How can businesses support diverse graduate recruitment in an online world?

May 17, 2021

It’s no secret that the graduate jobs market has gone through a period of significant change during the past year. And, while a move online has kept the show on the road during the Covid-19 crisis, it has also led to difficulties in ensuring a diverse and inclusive recruitment process.

Last week, Handshake took to the virtual stage to discuss the findings of its latest report on ‘Netpotism’, or online nepotism, which is hampering digital recruitment. At the AGCAS webinar, Handshake’s Clare Adams joined representatives from The Sutton Trust, PwC and the University of London for a lively session which explored what businesses need to do to ensure fair and accessible hiring practices.

During the session, Clare explained that employers are increasingly relying on existing connections to find staff – and that this has worsened since the pandemic. She also talked about a pervasive digital divide where many students simply don't have access to the technology needed to access online opportunities.

Laura Bruce, Director of Programmes and Partnerships, Sutton Trust agreed, emphasising the importance of helping students make connections. “Students need networks to access opportunities, and of course that’s become increasingly difficult during the Coronavirus lockdowns,” she said. “Simply put – the game has changed. And this means that students from all walks of life need more support more than ever to make those connections and build their contacts.”

Graeme Atherton, Director, National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) talked about the need for a major culture shift.

“In some communities, the use of technology at home has been limited to leisure activities, such as playing games or socialising, but this needs to be tackled, and students must be shown the power of tech in their ongoing career search.”

Andrew Bargery, Talent Engagement Senior Manager, PwC shared thoughts from an employer perspective: “2020 and 2021 in terms of graduate recruitment have been two very challenging years. However, there have also been opportunities. Operating virtually allowed us to target a different range of universities, compared to the offline process. This has seen the number of universities PwC has connected with double from 75 to 150. Not having to worry about elements such as proximity, the number of students who are physically able to join the events, has allowed us to broaden our horizons and offer some great opportunities for a broader range of students.”

Simon Thompson, Head of Student and Graduate Employability, Sheffield Hallam University echoed the thoughts of his fellow panelists, and adds: “Confidence is a key issue for us, and to help students feel comfortable in an online environment, we’ve invested heavily in a support program.”

Today’s panelists brought insights from a diverse range of perspectives, with common ground being found in conclusion: Nepotism is an important issue and now is the crucial time to address it. Online-first recruitment looks as though it’s here to stay, and so it is important that the industry continues to work towards the same goal: offering equal opportunities to support diverse graduate recruitment in an online world.

You can learn more about Netpotism by downloading our report.