Skip to content

COVID means far fewer applications for early talent roles

COVID means far fewer applications for early talent roles

If you’ve been hiring during the COVID pandemic, you’ll know that the landscape has changed considerably over the last couple of years — particularly when it comes to graduate recruitment.

Let’s look at the effect COVID-19 has had on early talent applications and what you can do to increase your share.

What it meant to graduate during the pandemic

University students who graduated during the pandemic missed out on so much.

Teaching went online. So did graduation ceremonies. Graduates missed out on goodbyes and a sense of closure on their university lives. They then faced up to a job market that the pandemic had radically transformed.

Graduates left university with financial worries, career uncertainty, and concerns about the negative effect COVID had had upon those final months of education — anxieties that the class of 2019 just didn’t experience on the same scale.

An uncertain outlook

According to research conducted by the University of Southampton and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS):

  • Three-quarters of pandemic graduates noticed a fall in the number of available job opportunities since March 2020
  • 83% of students feel that the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on graduates’ employment prospects
  • Around 79% of graduates said that the pandemic had forced them to think differently about their futures

Graduates felt underprepared

Few companies were hiring during COVID — especially during those initial months of the pandemic. Some companies had to lay off staff to weather the storm. This inevitably affected students.

More than half of final year students in the UK lost their jobs or internships or had a graduate job offer deferred or rescinded. Many students entered the job market less prepared than they had wanted to be.

The situation was worse for certain groups

In October 2020, 31% of graduates were unemployed. This was much higher than the 22% of unemployed graduates surveyed back in October 2019.

Research showed that women, first-generation, and Black British graduates were the least likely graduate groups to find full-time employment in the UK.

📈 In October 2020, 31% of graduates were unemployed. This was much higher than the 22% of unemployed graduates surveyed in October 2019.

Pew research centre

How hiring during COVID changed early talent recruitment

So what does this all mean for the current state of early talent recruitment? How did hiring during COVID affect the availability and outlook of recent graduates?

Fewer grads mean fewer applications

Many people who were planning to go to university deferred their place when it became clear just how much COVID-19 would disrupt their studies.

Others simply dropped out of college when teaching moved online.

Data shows that there are 1 million fewer students in university in the US than before the pandemic began.

In the UK, Brexit is adding to the problems caused by COVID, with a significant drop in the number of European students choosing to study in the country.  

Fewer graduates mean companies are getting fewer high-quality applications for entry-level talent positions.  

Change in candidate expectations

When fewer graduates are applying for each role, candidate expectations become a much more important consideration for businesses.

The pandemic has changed the expectations all candidates have around their working lives.

We now know that it is possible to recruit and work remotely — with the the right technology. We’ve also seen how remote working positively impacts work-life balance.

Early talent candidates are keen to capitalize on these new developments, with 40% saying they would like to work remotely.

The issue of DEI has also risen to the top of the agenda. Graduates value DEI. They want to feel that their workplace is inclusive and proactive regarding diversity and equity.

💻 40% of early talent candidates would like to work remotely.

Institute of student employees

Some early talent recruitment top tips

So what can recruiters do to find and attract early talent, post-pandemic?

Look to international students

While the number of students from the EU coming to study in the UK has decreased, non-EU international student numbers have increased.  

The government has also extended visas for international students. This means that international students can now continue living and working in the UK for two years after graduation.

If they haven’t already, recruiters should widen their net to include international early talent, particularly those graduates looking to stay in the UK long term.

Recruit globally

Many companies are still offering remote and hybrid working opportunities for their employees. Recruiters who offer entry-level roles on this basis instantly open up a wider pool of graduate talent.

When you look beyond your local area to hire entry-level employees nationally — and even internationally — it’s easier to find the right people for a role.

Remember that this won’t last forever

Graduate numbers and opportunities took a hit during the pandemic. But things are already improving.

As student numbers rebound and confidence in the graduate system increases, we predict that graduate recruitment will become easier over the coming years.  

Meet candidate expectations for remote working

Wherever possible, offer remote graduate scheme opportunities. This will help you attract graduates who see the value in working from home.  

You can indicate your commitment to developing a remote or hybrid team via your recruitment process. Offer pre-recorded interview questions and video interviews, so graduates know from the very start that you’re willing to support different ways of working.

Make your process fairer

Many graduates now vet employees for their DEI credentials. Stand out from the crowd by being transparent about your DEI performance and objectives and publicizing all information on your website.

And if you feel that your organization could do more, switch up your recruitment process with the help of Headstart.

Headstart is a recruitment solution that takes all unconscious bias out of the hiring process. The result?

✱ A streamlined recruitment process that saves your business as much as 55% on cost-per-hire

✱ An excellent candidate experience

✱ A level playing field for candidates, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background

✱ The ability to build more diverse teams

Many of our clients use Headstart to manage candidates for their graduate and campus hiring programs. 

Want to see what Headstart could do for your business? Book a platform demo to start hiring early talent faster and fairer.

Get HR Insights In Your Inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter for original insights and bias-busting resources, every month.

What is conscious leadership, and how can it help make recruitment more equitable?

Hard as you might try, it’s very difficult to build an inclusive organization without switched-on leaders who are committed to…

Why creating a DEI team is only half the battle

You know that focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion is important for your company. You’ve probably seen the stats a…