Truly inclusive recruitment means focusing on nuances

Oct 1, 2020 | Diversity

Last week we published new research from the ISE and Debut looking at student perspectives on the recruitment process. Overall, we concluded that students were pretty positive about the future, despite the difficult context. This week the ISE’s Tristram Hooley dives deeper into the research and reveals that not everyone was equally happy.

In our report What do students want? we surveyed over 2000 students to get their take on the recruitment market. We summarised our findings against the seven big questions that employers told us that they wanted an answer to.

The research told us that while students are concerned that there might not be enough jobs out there for them, they are keen to find work and enthusiastic about talking to employers (online if that is the only option). But, the generally positive story is undermined when you look at who is worried about what. It quickly emerges that who you are and your background makes a big difference. So in this post I’m going to dig into the demographics.

What are different students looking for in a job?

It is important for student employers to recognise that different students are motivated to apply for a job by different things. How you structure your marketing and what incentives you offer may have implications for the diversity of your workforce. So, while salary was important to all groups of respondents it was particularly important for non-white respondents (90% vs. 84%). While female respondents reported that working for an organisation with a strong environmental policy was more important than men (89% vs 80%).


What information do different students want to hear?

Non-white and female respondents were looking for somewhat different kinds of information to white and male respondents. Broadly they were looking for reassurance that they would fit in and be treated well within the organisations that they were applying to.

Non-white respondents (94% to 81%) and women (93% to 81%) are more likely to want to hear about the experience of employees from different backgrounds, genders, ethnicity and sexuality than white respondents and men. Some of these differences were cumulative with 97% of female, non-white respondents keen to hear from diverse employees, while only 71% of male, white respondents were interesting in hearing about this.


What assessment approaches are different students comfortable with?

White respondents reported that they are more comfortable with online interviews than non-white respondents (88% vs 83%). While female respondents are more comfortable with online assessment centres than male respondents (84% vs 79%).

There appeared to be some big issues with the perception of psychometric testing where white (76% vs 67%), male (75% vs 69%) and privately educated (76% vs 71%) respondents are all more comfortable with psychometric testing than non-white, female and state schooled respondents. Again, these characteristics are to some extent cumulative meaning that 83% of white, male and privately educated respondents are comfortable with psychometric assessments in comparison to 64% of non-white, female and state educated respondents.

There were also some differences in who perceived recruitment processes to be fair. White respondents (76% vs 67%) were more likely to agree that employers will treat them fairly in the recruitment process. As one respondent put it…

As a black man in the UK, it’s rare to see someone that looks like me at the other side of the table. A lot of the time, when I see that the hiring manager is white, I lose confidence in my application because applicants like me know they struggle in getting a job because of our skin colour.

Responding to these issues

These findings remind us that students’ experience of the recruitment process are structured by their backgrounds and demographics. Most firms have targets around the diversity of their workforce and strategies to address this. But, it is easy to miss some of these more subtle issues about what different groups of students value or are concerned about.

Thinking about how you market vacancies could help to shift the kinds of students you attract. Similarly thinking carefully about the kind of information that you provide to applicants and how you reassure them that your process is fair will make a big difference.

It is only if you recognise that these differences in perception are shaping candidates’ experience of your process and think carefully about how you are going to respond to them, that you will be able to be truly inclusive.

Find out more in What do students want?

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  1. How students want employers to talk to them – Adventures in Career Development - […] For more information about the report’s demographic findings see Tristram’s article Truly inclusive recruitment means focusing on nuances. […]
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