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5 things graduates want from employers post-pandemic

The pandemic has had a significant impact on student experience and expectations about work. In this blog, we will share with you five things that graduates want from employers in the post-pandemic world of work. Research by Bright Network found that 85% of graduates have felt under more pressure around careers due to the impact of COVID-19 and that 77% of students feel they have struggled to connect with employers this year. Only 42% reported feeling ready for the world of work.

With reduced confidence levels amongst the graduate population and the emergence of hybrid working, what can employers do to meet the expectations of the class of 2021? As assessment experts, we help some of the world’s largest organisations to select the best early career talent for their organisations.

Here is our advice on how to meet the changing expectations of the class of 2021.

Judge graduates on potential not their past

    In May this year, the UK Government announced that students could return to campus and to in-person teaching. Despite this step towards normality, for some young job seekers the damage has already been done. After more than a year of disruption, the class of 2020 had graduated remotely, and the class of 2021 were preparing for their first steps into the world of work having missed out on vital work experience and learning opportunities.

    The playing field for early talent is not level and so it’s more important than ever to use assessments which are based around potential to do well in a role, rather than on past education or work experience. Pre-employment tests that are designed to assess for the behaviours and competencies required for a role will yield far better results than looking at academic record for example. As Sova, we design blended assessments that combine tests such as ability to learn, personality, behaviour, potential and motivational drivers into one short and engaging assessment. 

    Build development and upskilling in from the outset for graduates

      95% of student members of Bright Network say that they want to be upskilled directly by employers. Graduates may well feel they have missed out on some skills development over the past 20 months and so there is an opportunity for employers to offer candidates constructive feedback and development as part of the application process.

      Firstly, ensure that the hiring process (even if you are working with high volumes of applications) allows for feedback to be provided to each candidate. Using Sova’s platform, the TA team or hiring manager can choose to share feedback including strengths and areas for development at any stage of the assessment process. This means that candidates who are not successful still receive some developmental feedback. Secondly, use the data collected during assessment for recruitment to build a picture of development areas that can feed into ongoing training and development. At Sova, all assessment data is stored in one place, making it accessible and easy to use by line managers and L&D teams. 

      Design assessments around values alignment

        We know from our own experiences with clients that post-pandemic, more young people are looking for work that aligns more closely with lifestyle ambitions and values. Bright Network’s research confirmed this, with 61% of student members saying that a good work-life balance is more important to them then reward. The ability to convey your organisation’s culture, values and work life is critical during the hiring process and a realistic job preview is an effective way to bring your organisation to life.

        In a virtual setting consider how you can immerse candidates in your organisation? What does a typical day in the role look like? Who are your key leaders? Who would candidates be working alongside? At Sova, a realistic job preview is something we work on for most of our graduate programmes. Using a combination of video, interactive screens and two-way interview sessions we can paint a picture of the role and of your organisation, allowing candidates to decide whether it will be a good match for them.

        Make equality and fairness inherent in your hiring process

          Almost half (48%) of graduates will actively research a company’s commitment to diversity before applying, with only 8% saying it’s something they don’t consider at all. A fair, equitable recruitment process is an important statement for companies to make and an opportunity to tangibly move the dial on diversity in a way that can be demonstrated to graduates. This is especially important at this time as confidence levels have dropped across the student population and those who attended a non-selective state school are more likely to say that they aren’t confident about securing a graduate-level job.

          To ensure a bias-free process that will help to build a more diverse workforce, we recommend using only assessments that are proven to be fair and a good predictor of performance, but that also do not discriminate based on access to certain knowledge or experiences. It is possible to improve social mobility without compromising on the quality of your assessment process. We’ve used this to great effect in early careers programmes including one for Nationwide in which we were able to achieve an 82% pass rate at assessment centre for a diverse mix of candidates: 60% white / 40% ethnically diverse and 52% male / 48% female gender split.

          Designing a sustainable and fair recruitment strategy for a kinder, greener organisation

          Balance in-person and virtual elements in the hiring process

          Recent research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that 87% of employers (ISE members) are prioritising online careers fairs and that only 19% will offer in-person career events. This year’s graduates are therefore well-versed in digital experiences and 70% of students say they are confident completing a full application process virtually. As we have said all along, virtual doesn’t mean distant! And the technology available through Sova’s early talent recruitment platform can ensure the experience is personal, human and inclusive.

          Feedback from current virtual graduate recruitment programmes is that the experience has been improved – improving fairness and consistency while removing geographical boundaries and the need to travel, making it better for diversity and better for the planet. However, we recognise that not all groups are equally as comfortable in a fully virtual environment (those with declared disability or learning difficulty are 8% less confident taking a fully virtual process than graduates as a whole) and in-person elements should be brought into the process where they work best. 

          Recentre your hiring process for this year’s graduate intake

          This year’s graduates have weathered the global pandemic as they prepared for the world of work. They’ve studied and worked remotely, and now they’re looking for an employer that is aligned with their outlook and future plans. A poor recruitment experience or a long and complicated application process are the factors most likely to deter applications. At Sova, we can help you create an early talent recruitment process that ticks all the right boxes.

          Find out more

          We have recently launched a new Community platform, for those working within the HR, talent and recruitment space to network and stay up to date on the latest developments within assessment. We also provide free courses, designed to help raise the bar of assessment, which focus on topics such as the future of digitalised assessment and how to make fairer, more equitable decisions about talent. Sign up to the Community to get started.

          Alternatively, if you’d like to talk through a specific issue you are facing with your early talent recruitment or discover how we can help you meet graduate expectations, please get in touch.

          Be part of the movement

          In the Sova Community, we’ll be discussing this topic in more detail: What competencies might be relevant to post-pandemic early career roles? What changes to assessment design do we need to make to maintain fairness for early career candidates? How can assessment centres be run virtually or in person to the benefit of all?

          Join the Sova Community to find out. Our online forum is a place for learning, sharing of ideas and experiences, and a community of practice with the common goal of changing assessment for good.

          Join our Community!

          We launched the Sova Assessment Community earlier this year as a place for those interested in talent acquisition, assessment and development to come together, share expertise, explore best practice and network with HR professionals from other organisations.

          We’ve created a FREE online course, “Equitable Assessment - why equality is not enough” for you and your team to upskill and make practical changes to your assessment and recruitment processes.

          Changing assessment for good
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