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Employers and COVID-19: 'We're building more diverse partnerships'

September 2020

Luminate asks employers for insights into how they have responded to the challenges and opportunities of  recruiting graduates during the coronavirus pandemic

Moving recruitment online has had benefits for both employer and candidates, says Bloomberg LP's head of EMEA entry-level recruitment, Irina Fransson - and while virtual internships haven't quite been the same without the office vibe and social events, they too have proved a great success.

How has COVID-19 affected your graduate recruitment plans this year? Where recruitment has continued, how have you adapted - for example, moving processes online - so that you can go ahead?

Like many organisations, we've gone fully virtual with our graduate recruitment for 2020. We made a conscious decision early on not to scale down our graduate recruitment plans in light of the pandemic and it's certainly been the right choice. Of course, operating in a virtual environment has presented us with some new and unique challenges. For example, how do you build a strong virtual brand when you're unable to engage with candidates face-to-face? How do you help someone adequately experience Bloomberg's culture from their living room? So, while we would have previously brought people into our offices at various stages of the recruitment process, we're now running it all via video conference.

Alongside graduate recruitment, we also run a women in technology programme each year. We bring in 30 female students who study computer science, and provide them each with a mentor to help them with their careers, as well as give them insight into life at the company. We've continued to run that virtually this year, with the roster increased to 50.

Graduates have told us that they value good communication from employers during the crisis. How have you communicated any changes to your recruitment cycle to ensure graduates are kept updated?

Our recruitment cycle and application process really hasn't changed that much. But since the process is virtual, we did introduce a call prior to our assessment day to make sure that candidates were properly set-up with the necessary technology to help ensure the experience was as stress free as possible. We have also increased our touch points with candidates throughout the recruitment process, to make sure they are fully prepared ahead of each stage and kept in the loop on timings and decisions. We have added more interactive online content to our website to ensure candidates are as informed as possible about how the process will work in a virtual environment. Applying for any job can be daunting, so we wanted to make the process as streamlined as possible to help candidates succeed.

I hope it will open up the possibility for a more diverse applicant pool, with more candidates applying from around the country and beyond

Were any of these changes - such as moving certain stages of the process online - so successful at identifying talent that you'll continue to use them long term?

Absolutely. Completing some of the pre-assessment stages and initial stages virtually has many benefits both to Bloomberg and to the interview candidates. For example, there is a positive sustainability impact in not having candidates travelling to our offices too early in the process. There is also a clear time benefit to both the company and candidates of course, and I hope it will open up the possibility for a more diverse applicant pool, with more candidates applying from around the country and beyond.

We were also able to pilot a new, immersive virtual Bloomberg Masterclass programme with our partner societies and communities during this time. This two-week course is comprised of three components - Bloomberg Market Concepts (BMC) which is ten hours of self-study via an online learning platform, five hours of business-led sessions on specific financial topics, and four hours of HR-led skill sessions to help candidates with the wider application. This has been a very successful initiative and something that we will continue to run virtually going forward.

Have you made use of tools such as virtual careers fairs to attract graduates and how useful do you think events like these are? If not, is it something you'd consider?

Yes, this has become a significant part of our attraction strategy, and one that I think we will continue. Virtual fairs or events are a fantastic way to engage with a large number of individuals to share information about our company, culture and opportunities. They have also allowed us to carry out skill sessions with both smaller and larger groups. We run our own Discover Bloomberg events and we take part in university and partner events. Of course, we miss meeting people in person and getting to know them a little better, but there are creative ways in which we can still run more intimate, casual events - even in a virtual environment!

Do you expect the current crisis to have an impact on your graduate recruitment in 2021 and beyond?

Not significantly. We want to continue to find top talent from each of the graduate pools that we target, and 2021 is no exception. We even see opportunities for greater engagement with candidates who we would not normally have been able to connect with, thanks to the remote environment. We're confident that we'll be able to build new, more diverse partnerships as a consequence.

All the interns did amazingly, and really embraced what was a very different and unusual internship experience.

Have you offered online work experience/internships to students - and how successful have these been? If not, is it something you'd consider in future?

Yes, we have just completed our first ever virtual summer internship programme. Internships last seven or ten weeks depending on the department to which you apply. We had over 600 interns globally, with interns joining us from right across the globe. In EMEA for our 'London-based' programme, we had more than 130 interns, who completed their internships from over 25 different countries! It was a significant undertaking to make it work, from both a technological and onboarding perspective, but we're happy to say it was a huge success.

All the interns did amazingly, and really embraced what was a very different and unusual internship experience. And we have been able to convert a similar number of interns to full time roles as normal. It demonstrates that operating the programme virtually did not have a negative impact on the interns' ability to showcase their skills and abilities, or on our ability to highlight how great it is to work at Bloomberg. I would love to see the summer internship back in the office next year though. We really missed the vibe in the office, getting to know everyone better plus all the social events.

We also ran our one-week Insights Week programme virtually for the first time - this is predominantly aimed at students in their first year of studies. In this case, I actually see an opportunity to continue something like this virtually. It will really help us to expand the reach and diversity of students we can invite.

Do you expect the crisis to lead to long-term changes to your organisation's culture - such as more home-working - or do you expect most things to return to 'normal'?

Bloomberg's culture of collaboration has really shone through during the pandemic, even while the majority of us were dispersed across the globe and working remotely. As we continue to live with the daily reality of the pandemic, many of us will likely need to be flexible in our approach, combining time in the office with remote working.

Operating virtually for an extended period has certainly led to some long-term changes in our work practices. While effective communication has always been critical to our business, the virtual environment has meant that we've become even more conscious of how we collaborate with colleagues who are no longer sitting opposite us. I'm confident that we'll be able to maintain many of these good practices regardless of where we're working.

How closely do you work with universities and how would you like to see this relationship develop to ensure future graduates are well prepared and have the right skills for the post COVID-19 workplace?

It is extremely important for us to engage with universities and their students from as early as their first year. It can be very disappointing for final-year students to go through an interview process, and not make it because of a skills gap that they could have filled during their studies. So the earlier we can engage with students the better, to make sure that both parties are aligned when it comes to graduate offers. Strong relationships with societies, a combination of virtual and in-person events (once the time is right), use of campus ambassadors where that makes sense, and collaboration with our various early engagement programmes (Insights Week, the summer internship and alumni) are all strategies we will continue to deploy.

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