How to stand out as an employer of choice

Aug 26, 2021 | Attraction & marketing

A new student survey shows how employers can stand out, reports Ade Quadri, Partnerships Manager at Uptree.

As a first generation immigrant, coming from a working-class background, I’ve seen my parents work hard and study even harder to change their positions in life. My passion is to give back, and see those from similar backgrounds achieve what is possible if careers education is democratised.

At Uptree one of our core values is ‘young people first’. This means that at every step of the way, we ensure that our students and young people remain at the forefront of our goal to democratise careers education.

Our research includes focus groups with Uptree Ambassadors, a diverse group of young people who work alongside us to share the thoughts and ideas they have around early careers, as well as our bi-annual Student Survey, a sample group of 800+ young people between the ages of 16 and 21, with the aim to find out  ‘What do students want from employers?’

The Uptree Student Survey, Summer 2021 included over 800 responses, 83.5% of whom were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic group backgrounds and 69% who identified as female.

Here we share some of our key findings that can improve understanding of the student mindset, what is important to young people when entering the workforce and how to meet their expectations as an employer of choice.

1. What early careers support do young people want?

Resources from different employees in the company was a key theme in our research, from apprentices, graduates to senior roles – students would like to see a clearer picture of the day to day.

Often, students aren’t exposed to the ins and outs of daily life at a company and the variety of roles that might be available to them. One way employers could help to address this knowledge gap is to create interesting case studies or a recording of ‘a day in the life’ video/s to include in any student-led marketing campaigns.

Now more than ever, young people are paying attention to their mental health, physical health and all-round wellbeing. In fact, when comparing salary to company values, our survey results showed that 54% of young people put more importance on values, wellbeing and culture rather than salary – that’s over half of respondents!

Application support was also found to be important – of 385 known applications made by our students to partner organisations so far this year (July 21), it is really encouraging that the additional support that Uptree & its Partner organisations provide has enabled a third of those students to reach a final stage interview, with 19% receiving an offer.

These findings – reinforce the importance of supporting students on how to develop strong, confident interview skills. In order of response rate, students rated interview technique, CV and LinkedIn profile, personal branding, assessment centres, and completing the application form as knowledge gaps that they would like more support from employers on.

2. What do you look for from employers at a work experience day or insight event?

Many of our network face a steep transition into the workplace, without professional connections or high levels of cultural capital. Our Uptree work experience days, run in conjunction with employers, can be the first time young people meet professionals from a corporate background. Here’s what they said would attract them most:

  • Having apprentices and graduates attending (ideally from a range of different backgrounds) is important to add a level of relatability. Students said they relate more to people who look like them, or employers who understand and empathise with their situations. This is why diversity within the workplace is key and helps with social mobility.
  • A chance to network and speak to people in different roles. The ability to speak to employers in smaller groups can make all the difference to confidence for some young people. Q&A/panel sessions proved popular, as they give the opportunity for students to direct questions and learn more about roles within a particular industry.

To appeal to students; use your apprentices, graduates and entry-level colleagues to speak about their experiences and try to include a Q&A panel in any insight events. Be prepared (and open) for lots of questions!


3. Online vs in person events

When it came to this debate, the general consensus from our research was that young people prefer in-person events (52.7% of respondents). It was still felt that online activity served an important role in the initial fact-finding about a company with 8.8% saying they would like insight activity to remain online and 38.6% would prefer a hybrid approach.

For online events, students commented that if they weren’t interactive, they would struggle to concentrate and would lose interest quickly. However, others said that the alleviation of travel costs and accessibility were a big consideration, and for events that had a detailed agenda or that led to a longer face-to-face experience, they would prefer to attend online.

Thinking carefully about which events can be run successfully online will save screen fatigue, increase engagement and make your induction and training programmes more effective. Events that are information heavy – with little employer engagement or audience involvement – are best kept online (e.g. policy training, H&S courses, research activities).

An additional factor is a young person’s home environment where Wi-Fi connection can be poor or non-existent and a quiet working space is a luxury. Providing an office space can help instil routine and structure which is key in the early professional development stages.

Overall, the next year will be an interesting and critical time for employers who are looking to stand out with school leaver groups. Uptree’s tips are to remain agile, not to assume that our new virtual world and ways of working will attract hard to reach groups, and to consider a flexible approach that favours smaller-scale, interactive and value-led campaigns.

If you missed Uptree at this year’s ISE Student Recruitment Conference you can catch up here


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