Why attracting graduates just got a lot harder

Employers must not only look beyond traditional schemes in order to engage with young talent, but also how it communicates with candidates, says Esme Lim

The student experience has changed a lot. For most it’s been lonelier and fraught with uncertainty.  Working on talent attraction campaigns for clients, I’m already seeing first-hand how this has impacted graduate recruitment. Students entering the job market right now have completely new expectations that employers need to be ready for. 

Employers wanting to attract new graduates this season, here’s what you need to do to stand out and connect with them. 

Check your employee value proposition (EVP)

The pandemic caused most of us to reevaluate our purpose in life, and our career is central to this. According to McKinsey, 70 per cent of people said their sense of purpose is defined by their work. This sense of purpose is one of the main drivers for graduates in 2021. 

So is your EVP working hard enough for your business? Is your purpose clear? Do your values demonstrate how you’re meeting the needs of early talent candidates around hybrid working, diversity and inclusion and learning and development?  

If it doesn’t, employers need to refresh (or redo) their EVP. In fact, almost 70 per cent of the world’s most attractive employers have changed their EVP due to the pandemic. 

Carefully consider your recruitment messaging

The number of candidates for graduate roles currently vastly outnumbers the jobs that are available. With so much being put on hold over the last 18 months, there has never been more demand for entry-level roles.

You might be thinking ‘great, this will make hiring so much easier’. However, all this pent up appetite for jobs could see employers inundated with applications. In fact, some job platforms like Debut have reported a massive 350 per cent increase in searches for graduate and entry-level positions. 

Avoid being overwhelmed with thousands of applications to sift through by carefully considering the language and messaging used to advertise open positions. Be as targeted as possible about the role and any requirements can introduce an element of self-selection and drive quality over quantity in terms of applications.

Offer graduates new experiences 

Looking beyond the traditional graduate scheme is essential to engage early talent.  Young people want to gain valuable work experience and have become accustomed to a ‘try before you buy’ mentality. I know that my internships during uni really helped me figure out the path I wanted to follow once I’d graduated. 

Giving students the option to ‘try’ your business will not only make you more attractive, but can also provide a pipeline of great talent, with stats showing an average 54 per cent of undergraduate students stay on to complete graduate programmes with employers.

Examples for companies offering new experiences include, Bank of America, who received a rating of 5/5 on Ratemyplacement.co.uk for their Virtual Technology Summer Analyst internship. One student on the programme said: “The internship was an amazing experience [...] every step throughout the internship was both useful and enjoyable.”

Embrace a hybrid working style

To keep attracting the brightest young talent you need to offer flexible working models. Working from home has been well received by many who have welcomed the increased freedom and time recouped from commuting. But, a totally remote model is not beneficial for younger colleagues. 

A Leesman study reported that 72 per cent of under 25s don’t have a dedicated room to work from home, and data from the Office for National Statistics showed that younger workers experience more distractions when working from home. A hybrid working model and access to a physical office remains incredibly valuable for younger employees, especially in terms of productivity.

Working in a hybrid model is also essential for the development of colleagues who miss out on key networking and learning opportunities when working entirely remotely. Face-to-face contact is so important for on-boarding and development. Even more so for those who are starting out in their careers. Therefore, maximise time spent in-person to integrate and mentor early talent. 

So, what now?  

I believe there are plenty of opportunities to be seized by both students and employers. We have a chance to fix what is broken, and to explore new ways of working together. 

As the situation continues to evolve in the wake of the pandemic, closely monitor student sentiment to ensure that offerings align with what they want. Consider this practically, but also how it is communicated to candidates to get the best results for your business and your talent. 

Esme Lim is an account manager at MSL