Hiring to drive social mobility – why Handshake is incorporating self-reporting on socio-economic background into its platform

June 8, 2022

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is a huge priority for student and graduate employers.

Recent research we conducted as part of our Careers2032 report found that more than two-thirds of graduate employers feel that attracting top talent with equality initiatives in mind is likely to be among their top priorities in the decade ahead. What’s more, data from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) suggests that over 70% of their members now say that increasing the social diversity of their intake is a high or medium priority.

Companies have been going public on their goal for greater accountability, with the BBC pledging that 25% of its staff will be from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds by 2027.

With boosting social mobility front of mind, hiring from a mixture of socio-economic backgrounds is a key EDI goal.

The benefits to having representation from all socio-economic backgrounds are significant. There is huge value in having a variety of outlooks within your business; a diversity of ideas and experiences to draw upon in understanding your customers and colleagues better.

But a major obstacle in achieving better representation is information. It’s hard for candidates to communicate their socio-economic background as part of their application. As a result, students and graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds don’t know where to go to be found, and employers won’t know the same about the person they are interviewing.

And so solving this problem requires a hub where awareness of socio-economic background can be seamlessly factored into the search for candidates.

That’s why Handshake is announcing that it will add the ability for UK students to self-report on their socio-economic background, so that this data can be available for employers to build segments that meet their needs.

We know that self-reporting isn’t a perfect system. But we believe it can play a role in helping students build relationships with employers to improve their social mobility.

In order to succeed, we will need to gain the trust of candidates and explain that by giving this information, it ultimately serves to benefit them. To help with this task, we will provide context and transparency as part of the Handshake user journey on how employers will use socio-economic background data as part of their recruitment processes.

Employers and university careers professionals can also play a key role in communicating the reasoning behind this move and the potential positives.

A crucial point to convey is that information on socio-economic background can only be included as part of a search for candidates, and cannot be used to filter them out or used by itself. The design of this feature means it will only ever ​​form part of a more nuanced set of factors to find a subgroup within a set of potential hires. What’s more, providing this information will only ever be optional.

Our wonderful team here has put a great deal of thought and effort into this feature, and believe it has the potential to make a real difference to employers, careers professionals and – most importantly – student and graduate talent.

We are set to go live with this tool by the end of Q3 2022, so watch this space, and finally do contact ukpartnerships@joinhandshake.com to find out more.