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Graduate recruitment trends in 2018

Charlie Taylor, founder & CEO of Debut


Having worked at the forefront of the graduate recruitment industry for a number of years, 2017 stood out as a year dominated by technology - and this will undoubtedly continue into 2018, too.


This year, however, advancements in recruitment technology and the adoption of new strategies with different priorities will forever change the relationship between the employer and candidate, as businesses evolve to meet the needs of today’s tech-savvy candidates.


I created  student and graduate careers app Debut to push the limits of mobile technology to improve access to careers, by utilising more data, streamlining the application process and enhancing the candidate experience.


It’s exciting to be a part of an industry that is changing so rapidly, with new priorities, opportunities and scope for growth. So what trends will dominate in 2018?


1. A focus on behaviours over qualifications


With more and more first-class graduates entering the recruitment market, it’s increasingly difficult to identify the high calibre talent employers are looking for. That’s why recruitment will be focusing more on key behaviours in 2018, rather than qualifications and educational background. The Institute of Student Employers has revealed that 17% of its members are using a strengths-only recruitment process in 2017/18, and this number is only set to rise.


Three quarters of HR recruitment professionals are now using psychometric testing, and 78% agree that it is a ‘powerful tool’ for hiring. This means that screening methods like psychometric assessments will start to become the go-to method for reviewing candidates, providing a quick and effective means of determining specific skills and behaviours. The growth in usage of psychometric testing reflects a general trend that organisations are hiring more for potential and attitude, rather than other performance factors such as university attended, subject, or degree classification, bringing psychometric tools to the fore.


At Debut, we have launched our own in-app psychometric assessment tool entitled Debut Abilities. By looking at candidates’ cognitive abilities, behaviour, and personality over traditional performance indicators, it removes the bias from the recruitment process and helps to increase social mobility.


2. Movement to mobile application processes with ATS integrations


Across all industries and services, businesses are turning to mobile technology to connect with their audiences and streamline processes - and recruitment is no different. In order to engage a broad spectrum of candidates and provide a positive user experience, mobile application processes will be essential. In 2016 it was reported that 20% of millennials are now mobile-only, and it’s likely this percentage is already much higher.


Many companies have Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which they use to harbour employee details garnered through the application process, such as qualifications and references. When a candidate accepts a job offer, this data should be transferred seamlessly from the ATS to the HR system. ATS integration creates a data driven recruitment process to ensure hiring decisions are aligned with the analytics in the recruitment software. Data driven recruitment transforms candidate sourcing and facilitates the creation of a high impact hiring process to deliver a better quality of hire.


To accommodate this new trend, Debut is collaborating with a range of employers to introduce Instant Apply, an ATS-integrated feature enabling candidates to apply for roles in literally a couple of taps. In a society where you can order a taxi, book a holiday and join meetings all from your phone, it’s time the recruitment industry got on board. If businesses want their recruitment strategy and perception as an employer to match up with their consumer branding, technology and a mobile-friendly approach is the next logical step forward.


3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) will become a key element of the recruitment process


Technology has opened up a whole new world of possibility in recruitment, and 2018 will be the year we finally start to see this come to life. As companies strive to streamline the recruitment process and remove unconscious bias, technology will inevitably be relied on more heavily.


In 2018, with the rise of AI and automation, we will see a sharp increase in the uptake of AI-enabled chatbots to match candidates with jobs (AI candidate screening). AI will also automate essential administrative processes (e.g. indexing and filing candidate records), onboarding, and measuring performance. As a result, recruiters will be free to spend more time adding value to the sourcing and selection process; conducting interviews and making offers to a considerably reduced and select pool of candidates. It heralds a better talent acquisition experience for everyone.


I expect that virtual reality will be used to create interactive job advertisements, or enable candidates to go on a VR tour of the workplace. Candidates will complete VR assessments during the recruitment process to test their responses and judgement in certain situations. A mixture of augmented reality and virtual reality will also be used to enhance the employee experience by providing simulations of tasks and work challenges, better preparing workers for real-world situations before they have to face them.


Last month, L’Oréal UK & Ireland became one of the first UK employers to adopt VR in its graduate and intern recruitment process, to test candidates’ response to their workplace and culture. At Debut, we have partnered with L’Oreal and other major employers to implement gamification as part of the hiring process, to test candidates’ quick-thinking reaction and judgements in a fun, user-friendly format.


4. SMEs will become the go-to for graduates


The power of SMEs is only set to rise, as they grow in popularity with the younger generation. Research has shown younger candidates tend to favour businesses which offer flexible working hours and a friendlier company culture, things seen as much more prevalent in smaller companies.


With 48% of 16-24-year-olds saying they would prefer to work for an SME than a larger organisation, it’s likely the employers as a whole will move to accommodate candidate’s shifting priorities. I think 2018 will see a rise in SMEs creating graduate positions to focus on creating opportunities for young people to progress their careers. This means job boards will also need to ensure SMEs are fairly represented in the graduate job search, which is why Debut is set to partner with small businesses this year to help promote their graduate positions to over 110,000 students and graduates.


5. A mix of the above will improve social mobility


All of the above trends will lead to a greater emphasis on social mobility in the recruitment industry. Many companies have long faced challenges with increasing diversity in their work forces, and a greater use of data-driven and analytical decision-making tools will enable this to happen.


By finally removing those unconscious biases, businesses can leverage new technology to improve diversity and widen their talent pool, and the recruitment industry is set to become radically different over the next twelve months.


Overall 2018 looks set to be a year where recruitment trends are dominated by more refined technological advancements that support the evolving relationship between employers and candidates.


What about Brexit?


The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2017 from High Fliers found that three quarters of students are expecting a tougher and 'limited' job market following the Brexit result. In response, sectors vulnerable to Brexit, have seen a drop in the number of graduate applicants. Accountancy applications have fallen 21% compared to last year, with an 18% drop in finance and 17% in investment banking.


Last year, a separate survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and The Adecco Group revealed sectors of the UK economy which are heavily reliant on EU nationals are already starting to experience skills and labour shortages due to Brexit.


Graduates turning down or reneging on job offers that they had previously accepted meant that over 800 graduate positions were left unfilled last year, reducing the graduate intake at over a quarter of the UK’s leading employers. A robust graduate recruitment process supported by HR technology is essential to combat any post-Brexit decline in candidates.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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