Why ‘Netpotism’ is the New Hot Topic for Universities and Employers

May 4, 2021

Recently we released a major new piece of research into graduate recruitment during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that nepotism is alive and well online. Worryingly, 63% of employers told us that they’re increasingly reliant on existing digital networks or connections to find staff. And many students reported that they don’t have the right technology to connect with employers online, cutting out less affluent candidates from the jobs market completely.

Our research caught the attention of the press - with many journalists reporting concerns that digital recruitment isn’t levelling the playing field in the way they had hoped. Industry bodies like HEPI joined the discussion too, helping us assert the importance of breaking this cycle in order to boost social mobility and offer equal opportunities for all.

So why has this online nepotism - or netpotism - caught the attention of the industry in such a big way? Perhaps it’s because it debunks one of the often-reported pandemic bright spots. While we know that COVID-19 impacted significantly on educators all over the world, many also thought that digital technology would make career opportunities more accessible - so it’s particularly disappointing to know that the opposite is happening in real life.

But it’s not all bad news. Knowing about the issue presents us with an opportunity to combat it. And our report sets out ways for educators and employers alike to open up recruitment networks for the good of everyone. From the need for employers to be more proactive in their outreach to universities and graduates, to the impetus for careers services to provide more advice and guidance on connecting with employers digitally, there’s plenty to be done.

And beyond raising the profile of the issue, to tackle nepotism, we must ensure that young people have the technology required to access career opportunities, addressing issues like slow broadband – or device and connectivity provision for disadvantaged students. 

Ultimately, we believe ensuring equality of access isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense too – fostering a culture of innovation, more rounded thinking and ultimately, better productivity. So, while we hate to be the bearers of bad news, raising the issue of netpotism has presented us all with a unique opportunity to help solve it. Download our report and let us know what you think.

If you haven't yet, please download our Netpotism Research Paper!

Also make sure to check out our infographic, and don't miss our special live edition of the Handshake Early Talent Podcast: Guarding Against Netpotism.