Read any rap about Suncorp’s graduate program and you’ll come across their strapline, “There’s never been a more exciting time to join the Suncorp team!”
And Kelly Pfeffer was the must-have Queensland recruiter when she was selected for the Top 20 ASX-listed company’s graduate recruitment team in February this year.
She is the first to admit that she juggles a few balls at any given time as head of Suncorp’s national graduate recruitment efforts, which feeds each of Suncorp’s business units’ graduate and vacation programs in IT, Banking, Agribanking, Insurance and Corporate Services.
Prior to that, Kelly held prominent grad recruitment roles in the public sector and continues to represent QLD as an AAGE committee member.
Kelly joined Suncorp just as we were heading into another grad recruitment season, so had Suncorp’s existing grad processes at her disposal. However she only had a brief period to find her feet.
“It was apparent early on that there was some catching up in terms of offerings and messaging to attract students,” says Kelly. “Especially in light of the different opportunities available within our grad program.”
Uniquely, Kelly sits nationally and oversees all Suncorp Group graduate recruitment. She enjoys having the ability to influence, coming up with ideas and having those heard. In the past six months she has totally revamped the branding, including the graduate value proposition and the creative around that.
“Before I knew it we had our vacation program to launch and have subsequently filled 40 positions,” says Kelly. “We generated a 290% increase in applications compared with last year.”
“We had huge increases across all roles. Our reworked branding contributed, but we have been increasing our on-campus presence too.”
In a world of virtual careers fairs and increasing off-campus recruitment initiatives, getting face-to-face with candidates is working well for Suncorp.
“Students who speak with a Suncorp graduate or employee are more likely to be rallied into action as far as their career direction, so on-campus activities are important.”
Kelly is delighted with the results including Suncorp’s ranking as #14 and #15 Top Intern Employer and Top Graduate Employer (respectively) in Australia. She is now developing a ‘Suncorp Graduate Ambassador Program’ which she hopes to roll out next year, making grads a first point of contact as well as formalising the recognition of graduate’s contribution at Suncorp.
Meantime, Suncorp will continue to engage with and attract candidates on site and at university events. Being uni-side more than most also affords Suncorp’s grad recruitment team some useful insights.
“We still notice a disconnect. Students need to be thinking more about what sort of job their degree can get. Internships and vacation programs help, but students don’t always have their eye on their options and the skills they either need to acquire or hone.”
“From an employer’s perspective, we are naturally looking for students who have a clearer idea than their peers. Skill plus a degree is a small component of the choice we make. Once candidates make it through to the assessment centre process, we are looking for delineation.”
Placing candidates for Suncorp’s 1-2 year graduate program is very much about fit as opposed to fitting a job role. Suncorp’s next intake will see 50 grads starting in 2014, preceded by 40 vacationers coming on board this December. Using CareerHub Central is key to Suncorp’s candidate attraction strategy.
“When selecting for one of our programs, candidates are essentially putting themselves on stage so need to be comfortable with the possibility that they may not be successful.”
For now, Kelly is preparing for their grad intake next year, allowing room for everyone to finish the year out. Behind the scenes, she is looking forward to some professional networking and benchmarking at AAGE where she can tap into best practice, gathering information and the latest industry developments.
Suncorp has a good grad appetite; asking why they recruit grads is always forefront of their strategy and purpose.
But students have a part to play even before they get in front of a potential employer.
“My message to students and grads would be to get more value from their uni careers services and take advantage of the services on-campus,” says Kelly. “Be proactive and form a relationship with your careers advisers. Start having the conversations – they can provide rich and valuable advice and cut through employer messaging white noise.”
“If they take advantage of this, they will be so much further in front when it comes to standing out to potential employers.”