Guarding against netpotism in graduate recruitment

Apr 14, 2021 | Diversity

Covid-19 is leading to closed graduate recruitment networks, Handshake shares new research highlighting how we can tackle nepotism.

As graduate recruitment rapidly shifted online in 2020, many of us hoped this would help employers to connect with a broader talent pool, without the need to invest in expensive on-campus recruitment programmes. We hoped it would fuel social mobility for students – and help employers to fuel their workforces with the best talent.


New research

But our newest research exposes a significant issue, which suggests that digital recruitment isn’t levelling the playing field in the way we’d hoped. In fact, employers have relied on existing digital networks or connections to find staff – with 63% saying they leaned more on online professional networks such as LinkedIn in the last twelve months, and more than half (57%) saying they used word of mouth to find staff.

And, on the flip side, we also found that a quarter of students simply don’t have the right technology at home to access virtual recruitment processes, with many citing issues like internet reliability or even a lack of shared space to conduct interviews from.

This suggests that those students from more affluent backgrounds, with personal connections into professional careers may be gaining an advantage over other candidates. We call this issue ‘netpotism’ and believe that it has the potential to erode the progress the sector has made in boosting social mobility.

It’s also bad for business. We all know that a diverse workforce fosters a culture of innovation, more rounded thinking and ultimately, better productivity, and employers who rely on closed networks risk missing out on this.

These changes aren’t set to disappear as the pandemic gradually recedes either – two-thirds of businesses (66%) say that going forwards, they will look to increase the amount of the recruitment process they conduct online based on their experiences in the past year.


Ensuring more inclusive recruitment

By exposing the issue in our new report we hope that employers, students and education providers can seize the opportunity to combat it.

While there’s much talk of skills gaps and a lack of preparedness for the workplace among new graduates, our data shows more evidence of a difficulty in finding the right talent. All this means there’s a lot of potential to use technology to link businesses directly with graduates, but currently, it is being used in a way that still replicates outmoded ways of finding staff by what you have in common, rather than how good a fit they are.

Drawing on new data and on our experiences of working with universities and employers around the world, we’re able to offer practical routes to ensuring a more diverse and inclusive recruitment pipeline.

This includes considerations like businesses being more proactive in directly reaching out to recent graduates and students rather than relying on those they’re already connected to, collaborating more with academia and offering support to help applicants adapt to the changes seen in the past year – for example, virtual interviews. Download it here and let us know what you think.

Hear more about Handshake’s netpotism research findings by joining ISE’s webinar on Wednesday 21 April

Was this article helpful?


Share This