The Class of 2020. Graduate Recruitment in the time of Covid.

In the early part of this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published record high rates of employment in the UK – a staggering 76.6%. Here in Northern Ireland, our unemployment rate (pre-virus) was just 2.5%. With steady job creation over the last decade, organisations were mainly faced with the challenge of attracting and retaining quality talent in a constricted labour market. Recent graduates had more options than ever before.

Fast forward just a few short weeks and the impact of Coronavirus dramatically changed this picture, with recruitment being paused or cancelled across most sectors. The Office for Budget Responsibility reported that unemployment could rise to 10%, with more 132,000 job losses in Northern Ireland alone, according to one scenario modelled by EY.

As our 19/20 graduates hosted virtual graduation ceremonies with family and close friends, they would already know that over a quarter of graduate employers in the UK are intending to reduce their graduate numbers (Institute of Student Employers).

This is grim reading indeed if you’ve just emerged from your final phase of education, with the associated burgeoning debt. As an unsurprising consequence, there has been much greater interest in postgraduate study this year than usual.

Signs for Optimism

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m glad to report that the prospects of our 19/20 graduate cohort are starting to look more positive on the job front. As the easing of lockdown continues, businesses return to the workplace, and a semblance of normality resumes, there are also indications of movement in recruiting, indicated by the number of graduate vacancies on our local job boards.

The Recruitment and Employment Federation’s recent ‘JobsOutlook’ reports that more employers plan to expand their workforce than reduce it in the next 3 months.

Some key graduate employment sectors such as health and social care, legal, IT, sales, accounting/finance, engineering and business services have been much less affected than many other areas of the economy and they are still actively hiring.

Employers should take note though: a recent ‘Graduate Prospects’ reported that 78% of students and recent graduates feel disconnected from potential employers in light of Covid-19, with 72% wanting more information from employers now on recruiting prospects (Prospects Luminate).

Recruitment marketers: take action to reconnect asap. If you’re not already on it, now is the time to reach out to the class of 2020 to let them know what your recruiting intentions are:

  • Use a multi-channel media approach. Our daily consumption of media has changed considerably in recent months, with TV, radio and digital media usage soaring. Out of home formats has also seen a recovery with less restrictions on our movement and it is expected that cinemas will soon get the green light to re-open.
  • Make the most of all your social media channels and give key timings of when you may be out to market for graduates. A mix of organic and paid ads to reach your target audience will deliver results.
  • Make Search part of your strategy. Grads and their parents will be using Google and Bing to research their options, along with other platforms such as graduate sites, Glassdoor, employers’ websites and job boards. A mix of Search and Display ads will drive traffic to your website.
  • Audit your website content – up to date information and testimonials from recent graduates are key. Allow prospective candidates to register interest for upcoming career opportunities
  • Host bite-sized video content to showcase your workspace to your graduate audience. Explainer videos on application and interview processes (especially if this is likely to be remote at this time) are more engaging than a pdf download.

For advice on graduate recruitment marketing to help now or to get ready for recovery, please get in touch:

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