Inside Simpson Grierson's award winning graduate recruitment drive

Graduate recruitment drives can leave HR teams dreading the end of the academic year, but one firm has proven that large graduate onboarding schemes needn’t be dull or repetitive.

At the recent NZAGE Awards, law firm Simpson Grierson was awarded in two categories: Best Graduate Recruitment Print Campaign in New Zealand, and Best Diversity Strategy.

NZ Lawyer sat down with Jo Copeland, HR director at Simpson Grierson, and Louise Poppelwell, the firm’s marketing and communications manager, to talk about their winning recruitment strategy.

“What we were looking to do was to use the recruitment scheme as a way to project our brand values and message as a whole to potential graduates,” Poppelwell told NZ Lawyer.

“We did a lot in terms of firm-wide messaging, making it clear what the firm stands for and what our values are.”

The firm wanted to create its graduate recruitment campaign in a way that would show graduates what it’s like to work for them – “we wanted them to know what values and ideals we hold,” said Poppelwell.

She added that it was important to build a strong graduate recruitment campaign because of the competitive job market.

“When you look at the market in general, it’s easy to see that other companies are very aware of the competitive nature of graduate recruitment,” Poppelwell explained.

In order to compete, Simpson Grierson designed an arguably unique campaign.

“We came up with a strong visual around photography and polaroids, with the slogan ‘Join us and be part of the story’,” Poppelwell said.

“It was designed to show potential grads that we wanted to know a bit more about them as well – we widened the recruitment program so that we got a sense of who they were.”

“One of the most important aspects of the recruitment process was that we asked candidates to come to the interviews with photos to tell their story, and show us what mattered to them,” Copeland added.

“This really broke the ice – it’s all very well for candidates to talk about what they’ve done, but we didn’t want to conduct traditional interviews; we wanted to know what mattered to the candidates.”

Copeland told HRM that this initiative was a success.

“We had a huge range of responses; candidates showed us everything from activities they took part in, to family, to people who inspired them,” she said.

“It took the interviews in a different direction, and got people talking. It helped us to find out much more about them, rather than hearing them reciting something they’d learnt in preparation.”

The technique also helped Simpson Grierson to discover which candidates’ values aligned with the firm’s.

“We wanted to know what the candidates stood for, rather than reflecting back to them what the firm is all about,” Poppelwell explained.

“It encouraged people to be more genuine, which is really important to the firm – we want people to be who they actually are here, and feel comfortable at work. It’s an inclusive environment, and we wanted people to know that.

“The method also helped us to see other traits that don’t usually manifest in an interview, such as empathy and relationship skills.”

The importance of investing in graduate recruitment

In most law firms, graduate recruitment is the number one source of new talent – “it’s the biggest source of recruitment in any year,” said Copeland.

“After that, we get a big influx of junior lawyers, and our role is to train them up and send them off into the world – then they come back, and we tend to rehire them again.”

Graduates are also a key talent pool for Simpson Grierson because of the firm’s diversity initiatives.

“With the world moving so much more into the digital space, these are the people who have grown up with that technology,” Copeland told HRM.

“Organisations need that diversity of skills, and younger generations are bringing a different skillset and new ways of thinking.

“For example, if we want someone who is skilled in using social media, it’s usually – although not in every case – younger people who have the relevant experience.”

Copeland also emphasised the importance of graduates to the firm in terms of contributing to the firm’s broader targets.

“We rely on graduates, and at Simpson Grierson they are just one part of a broader diversity strategy,” she said.

“Diversity is a key pillar of what we do – we look at diversity across our whole business.”

Materials from Simpson Grierson's recruitment drive.

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