Building intentional relationships with candidates

May 31, 2023 | Attraction & marketing, Home Featured, Research

Content provided by: Handshake

Handshake shares highlights from its annual Access Conference, showcasing how employers can build intentional relationships with candidates.

At Handshake Access Annual Conference this year, we brought together an esteemed panel of industry experts.

They included employer recruitment representative Mehr Patni from AlphaSights, a former graduate and currently a knowledge analyst, Ariana Jessa and a careers service professional Urfan Faqir from University of Bradford. They were joined on one stage by Sarah Hathaway, the joint CEO of ISE.

This engaging and lively discussion focused mainly on three key areas:
I. Emerging trends on how soon to be graduates are adjusting their priorities and approach to finding jobs compared to their predecessors,
II. Why there is an urgency for employers to adjust their approach and build a year-round Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) attraction strategy to  engage qualified candidates in a competitive market, and
III. The critical role careers service play in enabling effective employer-candidate connections.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of uncertainties and challenges impacting the early talent recruitment landscape.

Students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, face countless challenges when it comes to finding employment. New graduates are having to navigate an uncertain global economy, shifting remote work landscape, and rapid advances in technology.

Employers on the other hand, are finding it harder to attract qualified candidates in a competitive talent landscape. Also, more and more teams have specific EDI goals tied to their early talent targets, and very limited available resources.

Careers service professionals must navigate through the diverse needs and competencies of their student population who may require different levels of support based on their backgrounds. They play a vital role in supporting students’ career journeys by offering guidance and interventions.


Research is showing a clear shift in priorities and approach

A recent Handshake Network Trends report and ISE research shows some interesting facts that indicate how the evolving marketplace is shifting priorities across the industry.

The Class of 2023 is casting a wider net: 85% of 2023 grads said stability was important to them over flashy brands in their jobs search, according to a Handshake report this year, up from 74% in just a year. We’ve seen a 24% increase in jobs searches on Handshake and a further 10% increase in candidates engaging with individualised messages from employers.

Employers are adjusting their approach: According to a recent survey conducted by ISE, 73% employers have specific EDI commitments, an increase of 25% in just two years. Employers are adjusting their strategies to meet these ambitious goals.

For instance, 26% employers have removed minimum degree entry requirements and predict growth in hiring early talent. This is part of a larger trend – employers are widening their early talent targets to include more students from a diverse set of institutions, skills and backgrounds.

Tap into the skilled international student pool: International student populations exhibit interesting and contrasting trends, requiring more analysis to determine the necessary support for this changing cohort.

Last year, the UK welcomed nearly 680,000 international students, a 12% increase from the previous year. While these students present huge opportunities for employers seeking a diverse and skilled workforce, they require substantial support from their careers service. Employers also need to learn how to effectively engage with this motivated sector of the workforce.


Key takeaways

Recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds requires sustained effort, investment, and focus—it can’t be a flyby programme.

The companies that do this best are continually refining their outreach strategy, and hiring practices to optimise inclusivity.

They are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach and instead tailoring strategies and interventions to address the diverse challenges and competencies of different populations with a ‘candidate first approach’.

Consistent Investment and Collaboration: Employers need to consistently invest in their efforts to create a successful EDI recruitment strategy. To demonstrate commitment, employers should actively engage with universities and learn how to make early connections and provide support to the diverse group of candidates. Collaborating with academic institutions showcases sincerity, builds your brand, and fosters meaningful connections.

Leverage Technology for Inclusive Hiring: Now is the ideal time for employers to adopt a ‘candidate first’ (university agnostic) EDI recruitment strategy. Just over the past two years, the percentage of employers with a specific EDI targets has risen dramatically from 48% to 73%. Technology facilitates the identification of candidates based on their interests, skills, and preferences, moving beyond traditional singular measures of fit like university brand or degree.

Flexibility and Early Engagement: Students, particularly the class of 2023, are exhibiting greater flexibility and prioritise stability and good salaries over big brands. They are open to exploring new industries and display a desire to engage in the recruitment process earlier than they ever did. Companies should seize this opportunity to share their story with a broader audience and adopt a year-round recruitment effort to connect with students proactively.

By implementing these key takeaways, employers can foster strong early talent strategies and effectively connect with desired diverse and skilled candidates. Building intentional relationships, leveraging technology, engaging early, and ensuring transparency will contribute to a more inclusive job market and benefit both candidates and employers alike.

You can watch the full discussion here.


What is Handshake?

Handshake as a platform is a three-sided network that brings together universities, students and employers. Our mission is to democratise access to opportunity for all. We believe everyone should have access to the best opportunities regardless of who they know, where they live or where they may have studied. This means that when you post a job on Handshake – you’re reaching every student with a Handshake profile – no matter where they attend university or what region they live in.

Handshake Access Conference

Handshake Access is our annual conference that brings together leading employers and higher education professionals for inspiration, learning, and fun. This year, we had over 400+ employers and higher education partners in the UK. To catch up on any of the sessions that you may be interested in, please visit our exclusive Access on demand hub.

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