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Early Career Recruiting Trends 2020

The Covid-19 crisis has brought trends analysis to a grinding halt. Everything we thought we knew is no longer the case. In light of such drastic world changes, a reflection on recent trends is an opportunity for recruiting teams, to focus energies and adopt new tactics for a stronger early career strategy – when the economy changes gear.

Until recently, the recruitment market was very much candidate-driven, so talent acquisition and retention practices remained a top priority for early talent teams. The intense competition for the best talent was heightened by major gaps in skills required, and candidates were spoilt for graduate scheme choices. This led to a knock-on effect with retention – teams were largely disengaged and noncohesive. Generational gaps and diversity cause perceived communication and cultural complications. At Headstart, we’ve noticed a change in emphasis on early talent programs as a long-term solution to some of these issues.

Talent Programs Multiply

Statistics from Fortune 500 companies confirm the number of early talent programs has grown in recent years. Young professionals can choose from multiple schemes suited to their skills and experience. Employers offer graduate programs, internships, co-ops, or placements to students. In return, businesses get new ways of thinking and working, and the ability to mold the next generation. Apprenticeship schemes tend to be designed for school leavers or technical apprenticeships for professionals looking to reskill. Mentorships and traineeships for professionals looking to progress within the company into a new field. The options are vast. Businesses that excel in growth, future-proof their talent strategies by nurturing tomorrow’s talent.

The evolution of early career recruiting

Early recruiting data demonstrates the scale of change and evolution over the last few years, across both candidate behavior and candidate availability. This means that organizations really need to understand not only the best channels to reach the right people, but also the most appropriate way to engage with this audience – particularly now since nearly all engagement activity will need to take place online.

Prioritization of Diversity

Early talent recruitment strategies, in general, strive to build a thriving community of diverse teams. Businesses are designing new multi-pronged approaches to merge strategies for diversity, inclusion, vision and values. In fact, companies like Intel, have even made diversity a business model by introducing the ‘Intel Rule’, which means they won’t work with a law firm with an average or below-average diversity score. To deliver diversity cohesively – an inclusive mindset must filter down from the top. The company vision should aim to increase the representation of diverse and inclusive teams within the organization, whilst making each individual more successful.

Diversity means many things to many people. Diversity at work is having the opportunity to celebrate different thoughts, ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. For businesses, diversity creates an innovative and competitively robust company. Diversity and Inclusion are feeling part of a work community that is built from different backgrounds, cultures, and cognitive methods, yet share the same values. Businesses that get this right create workplaces where people feel like they belong; belonging creates a sense of purpose. Purpose drives ambitions and outcomes. And outcomes benefit businesses.

More gateways to employment

To address skill shortages, prevent homogeneous workforces, and reduce knowledge gaps, organizations must create structured routes into work, including placements, internships, and apprenticeships at all levels. Employer vacancy data demonstrates a significant growth in apprenticeship roles and as yet these roles don’t appear to be cannibalizing graduate positions. Perhaps a driver for apprenticeship growth is an acknowledgment that graduate entry requirements could be seen as unfair.

Historically, early-career streams are connected: employers tend to offer graduate roles to candidates who have completed some form of work experience in the company previously. Although this makes sense, it does exclude a large proportion of candidates who don’t have the ability to work outside of education before they enter the workforce.

Marketing Approach to Targeting for Recruitment

An interesting step-change in the recruitment industry is designing attraction strategies for the audience – instead of trying to slot candidates into a narrow job description. Organizations are also analyzing the competition, to learn and innovate for bigger and better candidate exposure. Gap analysis helps to define who’s targeting the same audience. Organizations have begun creating a ‘persona’ of the talent required. This detailed outline of who they want and what strengths develop a recruitment process explicitly designed to find those attributes. The research and analysis identify opportunities to stand out through a compelling proposition and employer brand.

Early talent recruiters start, as they always do, by defining the exact job requirements and ensuring that the right stakeholders are involved. Then, much like a marketing brief, the team defines what they are trying to achieve through the introduction of the early recruitment program. For example, are they looking at succession planning, filling specific skills gaps, or aiming for a pool of future leaders? If organizations aren’t clear on what they are looking for, they can’t expect a candidate to be sure they should apply. It’s vital that the business not only understands the rationale behind the early recruitment scheme but is also ready for it with a clear pattern of what’s expected.

Recruiting early talent is different from recruiting for experienced hires. Organizations should understand that they are not recruiting a polished executive with good work experience and highly developed skills. Instead, the aim is to identify the potential of an individual to train, grow, and develop. Broadening the talent pool, and encouraging diversity and inclusion is crucial and can be achieved through a mix of recruitment techniques and by aligning candidate and company values. Values and skills-based assessments designed to identify the best-match candidates can tackle ancillary challenges organizations are facing, like retention and employee experience.

