inviting them for the interview was also revealed as one of the commonly used selection methods (Mohamed, 2008, p. 506). In situations where interviews were conducted, a combination of both single and panel interviews was used with variations in compositions of members in the interviewing panel (Mohamed, 2008, p. 506).

Speaking of reasons for the variations in recruiting and selection methods among the graduates, accuracy and relevancy of the selection and recruitment methods seemed to be the overriding factor (Mohamed, 2008, p. 508). To that purpose, employers cited the employer application form as being the most accurate and reliable method for assessing the characteristics and qualities of potential employees (Mohamed, 2008, p. 508). This can be attributed to fact that employer application forms provided high levels of accuracy when gathering information, assessing the company’s competencies, and as well, in simplification of the selection process (Mohamed, 2008, p. 508). In terms of cost saving, the CV and covering letter provided the highest cost saving levels due to the ease of sending and in providing more information. Equally noteworthy was the use of interviews in gathering crucial but first information about the applicants. The two-interaction, fairness, ability to fill gaps left by other forms, and the ease of validation were cited as the factors that promoted the use of interviews in the selection process (Mohamed, 2008, p. 508).

Types of Graduate Recruitment and Selection Methods

Milk Round

This recruitment method involves the process of conducting annual recruitment programs during career fairs different institutions of higher learning whereby potential employers and companies converge to give public lectures, presentations, and as well meet and/or interview final year students. This strategy was immensely popular in the UK some two decades ago before the expansion and development of the information age. Additionally, companies advertise and promote the available employment opportunities directly to the participating students. Many a time, the associated companies involved in these milk rounds had periodic graduate trainee programs that were specifically developed and designed to absorb fresh graduates, train them, and provide the requisite exposure to issues relating to the business world. Career services such as university outreach programmes and linkages were responsible for organizing the trade fairs in liaison with particular companies. However, this method slowly lost its popularity due to technological advancements and increased use of the internet. Most companies have created web-based recruitment strategies such as CV databases, job boards, and recruiting agencies. Companies have even gone to an extent of using the internet for job advertising, filling online application forms, and even conducting online tests such aptitude tests (Mohamed, (2008, p.500).

Employee Referrals

The current employees within the organization can act as a rich source of providing linkages to potential recruits. They might hold vital information about graduates who can match the available position within the organization and such individuals might not be in a position of responding to normal recruitment methods (Shiona, 2010). This can be attributed to the fact that most of such employees might be occupied in other jobs and might not be actively searching for job placements. However, they might be enticed to look for other available employment opportunities if the right opportunity presents itself along the way. Such a strategy can be encouraged by offering bonuses to employees who provide leads through referrals.

Recruitment Brochures, Magazines, and Print Media

This involves the use of graduate recruitment literature such as GET Directories, and Prospects of the UK because these brochures are direct targets for most graduates. Organizational recruitment brochures are also availed to participants during graduate recruitment fairs. Other forms that are still increasingly used by prospective employers and companies include advertisement in local dailies and newspaper whereby job adverts are placed on the adverts and targets potential applicants due to the increased velocity of their circulation and area of coverage.


Although it can be related to the above-mentioned forms of job recruitment methods and techniques, advertisements form an ideal method that is increasingly utilized by employers to market their job vacancies and openings. Adverts are often placed on local newspapers, and online platforms. Majority of adverts are found on job websites because job seekers frequently visit such websites.

Job Databases

This involves maintaining a job filling system or job database for prospective employers using resumes and CVs that have been collected over extended periods. Such CVs and Resumes might have been collected from career fairs, manual deliveries, and as well from the company’s mail system. Once a job opening avails itself within the organization, the people responsible for recruiting services visit the database and select potential employees from the available list.

Employment Agencies

Recruiting agencies specialize in the provision of job recruitment initiatives whereby they screen job applicants are subjected to tests relative to the positions they have applied for, based on their skills and qualifications. The costs of utilizing services from the recruiting agency might be high but they offer the best services in terms of selecting the ideal candidates for particular positions (Roberts, 2005). The long-term rewards are often advantageous to the hiring organization.

Internal Recruiting

This recruitment method is one of the most essential strategies of filling up available vacancies because the current employees within an organization can be suited to fill up positions that have opened up within their organizations. This employee matching strategy reduces the costs associated with other traditional hiring methods. Hiring employees from within enables a company to obtain increased value in terms of employee relation benefits. Equally noteworthy is the idea that hired employees from within often demand lower compensation as compared to hiring employees from external sectors. Lastly, internal recruiting enables companies to decrease their expenditure turnovers through the provision of advancement opportunities for existing employees.

Career and Recruitment Fairs

Career and recruitment fairs are often ideal places for promoting entry-level jobs for fresh graduates and as well, for those individuals, who are willing to change their jobs. Responsible organs within many universities in conjunction with respective companies organize majority of recruitment and career fairs. Such places are also ideal for enabling potential employers to collect CVs and resumes to be used in future vacancies.

