Improving your graduate brand

The gradireland Graduate Salary & Recruitment Trends Survey 2019 found that 63% of employers cited competition for graduate talent from other employers as the biggest challenge they face when filling their graduate vacancies. Employers all over Ireland are trying to bridge this gap and one of the main methods of doing so is by focusing on building your employer brand amongst this very specific audience through early engagement as soon as they arrive on campus. 

We spoke to Louise Keegan, Employer Marketing Consultant in gradireland, to gain some insights into what employers should consider when assessing their graduate brand. 

Assessing your graduate brand

It’s important to establish from the outset that this audience is very different from your clients/ customers/ shareholders and should be communicated with accordingly. Gen Z (born after 1995) have grown up bombarded by brands with almost constant access to the internet and are very socially conscious. As an employer, it is imperative that you recognise these trends and then look at how you engage with this audience and position your organisation as an answer to the influences in their lives and how they want to reflect them through their work. 

When looking at gaining the attention of Gen Z it is important to note that many employers have an inherent institutional bias and believe that their brand is well known and attractive to graduates. Unfortunately, this is sometimes very far from the truth.

The most popular graduate employers in the country can be found in the gradireland Ireland’s 100 survey which averages 14,000 participants a year and is an eye-opener for a lot of employers who feel that their brand is on-trend and resonating with Gen Z. This survey also provides evidence of the aspirational approach to their career with 71% stating that they would accept a lower salary from an employer that particularly suited them and 73% saying that it is more important to be fulfilled than earn a lot of money. 

So how do I speak to Gen Z?

In a nutshell, it is essential to maintain year-round visibility across several channels using language and messaging they can relate to. A recent study carried out in UCD showed that most students start researching their career options in second year. As a graduate recruiter, this is the optimum time to introduce them to your organisation so that when it comes to applying to their employers of choice in final year, they are aware of your brand. 

It’s important not to limit engagement to one channel, you should use as many as possible, within the limits of your budget, to engage with a wide audience. Graduate attraction campaigns should be a collaboration between your HR team and your marketing department. Your marketing team will help you define your brand while the HR team will define your graduate offering to ensure that they get the job that was described to them during your campaign. 

You must outline your graduate programme, work placement, internship, role realistically and truthfully to attract the right type of graduates for you, that also know in turn that your company is the right fit for them.

How to build your graduate brand

Firstly, look at your graduate offering:

  • What are the graduate roles in your organisation?
  • What is the support structure you have in place for your new employees?
  • Is it a graduate programme or a defined career path for immediate hires?
  • Do you have buy-in from the rest of your staff?
  • Can you provide the structure graduates want from their career path?

Secondly, look at your communication with third level students and graduates. Make sure you have a defined student-facing campaign which includes; 

  • A dedicated graduate micro-site or specific graduate content in the career section of your website 
  • Social media channels either dedicated to this audience or relevant content on your public accounts
  • Do you attend student careers events every year – both on campus and off?
  • Inclusion in career publications that are used by students and graduates
  • Access to GDPR compliant databases via careers services and their publishing partner gradireland to email potential candidates directly
  • Video content about your company, graduate programmes, current graduate recruits

Thirdly, define your graduate brand by answering the following questions 

  • What type of graduates do you want to target, and which sectors should they come from?
  • Why should they choose your company?
  • What are your company values so that the graduates you attract share them?
  • What are your company’s USP’s (unique selling points) to differentiate you from your competitors?

Take this information and build clear campaign messaging to third-level students and graduates.

You should not be afraid to create a campaign that differs from your client-facing messaging, this audience is most likely completely different from the audience engaging with your company in a commercial sense. There should be alignment with brand guidelines, logos, colour palettes but after that, the language, images and video content should resonate with 18 – 24-year-olds. 

The award-winning Jameson International Graduate Programme have adapted their brand specifically to target this demographic. They have reworked their logo and the campaign tagline “Serious Character Wanted” to include their graduate programme but have maintained the long-established Jameson fonts and colours within the campaign. The full campaign is then very targeted towards 18 – 24-year-olds with a micro-site, social media accounts and a YouTube channel hosting dedicated content created by and for their peers. 

In short, your graduate brand needs to be an accurate representation of what your company’s working culture involves, and what the graduate experience will be. It also needs to aspirational, emphasising personal and career development and how your company values the person, not just the function. 

For more advice on shaping your graduate brand, get in touch with the gradireland team on 01 645 1500 or email

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