Graduate recruitment: taking a leap of faith to secure your future workforce
(Posted on 29/09/21)
It’s that time of year again when another cohort of hopeful graduates are entering the job market. However, this year’s university leavers looking for their first job in their preferred sector are facing a greater challenge than in any previous year since wartime.
Most students endured an extraordinary amount of disruption to their studies from half-way through their second year to the end of their final year. Large numbers of them missed out on valuable work placements during their courses. The traditional ‘milk round’ was non-existent in their final year and many desirable graduate schemes remain closed, due to Covid.
Online work experience
Nevertheless, some internships and work experiences were moved online and duly completed by students who, by that time, were all too well accustomed to Zoom, Teams and Skype to find it particularly strange. They have displayed an extraordinary amount of resilience in the way they approached their ‘new normal’. Their willingness to engage with technology could put many more experienced members of the workforce to shame.
Working online is tricky for most of us. Starting a new job and potentially not meeting your new colleagues in person for weeks or even months is extremely challenging. Starting your first job, working from home, and only communicating with your team through a screen, compounds the challenge still further. Inductions, socialising and forging new work relationships are all more difficult.
Three ways to help new graduates
So, what can we do to help this generation, which has missed out on so many experiences that most of us took for granted?
First of all, it’s more important than ever to look beyond a CV. Where work experience may be lacking, look for transferable skills instead. If a candidate has fantastic social media skills, consider how useful that could be to your organisation; arguably, now more than ever was the case pre-pandemic. How did they manage during lockdown? Did they take on any volunteering where they could or manage to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill? A can-do attitude from a new starter can re-energise your existing team, while their massive enthusiasm to get on with their professional development can help revolutionise the way you work.
Secondly, once in the workplace, mentoring is essential to assist their growth. As a mentor you can provide guidance, advice, role modelling, and emotional support to someone who has experienced massive upheaval at a much younger, more vulnerable stage of their life. Mentoring of course brings benefits to the mentor, probably as much as to the mentee, in terms of honing leadership and communication skills.
Thirdly, we need to address the skills gap. Given the extraordinary situation we have come through, skills gaps in the workplace are inevitable. Training has been put on hold, delivering it online is not always ideal, and for many people it just has not been possible or practical to access it. Now is the time to spot a candidate’s potential and think how best you can deliver training to upskill them where appropriate to fill any gaps you may have.
Lastly, offering work experience, either short or long term, is a great way to assist a college or university leaver to build up their CV, and you may find an ideal candidate for a future role at the same time.