Persevering Through the COVID Era

Posted by Wesley Thorne

It’s safe to say that life as a university graduate job seeker has been anything but normal over of the past several months. Graduates are entering an uncertain labour market that has been greatly influenced by the COVID pandemic. Say hello to the virtual world of graduate recruitment. Career fairs have transitioned to online engagements. Interviews and career assessments are now conducted entirely online.

Employers have also had to pivot and adopt new and different ways of communicating with candidates. The tools and technologies they use to track candidate engagement are evolving and now are as important as ever as their organizations modify and adjust hiring goals.

A Look at Recent Hiring Activity

At GradConnection, we’ve been tracking and keep close tabs on hiring activity through our commercial site as well as our exclusive Campus jobs portal. Through July of this year 1374 domestic graduate jobs have been posted by 217 employers while 1219 internships were posted by 96 employers. How does this compare to the numbers during the first half of 2019? Overall, graduate recruiting is down 15% but there has been a steady monthly increase since May. Meanwhile, internship hiring has been up 12%. One factor could be attributed to some employers converting graduate roles into post-graduate internships, at least in the short-term while organizations react and adjust to the market and other influences.

Hiring COVID Stats

Impact of Coronavirus on Graduate Programs

To better understand how the pandemic has affected graduate program recruiting we administered a survey to employers in May and June. The survey generated 113 responses from graduate employers across various industry sectors.

The following summarises the key findings of the survey:

60.19% reported continuing their 2021 Graduate Program as planned

33.01% reported postponing their programs till later in the year

1.94% reported needing to cancel their 2021 Graduate Program as a result of COVID-19

31.25% reported an increase in application numbers

80.21% plan to continue with their 2022 Graduate Program as planned

The full report can be found here.

My Take on Things

While I acknowledge that the pandemic has caused a bit of disruption, I am encouraged to see evidence that graduate program recruitment and hiring is strong. In light on this, as things start to normalise university career services continues to play a pivotal role in helping students adjust and stay prepared for a job search that looks a bit different.

To that end, I offer a few strategies for our career services partners.

  1. Virtual Programming can still be High Touch

    Some students are feeling anxious about the future and are relying on career services for support and guidance on what they can do be effective at the job search. In this new virtual world some students may not be able to be on campus and will have access to fewer support resources. In fact, some students may feel disconnected from their normal networks. Research shows that students often consider their peers as one of the most trusted sources of information and support. So I recommend launching informal peer led job search discussion groups. Providing a forum for students to discuss openly their struggles and concerns can be so helpful and even provide motivation for moving forward. And of course, time should also be spent on proactive job search planning. If you’d like to consult with me for ideas, I’d be happy to help.
  2. Help Student Leverage Alumni Networks

    Alumni can play a valuable role in being a critical source of support for your students. More and more universities are investing in alumni contact management systems (ACMS). These custom built systems enable students to reach to out to alumni based on a number of points of interest: for example, academic program, geography, employer and industry. In addition to serving as the central database for an alumni career mentor program, an ACMS can provide students with key contacts for networking and informational interviews.
  3. Promote Virtual Work Experience

    Students can set themselves apart to graduate employers with the FREE Work Ready Virtual Experience Program. 

    Created in collaboration with InsideSherpa and Development Beyond Learning, this program is designed to arm students with the necessary work-readiness skills that will help them navigate these challenging times, and empower students to thrive as they seek and secure placements, internships and graduate roles.

    1. Wellbeing and Resilience
    2. Virtual First Impressions
    3. Virtual Networking

    For more information, click here.

  4. Data is Knowledge. Knowledge is Power.

    At GradConnection, we’re excited to partner with universities to support graduate employability. That’s why we’ve invested considerable resources in our Campus system which currently provides students with access to over 3,500 domestic jobs and over 12,000 international opportunities. Our system tools provide you with instant access to critical data points, including employer activity and student engagement. And for a limited time, we can provide our exclusive Campus system at no cost with a data provisioning agreement. This includes custom built reports, account management, technical support, and much more. If you’d like to have a chat about the benefits of a partnership, feel free to contact me.


Enter an employer or university you want to find in our search bar.