Bypass the stress of the graduate milk round with BDO

27 August 2018

For many soon-to-be graduates the ‘Milk Round’, as it’s become known, can be a somewhat pressurised and hectic time in their lives. Ann Hogan, HR Director BDO speaks to the Sunday Business Post on how BDO are changing our approach to graduate recruitment.  

The phenomenon of companies touring universities and reaching out to students each year, in order to advertise their opportunities and recruit students, can be crammed into a few frenzied weeks.

And students often feel that if they don’t make some kind of connection with an employer during this period then that they’ll miss the boat.

Potentially this could lead to students making a rushed decision, one that they may later decide isn’t the right one for them.

Learning from this experience and identifying the pitfalls of the Milk Round the Human Resources team at BDO Ireland has decided to alter the application structure for their much-lauded graduate programme.

Ann Hogan, Director of Human Resources at BDO, explains: “The feedback we were getting from graduates and clients helped form our decision. We have decided not just to open a restricted application window for a few weeks each Autumn but rather to allow graduates, and final year students, to apply to become part of our programme at any stage during the year. We believe this will reduce the pressure on students and by stepping out of the Milk Round process we have more time to explain to students what we’re about and they’re not rushed into making a decision.”

BDO Ireland will still have a presence at Grad Fairs and on University campuses but will differ from other companies by operating its all year-around recruitment system.

Serving a varied and exciting client base the company hopes to similarly recruit a diverse range of graduates each year from a widening talent pool as Hogan explains:

“Traditionally those studying accounting and business-related courses would have been eager to join our graduate training programme and, of course, we are delighted to have them on board. Because of the nature of what we do, as the leader in advising and funding ambitious Irish businesses, their skills fit well. However, as our client portfolio continues to diversify its important we attract graduates from other disciplines too. By looking outside the mainstream and finding graduates who have different and varied strengths we’re able to build a more holistic and multi-skilled company.”

The BDO Graduate Programme typically runs for three to three-and-a-half years depending on the specific area in which a graduate is recruited. In most cases it will include additional studying and the attainment of specific qualifications along the way. And the  BDO Eaton Square management consulting arm will also recruit its own graduates.

For Ann Hogan and her colleagues, successful applicants need to display an ability to communicate, listen and work with others.

She told the Sunday Business Post: “That they have their degree is a given but we also want to see people with strong inter-personal skills applying for our graduate programme. Soon after joining us we aim to put our graduates at the coalface so they are dealing with clients on a one-to-one basis and its important they’re able to connect. We want their individuality to shine through and encourage that behaviour with our graduates. The energy and creativity they can bring will be celebrated as it injects so much into the business as a whole. And, of course, an ability to work as part of a team is crucial. So much of what we do here at BDO is about collaboration and working together so we get the best return for our clients.”

This year, for the first time, BDO Ireland will utilise video interviewing in the initial phase of its assessment and recruitment of graduates.

“This, we believe, will help us throw the net even further in our aim to increase our talent pool,” explains Ann Hogan. She continues: “Also it makes it easier for graduates to apply removing the need to physically attend an interview in those very early stages. Students nowadays are very digital savvy and this format is something they’re already familiar with. And it means graduates from all parts of the country and beyond can apply. In addition, it means our recruitment team has the interview on file and can revert back to the video when making their assessment decision.”

While acknowledging that the acquisition of graduates can be a competitive pursuit in modern-day Ireland the BDO HR team believe one of its strongest selling points is the culture which has developed within the company.

“Every year when we conduct our internal ‘People Survey’ we find that when we ask ‘what do you like most about working in BDO?’ the answer comes back ‘the people we work with’. That’s very satisfying for us and shows a close-knit team who support each other and enjoy what they do. Its so important that our employees, and our graduates, feel they can be themselves at work and make a real contribution to their team. The culture which has evolved is one in which that recognition is so strong,” explains Ann Hogan.

The new all-year-around recruitment application window will open at BDO from September 1st of this year and graduates can contact the company at any time to find out more about the programme.

With up to 60 new graduates accepted onto the programme, between BDO and BDO Eaton Square through its offices nationally, the company’s dedication to championing the very best in Irish talent is clear.

For more information about the BDO Graduate Training programme visit