Despite the biggest pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918 and the prospect of a global recession, rest assured, companies are still hiring graduates. They still value talent and want to grow and develop the graduates they bring into their organisations.
Life before the pandemic.
Graduate recruitment before the pandemic was in-person, face-to-face and centred around assessment centres, interviews and internships.
Recruitment fairs and the traditional milk round held in universities aren’t currently practical and company events held in a company’s offices or at the offices of a recruitment partner have also been cancelled for the foreseeable future.
Also suspended temporarily are the spring weeks enjoyed by first-year students to give them a taste of what working in a particular employer or industry was like.
If lockdown and social distancing have turned graduate recruitment on its head, what alternative strategies are companies adopting so they can still recruit the graduates they need?
How have companies adapted their recruitment approach?
Traditional graduate recruitment practices have obviously had to change. Companies have moved most, if not all of their recruitment, assessments and interviewing online. This is a positive and proactive step but can leave a graduate in the unusual position of landing their dream job without meeting their line manager in person.
Each stage of the process, from initial contact through first round interviews, assessment centres, department head interviews, second stage interviews and final senior management interviews are now happening online. Some employers have committed to hosting internships online, while others, wary that a virtual internship might reduce the benefit, are offering professional mentors from the organisation in lieu of internships.
Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at the Higher Education Careers Service Unit, said ‘This is way outside normal experience’ and that employers have been blindsided by the pandemic.
Companies have responded in a variety of ways ranging from rescinding graduate job offers, pushing back start dates or providing virtual workplace introductions. However, the biggest graduate employers are working hard to keep their graduate recruitment on track.
Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research says ‘Most of the biggest names are continuing with their planned intake, albeit under difficult circumstances.’
What can graduates (and everyone else who’s job hunting) do to improve their chances of success?
If you are a third year who is looking for a graduate placement or a second year planning their application for next year, then there is plenty you can do to boost your prospects.
Be proactive and use your time wisely during lockdown.
- Apply for graduate jobs now even if it is outside of the traditional hiring window as that almost certainly won’t apply this year.
- Take a course in your chosen industry or discipline through an online portal like Udemy or volunteer – when you get to interview, and you’re asked what you’ve been doing during lockdown you’ll have an impressive proactive response
- Add your education, past work experience and volunteering you have been doing
- Good CV with detailed information and personal interests and achievements – climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, volunteered for a charity helping disabled children, etc.
- Connect with people in the industry you aspire to work in and don’t forget that a lot of recruitment happens on LinkedIn and there are plenty of recruiters who would love to hear from you.
Perfect your interview technique
- Ask friends and family to ask you questions that you expect may come up on interview and practice your answers
- Learn to use Zoom and Skype as most remote interviews will use this technology
- If you suffer from anxiety or nerves, virtual interviewing is ideal as it reduces the pressure of being at a company’s offices in person and allows you to perform well during the interview.
Ignore sensationalist headlines
Anything you can do that will show initiative, increase your confidence and improve your soft skills during the pandemic will help you when you’re applying for graduate positions.
What are the prospects for graduates?
Despite the Coronavirus pandemic which has had an effect on graduates this year, plans for next year are well underway with many blue-chip companies booking space at graduate fairs later this year.
There is obviously uncertainty about whether these events will go ahead or if they will be transferred online but major employers including city law firms have said that they don’t expect the coronavirus pandemic to affect their graduate program for the foreseeable future.
Larger law firms are launching online summer vacation schemes in July. Clifford Chance is offering 3 days of classroom learning using a digital platform called InsideSherpa where students will be working on real life deals and solving problems in a similar way to qualified lawyers. They hope to follow this with the option to shadow for two days in December.
Tech firms have taken a similar approach with Google moving its summer internship programme to an online model, including networking with peers and mentoring. Goldman Sachs is another company who has shifted its internship online but has cut it from nine weeks to five weeks.
Irrespective of the problems caused by the pandemic, large graduate recruiters still want to bring in new talent each year to train, nurture and develop and this hasn’t changed even in the most trying circumstances.