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Does the graduate recruitment process need changing?

Michele Trusolino, COO and co-founder of Debut

This year has been a real eye-opener for workplace culture and expectations. The #MeToo movement exposed behaviours that had previously been concealed for decades and the roll out of Gender Pay Gap reporting made businesses accountable. Alongside this, employee activism and overall dissatisfaction with the state of affairs has come to a head following further scandals from Uber and Google. It’s clear for the new cohort of workers the current status quo isn’t good enough.

The fact that big tech firms slipped down the rankings in this years’ Best Place to Work is very telling. Google, which topped the rankings last year, slipped to 13th this year, Apple has fallen from ninth to 43rd, and Facebook has dropped out of the top 50 entirely.

These days, businesses can’t ignore the fact that a new generation of young talent is expecting more from them. Authenticity and transparency are what young people demand from employers. And they will go elsewhere if that expectation isn’t met.

Alongside this backdrop, the demand for STEM subject degrees is ongoing. This has been an issue for as long as I can remember, but what’s really exacerbating the problem is the explosion of new innovations within the technology industry, such as AI.

According to a report by STEM Learning, the current skills shortage in this industry is costing £1.5bn per year on temporary staffing, recruitment, training costs and inflated salaries. Data scientists are hard to come by and are usually snapped up by the likes of tech giants, leaving a vast talent discrepancy in other industries that still require the same level of skills. Further to this, businesses face a shortfall of 173,000 skilled workers, and 89% have struggled to recruit staff in the last year.

Due to this, we’ve seen a shift. We once prized highly intellectual capability, but now we’re ranking interpersonal skills, collaboration and creativity above all else to fit with business models. In a climate of automated processes, what’s really valuable and arguably the key to competitive advantage, is human intellect and creativity – because machines can’t replace creative finesse.

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that the desperation for young talent is leading to organisations recruiting candidates at an even earlier stage than graduation. Many companies resort to combing university campuses on the hunt for future candidates, engaging them much earlier in their job search. This group, Gen Z, is very much under the microscope. Recruiters are trying to decipher how they work, how to best engage with this group and how to interact with them.

Millennials have often been unfairly misrepresented as apathetic and entitled, however Gen Z wield an entirely new set of expectations as they move into the workplace. Their value systems are also a far cry from that of past generations; these candidates are expecting equality on all fronts. In a world where the difference in salary between men and women rests at an average of 22% in the finance and insurance sector, and 20% in education according to the Gender Pay Gap reports, the divide between Gen Z’s expectations and corporate reality is a serious cause for concern.

Graduates expect to be assessed based on merit, irrespective of their race, gender or socio-economic upbringing. Considering that most of the population has been state-educated, it doesn’t make sense that companies are only hiring 57% of their candidates from state schools. Existing affiliations between companies and higher education institutions are still highly influential in graduate recruitment, too, which frankly highlights the gravity of the problem.

Flexible working will continue to become an expectation for this generation. The typical nine to five structure doesn’t appeal to post-grads keen on cultivating their own side projects and entrepreneurial spirit. Despite larger corporates ignoring this trend, ‘side-hustling’ will only continue to grow in popularity – to these business’ detriment.

What does this mean for graduate recruiters?

As it stands, many are still operating with an outdated approach to graduate recruitment. Change must occur. And the first step in doing so is truly getting to know graduates, what makes them tick, what they are interested in. Then carving out roles, perks and incentives based on that.  

The tides are turning, but it’s a slow process. Companies are beginning to embrace alternative methods of assessment based on psychometric testing rather than adhering to the traditional gender and racial bias, and they’re seeing the benefits. A diverse pool of talent is needed, especially in view of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the inevitable impacts on candidates’ right to work in the UK.

Businesses make it their mission to communicate a modern, authentic image of their brand to consumers. In 2019, this attitude must also be communicated when it comes to recruiting young talent. And not just saying something because it sounds good, but practising what you preach. Ultimately it’s people that make a business, and people that drive business. Investing in the future by putting some real thought into graduate recruitment strategy will not only help to attract and retain talent, but also foster a long-lasting culture of innovation.

Phoot courtesy of

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