A recent survey involving the MPA revealed more effective ways to attract and retain graduate talent. They include job titles, words used in job advertisements and job descriptions, and the recruitment process.

Led by Dr Jeff McCarthy of Manchester Metropolitan University, the “graduate recruitment and attributes survey” was the first to combine the findings of members from six industry bodies: Manchester Publicity Association; Manchester Digital; Data and Marketing Association; pro-manchester; Interactive Advertising Bureau; and Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Job titles can mean the difference between a graduate applying or not. If it is not a title considered to be ‘graduate level’ the chances of them applying are reduced. For example, Marketing Trainee is not graduate level. Marketing Executive is.  Sales Adviser is not graduate level. Business Development Executive is.

Diversity, Equality and Inclusivity (DE&I) is an area the MPA have been actively campaigning on. We see increasing evidence that more diverse workplaces achieve better performance and improved decision-making.

The survey found that for graduate jobs being advertised, the use of particular words can result in the same pool of talent applying for such roles. A proven way to increase the number of applicants is using techniques to reduce gender-coded words.  The ‘Gender Decoder’ will find subtle gender coding in job adverts, helping employers to adapt the wording so it is more inclusive. Employers can access the Gender Decoder for free by using the Manchester Met CareerHub. For example, the findings revealed a bias towards male-oriented words, such as ‘ambitious’, ‘driven’ and ‘challenging’. There was far less use of female-oriented words such as ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘collaborative’. By simply making slight changes to the wording, employers are very likely to increase the number of applications from a more diverse talent pool.

A third key finding related to how graduates perform during the recruitment process. This may be during in-person interview, video interview, assessment centre etc. Linked to DE&I, it is known that students from less privileged backgrounds often may not know what an assessment centre is or understand how they work. They can therefore lack the confidence to apply for certain graduate roles or can often underperform during the recruitment process. This is an area that Manchester Metropolitan University has been proactive in tackling. Assessment centres are increasingly embedded into final year units. The positive impact has seen student confidence improving by double-digit percentage points, making them more likely to apply for such roles. There is more to be done as the full survey report identifies.

A round table event was held in November. A representative of, plus member organisation from each of the professional bodies attended. Some of the insights from that discussion are included in the full report which is available to download here.  The round table also provided the impetus for the employers and Manchester Metropolitan University to continue collaborating. Existing work includes mentoring, working on live client briefs, guest speaking, advertising graduate roles via university career hubs. There are many more examples and much more work to be done. There are three key actions from the round table that the ‘Graduate Employability Professional and University Cluster’ will now focus on to help employers and our MPA members thrive.

By Dr Jeff McCarthy. Senior Lecturer in digital marketing. Faculty Graduate Outcomes and Alumni Lead. Faculty Employability co-Lead. Lead and Founder: Global Universities Forum of Digital Capability and Employability