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31st Oct, 2023

Jadie Hodgson
Jadie Hodgson
Job Title
Head of Talent Delivery
Reed Talent Solutions

Work hard at school, get qualified, go to university, and head out into the world with a clear career path laid out in front of you. 

It may be sage advice, but in 2023 there is more than one route to finding the perfect job. 

As someone who joined Reed through our graduate scheme nine years ago and went on to manage the internal graduate training scheme, I have seen a shift from purely academic, aptitude requirements to a desire for candidates who are adaptable and have the right attitude. 

When I joined the company, the focus was very much on academic qualifications. However, in my own career, I have not only placed a host of talented graduates into new roles, but also worked to recruit former military candidates into six-month internships. 

This type of programme is a perfect example of how hidden and new talent can be brought into an organisation. 

Early talent used to be all about apprenticeships, internships, and graduate schemes, with the former two of those routes being more vocational. 

Over the last 10 to 15 years, the routes available for candidates have changed completely. These days, early and new talent goes beyond university graduates. It comes from a wide variety of routes, including grads but also interns, returners, careers changers, and via internal mobility. 

Talent shortages mean companies can no longer rely on candidates coming to them. Instead, they must find non-traditional routes and search for different types of skillsets. 

From aptitude to the right attitude 

Graduate schemes used to be very prestigious, with businesses wanting people from red brick universities. The grad recruitment process would often involve online numerical reasoning tests that only the top academic candidates could pass. It was very elitist. 

Aptitude used to refer solely to how intelligent someone was and their academic qualifications. These days, the right attitude is central to whether someone can succeed. 

There is much more of a focus on an individual’s personality. Recruiters are looking at what skills can be developed in candidates, and what their attitude to learning, and change, is like. 

When it comes to selecting graduates, companies are far more willing to look at someone who has a minimum of a 2.2 or even a third, rather than insisting on a 2.1 or higher in their degree. Previously, some jobs would have a specification as to what university a candidate went to or what degree they got. That has also shifted, with most organisations simply wanting to know if someone has been to university and in turn acquired the life skills and independence that comes with it.    

At assessment centres, recruiters are looking at how candidates present themselves, how they work with others and how they problem solve. The pressure to achieve a certain academic result is no longer the primary, absolute focus, as it was 10 years ago. 

The adaptability of modern worklife 

It is not only candidates who need to show the right attitude and adaptability. Businesses are having to change the way they think to cater for a workforce which values work-life balance as highly as career success. 

Employees in 2023 care deeply about what benefits a company can offer, whether remote working is available, or if a company has green credentials.  

While travelling with work can be considered a perk, many candidates are also thinking about whether they can work from home. Their focus is on achieving a greater work life balance, something which looks different for each individual. 

Some companies haven't adapted their mindset to the shift in candidate requirements yet, particularly senior leaders who favour traditional ways of working - which don’t necessarily blend with how their early or new talent sees the world. 

Companies need to change if they want the best early talent. They must be up to date with the times, more flexible and have a better idea about what the younger generation is looking for. 


Hiring managers in the modern world of work need to look beyond simple aptitude. Of course, someone’s basic intelligence and ability to do the job remains a key factor, but it is important to assess how a candidate can progress and what their attitude to learning and development is. 

Companies need to know if someone is the right fit for them, not only when they start but in five- or ten-years’ time. 

The world of work is changing, and businesses are adapting the way they work – does a candidate’s skill set fit into that trajectory? Can they adapt to change, embrace new ideas, and bring new ways of thinking into your organisation? 

With early and new talent schemes offering an array of career pathways, and the opportunity for candidates to use existing skills to take advantage of roles in different spheres of work, it’s a lyric that no longer rings true.

If you are looking to recruit the very best new or early talent, visit our dedicated solutions page.

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