Expert interview: Best practices in graduate recruitment and running a successful graduate programme
How do top corporates run their graduate programmes? We sat down with two HR experts from the Maitland Group to share their learnings and best practices
Maitland is a global advisory firm that provides legal, fiduciary, investment and fund administration services to private, corporate and institutional clients, with $160 billion assets under administration.
We interviewed Shanaaz Parker, Coach, Industrial Psychologist and Head of HR (Fund Services), and Lynn Alkana, Recruitment and Talent Business Partner, to find out more about their experience with graduate recruitment and running successful graduate programmes.
Shanaaz has over two decades of experience across generalist HR functions and is currently responsible for the overall functioning of an HR team, including activities such as end-to-end talent management, leadership development and performance management.
Lynn has been with Maitland for over 10 years, and was part of the team who developed the intern graduate programme five years ago. She is deeply involved in recruiting for and managing the Maitland intern graduate programme, including running regular engagement sessions with mentors and interns.
Why do you do it? How does Maitland’s graduate programme add value to the business?
Lynn: Maitland has been running its graduate programme for five years now. We looked at how other companies managed their new hires and what the best practices were. At the end of the day, we decided to formalise an intern graduate programme, which has been very beneficial to the business. It offers less risk and opportunities to align with SETA bodies as well as the Yes4Youth programme.
Shanaaz: Besides the commercial value, running a graduate programme is the right thing to do and offers a lot of social value. A formal graduate programme creates a talent pipeline for the organisation, and the calibre of graduates has been phenomenal thus far. In fact, we have found a more solid pool of talent compared to standard recruitment processes. What is important to us is to ensure that graduates find opportunities; with fewer vacancies during COVID, this has sometimes meant placing graduates with our competitors and clients. To my mind, this helps to build a broader talent pool that can be accessed when roles open up in future, and it also helps to build great relationships.
In your experience, which areas are most important to screen for upfront, and which characteristics best relate to graduate success?
Lynn: At Maitland, we run Learning Agility assessments when screening graduates. We have found that graduates with high Learning Agility are very successful in the business. There was one example where a department wanted to make an intern permanent after only three months. All in all, we have had very good feedback from the business. We also use interviews in our process, but because people don’t always interview well, we take more than just the interview into account when deciding who to place and in which teams.
Shanaaz: Learning Agility is very important. If graduates have low agility, it has an impact. Many of the operational areas require graduates to learn very quickly, so it is important that they don’t get left behind. Besides agility, we place a lot of emphasis on matching graduates to the team and who they will be working with.
Lynn: I also want to mention Self-deception and Impression Management on the reports. If someone has high Self-deception, it can be a red flag; we have seen many cases where these individuals struggle with self-awareness and taking responsibility.
“Learning Agility is very important. If graduates have low agility, it has an impact.”Shanaaz Parker
How does your graduate recruitment work? Please give us some insight from sourcing to onboarding graduates, as well as where their careers go?
Lynn: We typically hire between 30 and 40 graduates a year, with advertising starting in July and the first intake in October. We typically get thousands of applicants; after filtering for qualifications in niche areas (economics, finance, etc.), we shortlist and run the Learning Agility Assessment. Those who score over our performance benchmark for Learning Agility are then shortlisted for a “meet and greet” interview with HR. After a third round of short-listing, full-fledged interviews are run with line managers.
How long does it take for a graduate to become fully productive in the company? How do you nurture and accelerate this?
Lynn: We run a number of Learning & Development interventions. One that is particularly valuable is business and communications training with all interns. This training takes them through business language, telephone etiquette, how to dress, presenting yourself in a professional light, and so on. It really helps interns to better understand how to fit into a formal workplace, which is especially important if they have no corporate experience.
It usually takes graduates three to four months to get going. After this, they are usually productive within their roles and contributing to the organisation. To help keep them on track and offer support, Maitland also runs an internal mentorship programme with regular check-ins. As HR, we also have regular sessions with our graduates.
Since COVID hit, everything has been run online – screening, interviews, training and working from home. We find training is even better online, because our interns can go back, re-watch the recording multiple times and then do their work perfectly.
Are there any important lessons you’ve learned from your graduate programme or best practices you’d like to share?
Shanaaz: What we have found useful is to involve the business in the recruitment of graduates, so they have a part to play in who is selected and how they are developed over time. One way we accomplish this is by bringing line managers into the interview process, so they have direct buy-in into who gets placed within their team. This leads to better communication, collaboration and success down the line.
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