Purpose – The aim of this article is to illustrate how employers have used more innovative “localised” strategies to address what appears to be “globalised” problems of attracting and retaining high calibre applicants with the appropriate “work ready” skills. Design/methodology/approach – A series of interviews were held with HR managers, line managers from the various functional areas who directly supervise graduates, as well as at least one graduate participating in each of the development programmes.Findings – The findings indicated that SMEs might struggle to meet graduate expectations on pay, but they appeared to provide effective mentoring and succession planning. This may further add weight to the argument that employers, especially SMEs, will use different strategies and have different priorities in comparison to larger global organisations. Overall, the paper concludes that sector is an important differentiating factor in terms of recruiting, developing and retaining graduates. Research limitations/implications – Several of the HRD strategies appeared to work well. There were problems with recruitment in some sectors, with innovative solutions developed, often using placement opportunities. Development opportunities were seen by some employers and graduates as a trade off for pay, while other issues such as travel to work and company culture were also a concern. Originality/value – This paper is one of the first to research the issue of how organisations may use localised HR strategies in terms of graduate employability to get the most from local labour markets.