How to adapt your student recruitment strategy during Covid-19

Apr 21, 2020 | Sector & policy

Coronavirus is having a significant impact on student recruitment. On-campus activity, hiring, internships and development programmes are being curtailed or moved to a virtual format. ISE CEO, Stephen Isherwood considers what we can learn from previous economic downturns.

Our research on how student recruitment and development teams are responding to coronavirus shows how agile our industry is to adapting in times of crisis.

As travel is restricted and offices closed, many teams are now working remotely. However, it is still possible to conduct interviews and assessment centres online, and some employers are making job offers following a fully online process.

Internships and work experience are proving particularly difficult to deliver in this current crisis. Many employers have had to cancel their programmes. However, you can deliver virtual internships or online training programmes as a substitute.

Cutting student recruitment

Some organisations are still recruiting as planned, but it is a commercial reality that many no longer need to hire the same number of students in 2020 as originally planned. But it is a much bigger decision to cease student recruitment altogether.

Evidence from previous economic downturns shows that employers who didn’t deal effectively with the interns and graduates in their recruitment pipelines damaged their reputations in the student jobs market and caused resourcing difficulties that unnecessarily increased their cost base as the economy recovered.

Impact on long-term resource planning

Excessively reducing or halting student hiring can have long-term resource planning implications.

Later in the recovery cycle, at the point when your student hires would be promoted off a training programme, you might find yourself short of experienced people. After previous recessions many employers lost business as they were unable to find enough talent, or they paid a significant premium in the labour market.

It is better to manage changes to your hiring approach in a way that minimises the negative impact on the students in your pipeline and your organisation in the longer-term as well as in a way that will enable you to grow again when the climate changes.

Communication is key

Previous experience has shown that employers who communicate well with students, who consider their long-term requirements alongside their immediate pressures in their decision making, emerge with robust resourcing strategies and stronger reputations in the student marketplace.

Here are my four key principles for managing your early talent programmes through this crisis:

  1. Treat students fairly whilst making the decisions you need to safeguard your organisations future.
  2. Consider moving recruitment processes, internships and induction and development programmes online.
  3. Consider the long-term implications of any changes you make to your early talent intake when addressing the immediate impact of the crisis.
  4. Communicate clearly and frequently with the students in your recruitment process and those within your organisation.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Student Employer’s Guide to Covid-19, available to download today.

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