Improving Diversity in the Changing Landscape of Early Careers 

Amberjack helps future focused organisations bridge the gap between today and tomorrow.

Group of people watching a presentation about graduates

March 2023 saw the return of the In-house Recruitment Early Careers Conference in London. As a supporter, Amberjack attended and partook in the important conversations happening in the sector right now. 

The Main Themes 

As a whole, there were three main themes that dominated discussion; the changing landscape of Early Careers, utilising technology, and today’s focus… Diversity and Accessibility. 

As a solution provider in the Early Careers space, it’s always interesting to see the nuances that contribute to successful campaigns across the industry, especially when these campaigns aim to achieve greater diversity and accessibility, something that we believe strongly in here at Amberjack. 

So, when the day began with a poll, asking the gathered Early Careers leaders: ‘What is your biggest challenge in recruitment?’, and they answered: ‘Attracting diverse candidates’, we were pleased to be able to listen, engage, and contribute to the discussion. 

Recruiting the Talent of Tomorrow 

Recruiting tomorrow’s talent can be a challenge, but now is the time to prepare… 

Prospects revealed that in 2022, 425k students started university, and in 2025 there will be 60-80k more graduates entering the job market than usual. Are you ready for this influx and utilisng the opportunity that it brings? 

As the Early Careers sector continually moves away from academics, one of the least reliable indicators of in-job success, and moves towards hiring for Potential, whereby new hires will be able to grow into fulfilling their roles, we are seeing a positive shift. For oversaturated markets, such as Tech, where vacancy demand is not met by the number of candidates available, assessing for Potential and widening the talent pool can help. 

Diversity in Early Careers 

Before diving into the nitty gritty of attracting (and hiring) diverse candidates, there were some useful insights shared at the IHR’s event, which, when understood, can make a good campaign a great one. 

In particular, the current shape of the Early Careers landscapes as detailed by Prospects, has some interesting findings. 

When exploring Graduate Migration, the facts took some by surprise. Prospects broke the graduate population into four groups; Loyals, Returners, Stayers, and Incomers. 

While Loyals, graduates who go to university where they grew up and remain there afterwards, make up 42% of the population and are the most diverse, Incomers, 20% of the population, are predominantly white. Returners, those who go to university elsewhere but return home afterwards, make up 26%, and Stayers, graduates who go to university away from home and end up staying in their new area, make up 12%. Are you utilising this level of detail to assist in your campaigns? Are you making sure that while you try to attract fresh talent from outside the area where you are based, you are also trying to attract the talent on your doorstep? 

These nuances are key. With such small populations of your ideal candidates, it can make a difference when hiring a workforce for tomorrow. 

Prospects’ example of non-white women in STEM, domestic to the UK, was hard-hitting. While the UK has 340k domestic grads, 197,200 of which are women, 45,360 of which are non-white, the numbers shrink to just 12,700 for those in STEM. If this is the main pool of candidates you’re aiming for, then the competition will be fierce. 

What Candidates Want 

Conversation at the conference hinted that generally (and unsurprisingly), candidates want a close look at your organisation and the role they have applied for. 

Embed elements of what the candidate will discover (such as company culture) across the process, provide real experiences which help the ‘penny drop’ for your candidates, show them why they should want to work for you. Really lean into the value-add and candidate experience, it’s important to remember that the moments that matter often aren’t virtual, they’re face-to-face. 

Providing hard-hitting moments is possible virtually though, and this can be achieved by ensuring your process is immersive. Successful examples from conference attendees point to an inside look at employee meetings, virtual office tours, and showing off the premises, which can provide the insight that candidates are looking for. The keep-warm value that this provides your candidates helps keep more potential applicants in your process too. 

Something else that candidates are keen to see from employers is support throughout the process and additional coaching ahead of the latter stages, especially assessment centres. 

Amberjack, for small or large numbers of candidates, our Candidate Management services can help organisations explore these options. The level of support that candidates receive from these coaching opportunities and the motivation the sessions provide, has had some significant results for many of our clients, including Virgin Media O2, BDO and Morrisons.  

You can explore our case studies by visiting our website. 

At the IHR conference, this came up time and time again, and is clearly conducive to success. During her speaking session, Susie Renshaw from Clyde & Co revealed that their Assessment Centre Bootcamp dramatically increased the confidence level of those in the Bright Futures Programme. Their research showed that 59% of candidates wanted more coaching in the application process. 

Ultimately, candidates struggle with getting work-experience, feeling immersed, and seeing themselves represented in the recruitment process. TapIn’s research, which focused on Black Gen Z, also showed that 69% of this population appreciate seeing themselves represented in the process, and 31% used social media to judge how diverse your company is for themselves. 51% highlighted that a lack of representation was off-putting when engaging with potential employers. 

Taking Action 

With insight into the current state of diversity in Early Careers and a look at what it is that candidates want, what employers can do to actually attract and engage graduates can be fully understood. 

Candidates want their needs and desires listened to. In a candidate-led market, they’re looking for green flags in your recruitment process and across your organisation, from a friendly working environment and a diverse and inclusive company, to feeling valued, and the availability of opportunities to develop their career. 

Taking action is simple. 

To start, there are several quick wins which enable you to start improving your diversity in the short-term: 

  • Utilising accessibility tools 
  • Exploring analytics 
  • Employing SIMPLE language 
  • Don’t ask for irrelevant skills 
  • Utilise video interviews and SJTs 
  • Remember it might be the candidate’s first job! 

When considering diversity specifically though, there are a few nuances to consider. For example, when trying to encourage the disclosure of any needed adjustments, it’s best to have a really clear statement of why you are asking and what impact it will have on the process. Candidates are often reluctant to share about any needed adjustments as they are unsure what will come of it, let them know that it will not harm their application. 

Remove unnecessary hurdles. Questions that don’t directly relate to the role aren’t needed, and don’t replace them with alternative options. This can help with hiring lower socioeconomic candidates that haven’t had a lot of practice answering these sorts of questions before.  

In addition, removing unnecessary long answer questions can help reduce cheating. If the value of these questions is that they are more difficult and so sift the good from the great, then this is quickly becoming a less reliable indicator. With easy access technological advancements such as Artificial Intelligence these questions are not difficult to cheat, further reinforcing their obsolete nature. 

It’s important to remember too that there is an inevitable disconnect between how you are advertising and branding, and how you are being perceived, and don’t assume that everyone knows that they can work for you. Some people disqualify themselves before they even apply – show them they can work at your organisation! Similarly, it’s critical to acknowledge context. Don’t ignore the history of your candidate. Try to understand the journey that bought them to your application. 

Finally, define your content very specifically to address individual problems in your early talent recruitment process. Some candidates, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, may struggle with understanding some of the steps and terminology in your process. If you’re finding that a subset of candidates is struggling with the Video Interview stage for example, you could create a social post and email campaign that details what a video interview is and how to complete it. 

These actions are each small steps in your greater plan to attract Early Careers candidates and improve your diversity. However, all these steps are well and good if you have the green light to start making changes to the process your organisation uses, but what if you don’t? 

Our last tip from the IHR Conference addresses this concern. If you’re having trouble getting the buy-in you need from stakeholders to start enacting the changes you need, then show them the real people. Assign a graduate to shadow a member of senior leadership, even if it is not wholly relevant to their area. Not only will this open their minds to bigger and better grad schemes, but it will give them insight into why the changes are necessary. 


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