New Attraction Tactics & Channels

VR recruiting

To attract high volumes of gen z, talent recruiters need to be smart with their time, and can’t afford to waste resources responding to applications from unsuitable candidates. A robust attraction strategy should not only appeal to suitable candidates but also enable the unsuitable candidates to disqualify themselves out of the process. It’s also important to protect the company brand in this process.

Firms try to maintain clear and honest messaging to target ideal candidates – both online and offline. Some early talent candidates also prefer a mobile application experience. Traditional attraction routes like career fairs aren’t necessarily what candidates want. Particularly now during the Covid-19 world health situation, whilst offline communication is not possible. The best approach is to borrow tips from the marketing world and create an immersive online experience. Ensure candidate attraction tactics are robust and relevant and measure everything to uncover areas for improvement.

When choosing which channels to use, businesses must think about candidate behavior and how best to reach them. For example, graduates use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram much more than school-leavers do. Using every channel at the same time isn’t the best use of time – instead, focus on different channels at each stage of the decision-making process.

New Ways to Build A Proposition

The employer proposition is one of the most important aspects of any early talent attraction strategy. The proposition covers everything the organization offers: wages, employee benefits, location, training, support, and growth, and progression opportunities.

Recruiters are now investing in well-researched, thoughtful propositions, and employer brands that ultimately result in successful early talent attraction. Early talent candidates are visiting the company’s website, social media pages, Glassdoor reviews, career fairs, job boards, and now virtual career events. Candidates build a picture and judge whether they want to work for the firm. A consistent message, much like the company branding itself, must be portrayed across all platforms online, and through conversations and meetings.

And no longer is a good wage the only factor for graduates when accepting a job-offer anymore. Instead, early-career candidates are considering the total reward package as a holistic offer. Key considerations include the potential for future growth and progression opportunities alongside options to travel. Candidates also prioritize roles that have a positive societal impact and work amongst diverse teams. Younger candidates are also asking questions about pensions, employee discounts, and wellbeing – aspects that recruiters tend not to publicize, but could be a defining factor before deciding whether to apply or whether to accept your offer.

Changing Entry Requirements

Recruiters have realized it’s important not to set the bar too high in early career recruiting. To prevent someone who might be a better fit – but without the entry requirements – from applying. A contextualized screening process is gaining prominence. This means that recruiters consider the whole picture, over deciding on academics alone. While it’s fair to say that good grades are an indication of someone’s intelligence, their education is no reflection on their potential, behavior, skills, or general attributes. Firms now want to ensure that the new hires are a good cultural fit for their business, and they now know the academic results alone cannot predict this. More and more organizations are reducing or completely removing GPA and UCAS point requirements, as they’re seeing less evidence of it being an indicator of long-term performance.

The Role of Parents Is Increasing

It is no surprise that parents are the most influential people in the career decisions of Generation Z: these candidates aren’t experienced in the job market and haven’t yet seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s only natural that their parents are brought into the conversation. Companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Amazon have started hosting events where candidates and their parents are invited to see behind the scenes, helping to win over the best talent.

If parents are so influential, how much focus should recruiters direct to parents in the recruitment process? Parents are advising not only on which sectors to apply to, but one which offers to accept. So – like it or not – they are a participant in your early recruitment process that cannot be ignored.

Candidate Experience Design

How organizations treat candidates throughout the process says a lot about how they’ll be treated as an employee. From the job ad through to a successful candidate’s first day, every step should be straightforward, mobile-friendly, positive, and on-brand throughout. If candidates are at any point disengaged, organizations run the risk of them dropping out or accepting a different role because they felt more engaged elsewhere.

When recruiters hire engaged candidates, if all goes to plan, they will transfer into engaged employees with all the benefits that that brings, such as reduced turnover, less absenteeism, and higher productivity. Consequently, recruiters are adopting recruitment processes that are tailor-made for engagement with higher-touch processes, supporting content across different formats, and personal interactions.

In conclusion

In this new world, where physical events are suppressed, online spaces are flooded with competition, and only the most relevant win, recruiters need to think more broadly about how they attract, engage, screen, and select candidates across all early talent routes into their organizations. These trends aren’t quick reactions to Covid-19, but support a longer-term view on how to adapt and hire the next generation of diverse leaders and innovators.

Read more about recruiting for early talent.

Headstart is on a mission to transform the way organisations hire! We are the world's first diversity driven Applicant Matching and Management System. We use Machine Learning and Data Science to transform the recruitment process, enabling clients to find the right high potential employees regardless of gender, ethnic status, sexual orientation or age.

With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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