Introducing ISE’s new Head of Research

Nov 18, 2021 | Sector & policy

Nicola Thomas joins us as ISE’s new Head of Research.

Nicola has a wealth of experience in both academic and industry research. She specialises in researching careers, diversity and inclusion and how careers will look in the future.

We caught up with Nicola to find out more about her background, the work she will be doing at ISE and how members can get more involved in our research.

Tell us about your career path?

After studying at a university in New Zealand, I started my career working in HR for a global financial services company in Leeds,

I was working in the recruitment team and became interested in how hiring students can increase innovation in different business areas while also giving student hires their first opportunity in the workplace.

While I was training for a qualification in psychometric assessments, I realised the responsibility that HR and recruiters have in ensuring their recruitment practices are evidence based and equitable.

I designed our graduate recruitment campaigns and worked with universities across the north of England to build our talent pipelines. In the back of my mind, a curiosity about evidence based practices for student recruitment started to build.

I decided to study a Masters in Business Psychology at the University of Leeds. Partnering with Yorkshire Water, I studied the impact of diversity and inclusion on employee career development.

After this I started at Transition Partners, a recruitment agency in Leeds, as their Head of Consulting for graduate recruitment. I set the strategy for how to work with employers to design their recruitment for student hires in the best, most equitable and commercially successful way.

I would still be there if I hadn’t have been offered a chance to move to Copenhagen to start a PhD. Throughout my PhD I have focused on mental health in the workplace, emotions in work teams and neurodiversity.

I am excited to also be starting at the University of Liverpool Management School in 2022 as a postdoctoral research associate. This will help me to continue to bring cutting edge methods and approaches to the research at ISE.

I see this role as Head of Research at ISE as an opportunity to weave my experience both in industry and academic research together, to further support our members by conducting high impact research that matters.

What is the future of research at ISE?

ISE is known for conducting impactful, industry leading research. In addition to our two yearly omnibus surveys, the student recruitment survey and the development survey, I am proud of the insightful and topical research ISE produces like the Black Careers Matter report and recent investigation into the mental health implications of remote working for student hires.

Alongside our yearly surveys, I see the future of research at ISE continuing to focus on the things that matter to our members. Things like being industry leaders in recruiting diverse student hires, understanding how the careers of the future will look, and how to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of student hires flourishes throughout early talent schemes.

I am enjoying working with members to answer their important questions: how can we support student development in hybrid work? How can we keep graduates on after their schemes? What are the ethical implications for using artificial intelligence in the recruitment process?

We are working on a number of exciting projects at the moment such as attracting neurodiverse student hires, careers in 2032, and socio-economic diversity and inclusion.

How can members get more involved in ISE research?

I am particularly interested in connecting with our current members who are curious about our research and wanting to participate more.

We are currently seeking new members to join our research and policy steering group. If you would like to have your voice heard in steering the research we conduct, email me at

If you are an employer member who is interested in representing the voice of employers about how the future of careers will look in 2032, then sign-up to join us at our roundtables at the end of November here.

If you want to grab a virtual coffee, please reach out. I am looking forward to partnering with our members to continue to produce important research on early careers.

Read more from Nicola

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