Don’t forget this year’s graduates when restarting your recruitment

COVID-19 has flipped the labour market and university leavers are facing the toughest economic landscape since the banking crisis of 2007 - it's more important now than ever to nurture newly graduated talent.

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COVID-19 has flipped the labour market. The candidate-driven employment market which existed at the beginning of 2020 has how turned into an employer-driven market.

Most organisations are examining how to retain as many employees as possible in these turbulent times. Add this to the general uncertainty of what else COVID-19 might have in store for the population, and it becomes challenging for organisations to recruit.

This is the environment which the class of 2020 will be entering.

Challenges facing graduates

While all employees are being impacted by this crisis, graduates and school-leavers are among the worst affected. As well as having their exams and final grades massively disrupted by the virus, the prospect of employment upon their departure from learning is uncertain.

The Resolution Foundation think tank has predicted that an extra 600,000 people under the age of 25 will be unemployed if the government takes no action to support them. This reflects the number of roles which will be available to them, not their talent and skills.

The Institute for Student Employers says that the availability of entry level roles has reduced by 23% since the onset of the virus, with employers expected to reduce that by 15% more as we head into 2021. Graduate roles are down by 12%, while the number of internships and work placements are expected to fall by 40%.

Even those who have already taken a job are experiencing problems, with the same ISE study reporting that 1-in-7 employers are withdrawing roles and a further 14% are considering doing the same in the coming weeks. 31% of employers have delayed graduates’ start dates.

To understand just how turbulent this is, consider that in 2009, at the height of the banking crisis, employers revoked 9% of roles, compared with 14% now. While this is one figure, it highlights that the graduate jobs market could be even more challenging than at the lowest point of the banking crisis.

What can employers and graduates do?

Despite the situation looking bleak, there things which both employers and graduates can do.

While several smaller graduate schemes have been cut, larger employers are looking to maintain their graduate intakes where possible. They are implementing remote onboarding and training practices to ensure that new employees can get up to speed as quickly as possible. This virtual aspect can also be used to help facilitate remote internships and placements, allowing graduates to build up experience.

There is also a need for employers to rebalance their job application processes to identify talent based on more than just experience. Graduates’ biggest problem in the current climate is that they will be competing against more experienced workers who have lost their job. Employers who can create a recruitment process which examines a candidate’s overall package, rather than basing decisions on experience, will be rewarded in the long run.

For graduates, the nature of this crisis means that some traditional activities that they might undertake in the absence of a job offer, such as travelling or short-term work to build up their finances and experience, aren’t as readily available.

However, the market is slow, not non-existent. The worst thing graduates can do is switch off. While continuing to apply for roles, look at other ways of gaining experience. While the number of short-term roles has decreased, particularly in the hospitality and leisure industries, there are a number of opportunities to volunteer.

While helping to deliver food parcels to the vulnerable may not earn any money immediately, a graduate with this on their CV will demonstrate the quality of their character and make themselves far more attractive to possible employers.

The jobs market may have been impacted by COVID-19, but the emergence of talented graduates has not. Those employers who do whatever is in their power to hire and mentor these talented individuals will be rewarded in the future.

If you’re interested in what the recruitment market will look like in the coming months, join our upcoming webinar examining the pandemic's impact on the “war for talent”.

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Matt Phipps
Principal Consultant

Matt is one of the leaders of the HR consultancy practice at Consultancy+. He has a keen interest in driving positive change in organisations’, delivering projects that add genuine value to people strategies.

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Tim Whitaker is a consultant working on age and employment issues and a Trustee of Wise Age - a specialist employment charity for the over 50s working with employers, policy makers and older workers.

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