Graduate Recruitment mechanism/tools

The mechanisms used to select graduates for various positions vary from one recruiter to the other and it depends on the type of job being offered. Commonly used mechanisms and tools include face-to-face interviews, internet, agencies, and tests, among others.

Face-to-face Interviews

This is the most commonly used recruitment strategy among many employers in the graduate recruitment and selection process within the UK. Job applicants are required to appear before a panel of interviewers whereby general assessment is undertaken. Among the aspects examined during the interview is verification of the originality of documents and testimonials, cross-examining the application to find out the reasons and interests for applying the job, gauging his/her awareness and knowledge concerning matters within the industry. During specific interview sessions, the interviews are technically focused on the examination of particular details regarding the position, job description, and personality traits. The applicant is subjected to a series of questions and tests to determine different capabilities and levels of sustenance for the interviewee (Gill, & Banks, 1978). Follow-up questions are often directed to applicants to probe deeply into more details about the applicant including his special skills, points of difference, and qualifications.

Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies are gaining increased popularity within the UK job industry particularly in the search of graduates and executive talent. This mechanism is one of the most expensive mediums irrespective of whether an organization uses the retainer or the contingency firm. Recruiting agencies specialize in the provision of job recruitment initiatives whereby they screen job applicants and subject them to tests relative to the positions they have applied based on their skills and qualifications. Recruitment agencies are experienced in matching the qualifications of candidates faster than the speed with which other organizations are capable of achieving (Roberts, 2005). Most recruiting agencies have job databases with details of thousands of applicants in addition to having a wider access to potential employees. Similarly, they have greater access to the criteria needed by the hiring companies.

Online Application

The internet is one of the fastest and cheapest mechanisms of recruiting workers when compared to other traditional methods of recruiting workers. Organizations wishing to recruit workers often post their jobs to internet sites for a modest period where they remain available 24-hours a day. Potential job applicants will be able to view the detailed information about the job opening and position being advertised and send their responses through electronic means. Organizations will be able to screen the applications by assessing the experience of applicants, their skills, and qualifications, and matching them with the skills required in that particular job. Due to advancements in technology, online screening processes and systems are capable of performing automatic filtering of applications send to the receiving mail. This mechanism often enables the organization to filter large volumes of job applications sent to the company.

Psychometric Testing

This hiring mechanism is often conducted by qualified staff and involves subjecting applicants a wide range of tests. To that purpose, psychometric testing covers varied abilities of applicants include personality profiling, ability testing, and aptitude testing. Such tests often involve two levels-A and B (Sackett, and Lievens, 2008). The first level involves aptitude testing and ability testing whereas the second level B involves personality profiling. Aptitude tests and ability tests covers a wide range of aspects that include mechanical abilities, numerical ability, verbal ability, general intelligence, sensory. and motor abilities. This strategy often allows feedback to be offered to participants. Personality profiling involves testing particular behaviors of applicants by subjecting them to things that might affect their suitability for some posts (Sackett, and Lievens, 2008).

Presentations and group exercises

Presentations involve giving applicants a particular topic and asking them to deliver a presentation on that topic within a given period. On the other hand, group exercises encompass the division of applicants into particular groups and selecting a role-play or discussion from where every member of the group will be expected to contribute. At the end of the exercise, the group should be in a position of coming up with a meaningful project to enable them to acquire marks.

Interests of employers

The interests of employers during the graduate recruitment and selection process vary from employer to employer, and depend on the type vacancy. Within these factors are varied aspects such as skills, qualifications, knowledge, experience, organizational capabilities, team spirit, and resilience, among others. To this purpose, graduates should prepare extensively when called for interviews by being committed to the needs and requirements of the recruitment and selection process. Any misunderstanding should be communicated in advance.

According to survey findings from Mohamed (2008, p. 508), employers expectations varied depending on the size and nature of operations within the organization (p. 508). Good transferable skills was more preferred to having excellent academic grades. As such, only 21 per cent of respondents argued that the level of degree qualification was more important as compared the degree subject. However, a large percentage (87 per cent) stated that the degree classification was more important than other factors.

Summary of the Review

The graduate recruitment and selection process in the United Kingdom has undergone various changes over the past few decades and this is likely to bring an impact to future recruitment and selection processes. This can be attributed to the inability of the employment market to absorb the growing pool of graduates from institutions of higher learning. The demand for quality graduates will remain highly competitive, and the most advantaged recruiters will be those with strong recruitment policies, coupled with exceptional training and development policies. Traditionally, organizations in the UK recruiting industry found it a lot easier to recruit candidates from the list of job applicants who accepted any form of job offering (Mohamed, 2008, p. 498). In the contemporary UK job market, thousands of applicants can apply for vacant job positions but it becomes a difficult task to recruit the ideal candidates. Currently…

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Checked: 24 Apr 2017
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