Graduates vote DFAT the most popular public sector graduate employer

by Victoria Bruce04 May 2016
Fantastic organizational culture, strong focus on diversity and the opportunity to pursue a career on the domestic and international stage are just some of the reasons why the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been tipped GradAustralia’s top public sector graduate recruiter.
 
DFAT’s graduate program was recently voted #8 out of 100 Australian public and private sector entities, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Deloitte and CBA and emerging as the most popular option for graduates seeking a career in the public sector.
 
HC Online asked the Department to share the secrets behind their successful graduate program and the strategies they use to hook the best graduate talent.
 
A DFAT spokesperson said their training program exposes graduates to areas such as International Law, Trade Negotiations, Economics, Diplomatic Training and International Relations.
 
“We offer an extremely comprehensive two -year development program preparing our graduates for their future careers with the department,” the spokesperson told HC Online, such as the opportunity to represent Australia overseas at one of DFAT’s 95 posts.
 
As competition for top graduate talent can get fierce, DFAT holds its own against private sector competitors as a well-known employer of choice within the graduate world.
 
“Being a government agency it can be quite challenging to compete with the private sector as we don’t have the ability to offer the same conditions,” the spokesperson said.
 
“That being said, we can offer interesting and complex work on a domestic and international stage,”
 
“A quote from one of our 2013 graduates “I get to combine my interests in diplomacy, trade and economics – I manage programs that drive private sector growth, boost women’s economic empowerment and build trade relations.”
 
“In addition to our comprehensive training program and the ability to represent Australia overseas, we have a fantastic organisational culture and a real focus on diversity with several established networks which embrace and support innovation, all adding to the high retention rates of our graduates.”
 
To get their brand out there in the graduate world, DFAT uses a number of platforms including career fairs, university visits and career hubs and online advertising.
 
In 2015 the Department jumped on the social media bandwagon after establishing their Facebook page, and says this have been a great way to communicate with potential and current graduates.
 
“Since it was created we have seen extremely high levels of engagement from students and the Facebook page has proven to be a successful addition to our campaign,” the spokesperson said.
 
“More recently, we have held a “Live Q&A” session with our current graduates, which enabled participants to ask current graduates questions about their experiences with the recruitment process and the program so far,”
 
“This was extremely well received and to my knowledge, we are the first department to trial this.”
 
Those with their finger on the pulse of the recruitment campaign include representatives of the Staffing Branch within DFAT ‘s Corporate Management Division who check social media conversation strings and chat forums, counting the number of applications and fielding enquiries from prospective candidates during active recruitment drives.
 
The Department also participates in career Fairs, presents to a variety of education campuses and actively seeks opportunities to promote and strengthen its graduate program.
 
DFAT’s Top Tips for HR professionals who want to design and implement an award-winning graduate program include drilling down into the purpose of their program to identify key skill gaps and ensure the program meets the needs of the specific department.
 
“With these identified, you can design and create a program that is fit for purpose with a recruitment campaign aligning to these goals,” the spokesperson said.
 
Another great to build a brand within the student population is to engage with first and second year students by providing internships / work experience placements, they said.
 
In the Department’s eyes, great graduates have a wealth of knowledge and broad experience and can present a well-rounded picture of who they are and what they have achieved to date.
 
Ensuring your organization’s key players are supportive of your graduate program is also pivotal to its success. DFAT’s graduate program has a great deal of support at the senior executive level, with a high number being former graduates themselves, including Secretary, Mr Peter Varghese, the spokesperson said.
 
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