What does the class of 2021 want?

Posted by Sova

As we move to the close of the second graduate hiring window to be impacted by lockdowns and travel restrictions, candidates have a new perspective on what they’re looking for from their first corporate role. 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.

As assessment experts, we help some of Australia’s largest graduate employers, such as Pitcher Partners, Coles and NAB 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.

5 things employers can do to meet the expectations of the class of 2021

1. Judge candidates on potential not their past

The reality is that until interstate and international borders reopen, the talent pool is finite. Unemployment is low and there is competition amongst hiring organisations for a limited pool of home-grown talent. But these young people have not had access to the same education opportunities, internships and work experience as previous cohorts. So how can organisations make an offer to the right candidates?

Some employers have stopped looking at Grade Point Averages (GPAs) as part of an effort to be more equitable but social mobility remains a challenge, especially in the current climate. It’s no longer feasible, or equitable, to select candidates from only certain universities. To negate this challenge, we recommend using 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.

2. Make equality and fairness inherent in your hiring process

Diversity and inclusion have moved up the agenda in recent years and today’s graduates want to work for an employer where fairness and equity are baked into corporate culture. A fair 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.

Your organisation may have its own targets for gender balance or for representation of indigenous candidates. Whilst quotas are often used to address diversity, a longer-term and more equitable solution is to use assessment content that is validated not to cause adverse impact to some groups is one tactic that organisations can and must use. We’ve used this to great effect in graduate programmes including one in which we were able to achieve zero adverse impact.

3. Ensure that development and upskilling is not overlooked

As a result of restrictions, a lot of graduates have attended virtual assessment centres this year. But once they start their role, will they need to travel? Although some surveys report that graduates want to get back to the office for the value of networking and ‘water cooler’ conversations, many are concerned about the viability of travel or relocation between states.

Organisations that have pivoted to offer virtual recruitment processes, in many cases for graduates all over Australia rather than a traditional city by city approach, are now turning their thoughts to other virtual processes. For clients that have graduate programmes already running, we have helped them to implement virtual development centres that have successfully removed geographic restrictions, and other borders, facilitating a more equitable approach to upskilling, reskilling and the development of high potentials.

4. Design assessments around values alignment

According to research by PwC Australia and Atlassian: ‘Return on Action 2021’, an increasing number of employees, notable in younger generations, will quit their jobs if employers don’t act on important issues: “Despite tough economic conditions, employees are more likely to seek work that meets their needs with employers who share their values”. 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.

In the current white-hot Australian graduate recruitment market, there are example of on-boarding bonuses and retainers. Pay is one way to bring candidates into the funnel but to ensure a good fit for the longer term, we recommend being explicit about values and culture in the recruitment process. This can be conveyed through the content or even the medium through which its delivered – a virtually delivered, low carbon, sustainable approach to hiring that removes the need for travel and is therefore more inclusive, can be a demonstration of your values as an organisation.

5. Provide a transparent and realistic job preview

Regardless of whether a role is in-person, virtual or hybrid it’s likely that in the current travel-restricted world that some of the graduate hiring process will be virtual. A key part of making a virtual hiring process effective, is being able to offer a realistic job preview. How can you show people, without inviting them into your offices, what it’s like to work in your organisation? Who are your key leaders? Who would candidates be working alongside? And what does a typical day in the role look like? This is something we work to produce with most of our clients. Using video, interactive screens and two-way interview sessions we can bring the role and your business to life.

And in some instances, candidates actually prefer online to in-person even when the choice is available. We’ve heard from a number of clients that they plan to keep virtual interviews beyond the pandemic, having found them easier to schedule into the diaries of hiring managers and with candidate feedback highlighting that they felt more relaxed and confident in a virtual rather than in-person setting.

Hone your assessment process for this year’s graduate intake

This year’s graduates are a cohort like no other and your assessment process will likely require some fine tuning. It’s a candidate’s market with many receiving multiple offers - and even reneging on offers before onboarding. Therefore, it’s more crucial than ever to carefully consider your assessment journey and how you can offer a recruitment process that is engaging and scalable, yet without compromising on its accuracy, prediction or fairness.

Find out more

At Sova, 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.

[email protected]

Abi Scott
Managing Director, Sova APAC
[email protected]
0426 691 012

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