This season’s early talent recruitment trends

Mar 27, 2023 | Sector & policy

Employers can benchmark and plan ahead with new data from Amberjack that reveals early talent recruitment trends.

It’s that time of year when early careers recruiters reach their campaign halfway points and look forward to the second half of the cycle. With that comes Amberjack’s midseason analysis, breaking down the applications of 115,000+ candidates to help organisations benchmark and plan ahead.

At Amberjack, we analysed the 2022/2023 data so far, and discussed the firsthand experiences affecting clients. With this, we began to see four key early talent recruitment trends in the following areas: candidate engagement, application numbers, speed-to-hire, and diversity and inclusion. 

You can watch our New Season Trends ISE webinar on our findings.

Face-to-face vs virtual engagement

One of the biggest topics in early careers recruitment right now is the face-to-face vs. virtual debate.

From our analysis of the market and client processes, it is clear that in-person activity is returning, although not across all recruitment stages. This reflects the changing behaviour of candidates now looking for flexibility from potential employers in the recruitment process.

Amberjack has observed that while candidates prefer face-to-face events at the early stages of the process, particularly the discovery and attraction stages, 70% of candidates prefer virtual assessment centres over in-person events.

With on-campus activity returning and proving popular with students, the employers who have continued with virtual events are reporting a lower number of registrations and a significant dropout rate of 30-50%. Despite this, 60% of employers are operating a fully virtual recruitment process.


Applications normalise

As we all know, during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, graduate application numbers skyrocketed. From what we’ve observed, this is now normalising, with our year-on-year data showing a slight decrease of 3% in overall graduate applications. Some sectors, such as professional services and financial services, have seen a small increase.

On the other hand, apprentice applications have seen a modest increase of 17%. This is reflective of the market trends at large. Recent ISE research revealed that this year the graduate market is expected to grow by 1%, while the apprentice market is set to grow by 28%.

Apprentice market growth is accompanied by a high level of withdrawals, with our data revealing a 123% increase in withdrawals for apprentices. For graduates, withdrawals at the season midpoint were at 1.5%, with the expectation that this will increase at the latter stages of the early talent recruitment process.

Overall, the world of early careers is still operating in the candidate-led market, which arose as the pandemic petered off. Employers are reporting challenges with engagement, withdrawals are a huge pain point, and attracting (and keeping) your candidates is at a critical juncture.


The evolution of speed-to-hire

Another interesting early talent recruitment trend is the increasing pace of speed-to-hire times. The recent dramatic acceleration of these times is almost definitely a consequence of the current competitive market.

Employers find themselves having to focus on speed-to-hire and are making offers earlier and earlier to try and stop losing out on candidates with high potential that accept offers elsewhere. With increasing NPS scores demonstrating the same strong focus on candidate experience.

We believe this to be the reason behind the fully virtual processes which 60% of employers are currently operating, enabling those faster hiring times, and why we have seen a significant increase in the number of offers made year-to-date, for both graduates and apprentices.

For the 2022/23 season so far, in comparison to the 2021/22 season, graduate offers have increased significantly by 67%. In the same period, apprentice offers also saw changes, with an increase of 15%.


Continued progress for D&I

Our last emerging trend arises when exploring diversity and inclusion. Reviewing our recent data has revealed that progress in this area continues to be made.

Employers are reporting improved trends across both applications and offers, especially in terms of female and BAME hiring numbers, which remain the top focuses for most organisations.

For graduates, there has been a 14% increase in female application numbers, and 29% increase in BAME applications, all while the number of offers made has hit incredible levels of 77% for female candidates, and 69% for BAME candidates.

For apprentices, current data does not yet show the number of offers being made, but BAME application numbers show an admirable increase of 14%. However, the same cannot be said for female apprentice application numbers, which have experienced a 14% decrease.

We have also seen a general drop in the level of focus on social mobility, which climbed the ranks of importance significantly during the pandemic.

Read ISE data on the progress employers have made in D&I.


Further insights

To learn more about the 2023 season midway point and the current market trends, you can request Amberjack’s Midseason Takeaways. In this paper, we provide a sector breakdown, and tips from our very own attraction and assessment experts.


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