I recently attended the Institute of Student Employers conference for Higher Education staff and heard perspectives from a range of leading graduate employers from multiple industry sectors on how the last year of recruitment has gone and what they’re planning to do moving forward, as Covid restrictions ease. The key themes and advice for students are summarised for you in this post.
Virtual vs Face to face
One of the key messages was that virtual is here to stay. Whether that’s virtual careers fairs, assessments or interviews, all the employers present felt the virtual format saved them money, time and also reduced their carbon footprint as it reduces travel. However, some employers are planning to attend some on-campus recruitment events when they’re able to, but how this will look is still uncertain. Hopefully this means that in the not too distant future you should be able to meet potential employers in person again in some format. A return to face to face recruitment for the final stages of the process for example final interviews, in order to meet candidates in person before offers are made, is something that a lot of the employers present are planning to do too.
Lots of employers received more applications than usual for internships and graduate schemes and had to close their recruitment early. Therefore, the advice if you’re applying for grad schemes or internships particularly with popular companies such as Deloitte is to apply early.
Don’t ‘panic apply’ and don’t forget the basics
Employers said they’ve seen lots of students this year who have applied for multiple vacancies with multiple companies. Whilst they can understand why students are doing this, it’s resulted in them seeing candidates who don’t know what they’ve applied for and haven’t researched the company/ role properly, as they’ve applied to so many. Employers were saying it’s much better to identify which companies you really want to work for and in which roles and really focus your efforts on applying to and researching these in order to perform at your best in interviews. Also, nobody wants to be in a position in an interview where you suddenly realise you’re talking about the wrong job, so don’t forget the basics and before any interview really make sure you’ve done your research, as well as checking any information you’ve been given on the recruitment process.
Identifying transferable skills
Employers recognise students have had it hard, opportunities that were there before may have been limited by Covid, but what’s important is to be able to show how you’ve adapted to the Covid world and what transferable skills you’ve developed as a result. Employers want to see students who can clearly identify and talk confidently about their transferable skills and how they can apply these to the roles they’re applying for, they don’t really mind where you’ve acquired these skills. For help identifying what skills Covid might have given you, read our blog post.
Virtual assessment centres
Remember you’re being assessed through a number of techniques, so if one activity doesn’t go so well, it doesn’t mean the whole thing is a disaster. Take a break and regroup before the next one. For students who worry about being able to make themselves heard in a virtual group setting, remember employers aren’t necessarily looking for the person who says the most, in fact they don’t want people who don’t listen or collaborate with others. If you’re really having trouble getting your ideas across try saying something like ‘when you’ve finished, I’ve got a point I’d like to add’. For more advice on virtual assessment centres, read our resource on preparing for and succeeding at assessment centres.
Remote vs in-person working
For graduates new to the workplace, a lot of learning opportunities can be missed when working remotely and most employers who were present are planning to prioritise those on graduate schemes when it comes to returning to the office, in order to address this. This will also allow for the social side of work to return, often a valuable aspect for new graduates.
A final positive note
Recruitment numbers were slightly down this year due to the pandemic, but many of the employers present are planning to return to normal numbers if not more this year. So take notice of the ‘focus your efforts’ advice and be confident enough to only apply for roles you’re really interested in, after all you’re likely to be happier and more fulfilled in a job you actually want.