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Graduate Recruitment in a Time of Social Distancing

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This article was originally published by UK Recruiter. You can view the original article here.

By Jodie Grove

Early on in the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the popular narrative was to look ahead to an imagined time when things would return to ‘normal’.

But as we all gradually emerge from lockdown, many people are realising that some of the changes that the crisis brought about are worth retaining. In our industry, I believe that one of these changes is the switch to virtual recruitment, especially of graduates.

Right now, young people leaving college are facing the reality that many organisations are responding to economic uncertainty by pausing their usual processes of taking on new graduates. Unsurprisingly, graduates around the world are feeling increasingly concerned about their job prospects in the current climate.

I can understand the temptation to freeze recruitment when times are tough, but I would advise against it. The graduate cohort of today is the generation that will be managing your business in a few years’ time. Cut off that supply and you risk leaving yourself without the talent that could be steering your organisation through the challenges of the future.

If you can find the budget to pay a new crop of young employees, the next challenge is how to physically recruit them in a time of social distancing. This is where I believe virtual activities have a lot to offer, and will prove to be far more efficient and effective than the traditional methods.


Expanding the pool

Virtual career fairs were building in popularity even before the virus presented a pressing reason to avoid physical contact. They are a great way to expand diversity of recruits as organisations can invite all students to join in, not only those at universities large and accessible enough to make visiting them a viable option.

Taking a careers fair online can also be highly efficient for your team’s time. You can prepare pre-recorded video content and presentations, which can be used time and again, as well as having live-streamed talks. Graduates can easily log into online sessions from their smartphones, potentially taking less time out from any jobs they currently have.

But the opportunities are much broader than this. Virtual recruitment outreach also has the potential to offer far more value for graduates and engage with them on a much deeper and ongoing basis.

For example, with so much uncertainty in the jobs market right now, there is an opportunity for employers to use virtual methods to help upskill graduates and offer them reassurance and guidance – the kind of support that builds a long term relationship with potential candidates. A live group chat session where graduates are offered tips on how to improve their interviewing skills and enhance their personal brand, or an online event for graduates on how to perform well during the assessment process. These are just some ways, at minimal cost, that you could offer this cohort of graduates some real help over the next few months as they face up to the vulnerability of their position.

Graduates will also really appreciate any way that you can connect them with others in a similar boat, given their current state of social disconnection. The more cautious can even potentially take part anonymously and just listen in and learn from the conversation.


Keeping grads keen

Despite the slowing economy, there is still going to be huge competition for this year’s most talented graduates. Rather than engaging with a graduate via a one-off online jobs fair and then letting the relationship go cold, an employer could invite them to a series of live chat events or a live streamed video session where they are introduced to the CEO and get to meet the team they could end up working with. Or they could organise a session where grads meet current employees, who started at the organisation via a graduate placement, who offer advice on how to best navigate the first few months of a new role. This is all designed to keep a candidate engaged throughout the process and less likely to be tempted by another offer.

These sessions don’t have to be an entirely group operation either. The experience of having a personal chat with a recruiter can be replicated by offering one-to-one online sessions, which as well as being informative and engaging, provide a consumer grade level of service.

Of course, not all of the graduates you engage with will end up working for you in their first job. But maybe in a few years’ time, as they mull over a management offer from you, they will remember the support you gave them at such a pivotal time of their lives and it will help clinch their decision.

So where to start if you haven’t already dipped your toes in the waters of virtual recruitment? My advice is to begin by evaluating what you have already done in a traditional sphere. What were the goals? How did it suit your people and the candidates that you wanted to attract? Could you redesign an online programme that still fulfils these goals?

Some of you might already have dashed online in the past couple of months as a crisis fix – in which case the next few months offers you the opportunity to review what you have tried. Which parts are worth taking forward, to more strategically design a virtual recruitment operation that will sustain your business?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown has been a wakeup call for practically every industry. We’re all trying to find a new normal. For employers, virtual campus events offer a passport to a much-improved experience for everyone.

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