5 ways to improve social mobility in graduate recruitment

Aug 18, 2021 | Attraction & marketing

Sanctuary Graduates give their advice on how to improve social mobility within your graduate recruitment processes. 

Social mobility – improving opportunities for people from less affluent backgrounds – has become a top priority for many employers in recent years, and this is especially true when it comes to graduate recruitment

Candidates from these backgrounds represent an underutilised source of top talent, who unfortunately may not have had employment opportunities pitched to them in the same way as their more privileged peers. Attracting this group of candidates to your graduate scheme is a good way of ensuring you are getting the very best people into your business.

Here are five ways you can attract more socially diverse candidates through your graduate recruitment:

1. Make sure you have a transparent process

Many students from less privileged backgrounds won’t apply to graduate schemes which have a complex and intimidating recruitment process, as they are less likely to have been prepped for this during their time in education or by well-connected family and friends. 

You can remove this barrier by making your recruitment process as clear and transparent as possible. Try to avoid unclear terminology and jargon, such as unexplained acronyms or industry terms, and make sure you provide clear guidance on tasks, interviews, and assessments so students can practice and prepare before each stage. 

2. Monitor applicant performance

If you already have a way of identifying applicants from less privileged backgrounds, such as a question on whether they received free school meals, you should consider monitoring how those individuals perform in your overall recruitment process. 

The Social Mobility Foundation advocates a ‘second look’ approach. Review candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who have been unsuccessful and offer them advice sessions to improve their future applications. Digging into the data may also reveal trends in which areas those from less privileged backgrounds consistently underperform in comparison to their more affluent peers. This may be interview technique, so…

3. Look for potential, not polish

All too often recruitment processes focus on who comes across well and confidently in interviews. However, this can disadvantage students who may have received less coaching and feel more out of their comfort zone than their more privileged counterparts. 

Think about what ‘talent’ means to you. Does your recruitment process look for the most polished individual with the best credentials, or for the individual with the best skillset and potential who outperforms others in technical ability?

Some employers look to solve this problem through ‘grade’ and ‘university’ blind processes, removing this from the application form to avoid unconscious bias. 

4.  Seek talent outside the Russel Group 

Many graduate employers focus their recruitment on candidates who attended a Russel Group or ‘Top 20’ university. Though several of these institutions have taken positive steps in recent years to make access more equitable, they still are significantly overrepresented by those who attended fee paying schools. This can result in employers only considering talent from a privileged pool of people, effectively shutting out excellent candidates from less diverse backgrounds. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to have their A Level grades underpredicted and may therefore attend less prestigious institutions through no reflection of their actual capability. By broadening the list of universities to consider, you are actually more likely to ensure a steady stream of high-quality candidates. 

5. Embrace virtual events

Over the past year most businesses have, through necessity, moved their outreach online. This has been a huge positive for social mobility – holding events and even assessment days online means a graduate is not prevented from attending because of financial constraints. It also provides graduates from remote, rural and coastal regions (typically social mobility ‘cold spots’) the same opportunities as those based in major cities, where the events usually take place.

Maintaining this commitment to hosting virtual recruitment fairs and outreach events will allow you to reach a far larger group of students and encourage them to join your graduate scheme.

Read more social mobility advice, data and trends

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