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How franchised dealers can recruit and retain university graduates

Trevor Finn Pendragon on university graduates

With more than 400,000 new graduates on the job market this summer, franchised dealers may be wondering how best to recruit - and retain - highly qualified recruits.

The good news is there are lots of talented young people out there looking for jobs. The bad news is there are lots of vacancies, so employers have to work hard to find the right person.

Stephen Isherwood, the chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said: “There are lots of employers trying to get graduates, so a franchised dealership is going into a very competitive market.”

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at graduate employment specialists Prospects, agreed.

“Many industries are saying that they are struggling to recruit graduates – and, more importantly, retain graduates – in sales roles,” he said.

“The good graduates, especially with good sales and communications skills, are in a lot of demand – and they know it.”

The secret for dealerships is to work out exactly what they want from a graduate, according to Isherwood. He said: “If a business wants to hire a graduate, it needs to be quite clear what that role is, what skill levels are required and then thinking how best to pitch.

“Once you’ve done that, it’s a matter of understanding where the sources of those talents are.”

Isherwood suggests targeting specific universities, talking to the careers services there and getting a feel for how best to reach graduates, whether by placing ads on the careers site, holding presentations, or taking a stand at a careers fair.

Ball added: “Work experience is really effective. A lot of students will be paying their way through university, so get a few of them on-board to work in dealerships during term time and holiday time, to see how they like it and, if they are offered a good experience, they will come back.”

Pendragon, which has its own graduate scheme, has successfully taken this approach, with former undergraduate placement students proving to be rich source of talent.


Using undergraduate placements

Pendragon chief executive Trevor Finn said: “The first place we will look is those who have already spent time working with us as undergraduates. As well as already knowing the business, they have a bond with other team members and we know they will be a good fit.

“We have a lot of our undergraduates rejoining the company when they have finished at university, and they in turn make great mentors for new graduates once they have progressed to leadership roles themselves.

“What we are trying to do is offer more than an incentive to apply – we think long-term. People join our graduate scheme because we are a big name and there is room to progress, so we make sure they can do just that. We offer our graduates support and mentoring that will help them to move forward with their careers.”

This opportunity for career development is key for today’s graduates, with Ball explaining that most graduates are looking for “the opportunity to progress in their career, training and the ability to add to their skills, and a good working environment – these are all at least as important, once initial salary expectations are met”.

VW Group’s graduate scheme offers attractive career development. Graduates – who receive about £30,000 a year, a company car, plus benefits package – work for a year on a specific project, followed by two six-month placements, after which they can apply for internal jobs.

It recruits via its careers website, LinkedIn and from universities, via its Bright Futures societies. It also offers 40 undergraduate placements a year.

Heather Davies, HR manager at VW Group, said: “One interesting challenge is attracting people who don’t think they want to work in the automotive industry. We need people who are innovative, who can embrace future challenges in mobility, who are great with customers and ready to work in an industry that will look really different in a few years’ time.” CRAIG THOMAS


Resources for recruiting university graduates

Recruitment best practice

Run in conjunction with The Times, learn about how other companies recruit graduates successfully.


What students want

The representative organisation for Britain’s universities, it is a good source of insight into what students and graduates expect from the workplace.


Study the graduate labour pool

The AGR does annual research into student recruitment, salaries, internships and more.


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  • Tractorboy - 23/08/2017 11:59

    My kids are all graduates ( with sensible degrees ) and after seeing the sort of ridiculous hours worked in the retail motor industry none of them would even consider a position in the sector.