Changing it up: ditching the merchandise and challenging social conscience to attract new graduates

What if you could change something that people took for granted to be something that makes an impact?

Career fairs are funny places. They’re full of organisations trying to convince you that their company is the best place to work, and that you’ll be the best version of yourself there. If not a clear idea of what your future could look like, you’re certain to leave with at least two full bags of branded merchandise. Pens, rulers, stress balls – you name it, if it’s possible to stick a logo on it, it’s probably made an appearance at a careers fair.

Recently, the KPMG Grad Recruitment team did something a little bit drastic and got rid of all of our ‘merch’ at careers fairs. Instead of stress balls and pens, we replaced the lot with three boxes bearing the names of three local charities. Students that stopped by the KPMG booth were invited to pop a token in their box of choice. KPMG matched each token with a donation to that charity.

So what was the point? A token gesture or a real indicator of what KPMG is really about.

The objective was replacing value-less items with something of value. But what was interesting was how one simple swap changed the conversations the KPMG recruitment team had with potential candidates. The token invited conversation and the opportunity to tell grads more about the value and values of KPMG as well as a few interesting notions around grad recruitment in 2016:

Community links are important. The team received a note recently from a student they had met on campus, who had a personal link to one of the chosen charities. She wrote that the charity had helped her during a time of need and while our work with them may seem a small thing to us, it was so much more to her. To see first-hand the difference our gesture had made reassured us that this was the right thing to do. A free pen could never have this kind of impact.

Values matter. It is becoming increasingly clear to us that people need to feel like their values align with their place of work. Grads we speak to are looking for a high congruence between what they value and what we value.  We think this means people at our firm will be happier at work, will feel more productive and will pursue fulfilling careers with us.

Conversations are changing. Prospective grads are asking how KPMG is involved in local communities and what our stance is on key societal issues. It’s no longer enough to rest on your name and assume graduates will want to join us simply because we’re KPMG. Millenials vote with their feet and are digital entrepreneurs who want to work “with” organisations not “for” them. They are career multi-taskers who will move seamlessly between organisations and pop-up businesses. Our conversations need to be relevant to the student – telling them about what they will be doing and what their career pathway with KPMG could look like. They want to know that they will make a difference at KPMG and in the world.

Graduate recruitment is a one indicator of what a company’s commitment to communities and social conscience is like. Not just something for the corporate citizenship team, or contained to one volunteer day a year, but something that is integral to our whole business every day of the year.


In FY16, KPMG’s total contribution to not-for-profit organisations across the country was over $14 million for the year. This included close to 30,000 hours volunteered through pro bono work, secondments, mentoring, tutoring and volunteering programs


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