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How can recruiters ease early talent cost of living concerns?

November 2023

The cost of living crisis is affecting young people's career choices. Paul Naylor, Prospects graduate recruitment expert at Jisc, suggests how recruiters can best support and encourage future employees

This year the cost of living crisis meant that for the first time money worries overtook everything else to become the top concern among young people.

For the last two years, respondents to Prospects' annual Early Careers Survey of around 5,000 students and graduates said mental health and motivation were their biggest challenges as they recovered from the impact of the pandemic.

However, high inflation means the cost of everyday items has changed and wages have not kept up. People are feeling the pinch and it's hard to ignore the doom and gloom headlines.

As a result, the crisis is having more impact on job, study and future career plans than COVID-19. Prospects' 2021 survey found that 27% of young people had changed their career plans due to the pandemic.

There is a risk that the crisis will increase the social divide as talent from low social economic backgrounds cannot afford or feel they've the luxury of following their career aspirations.

This year half of those surveyed said they have switched plans, with two fifths putting this down to the cost of living crisis. Some respondents have already moved industry or profession while others are reconsidering their options to prioritise salary.

Research from the Prince's Trust found two thirds of 18 to 24 year olds had even lowered their career expectations over the cost of living crisis.1

The impact of this is unlikely to be equal. There is a risk that it will increase the social divide as talent from low social economic backgrounds cannot afford or feel they've the luxury of following their career aspirations.

With early talent reassessing their career options, what can employers do to help ease some of their concerns and challenges?

Be transparent on salaries

Among people looking for work, our survey found that salary jumped up the priority list to second place after work/life balance. A separate survey found four in five jobseekers say they are less likely to apply for a job if the advert doesn't specify a salary.2

Employers should avoid vague terms such as 'competitive,' 'depending on experience' or 'basic' in their vacancy ads. Be transparent about what you're willing to pay and ensure the salary is clearly displayed. A poll of Prospects' student and graduate panel found that just 48% would apply for a job where the salary is described as 'competitive' with no further detail.

This will help candidates understand whether a role is financially viable for them and save everyone's time further down the line.

Highlight local cost of living information

If a candidate may have to relocate, providing cost of living information for where they will be based can help ease their decision making.

Typical costs for transport, rental information, groceries and utility bills are all useful. Numbeo is a good reference tool.3

What else can you offer?

Employers are well versed in offering additional incentives to salaries to make the offer more appealing.

Cash and non-cash incentives could include company cars, flexible working, gym memberships and private healthcare. However, the cost of living crisis has placed more emphasis on financial gain. Last year Institute of Student Employers' renumeration survey showed how employers were responding.4

Employers reported the five most common financial incentives:

  1. Sign-on bonus (34% offered this, this was new in 2022 for 4% of employers).
  2. Interest free or low interest loans (24% offered this, this was new in 2022 for 2% of employers).
  3. Transportation allowance (20% offered this, this was new in 2022 for 1% of employers).
  4. Relocation bonus (17% offered this, this was new in 2022 for 4% of employers).
  5. Salary advance schemes (15% offered this, this was new in 2022 for 2% of employers).

Set out paths for training and progression

Training and progression opportunities have long been at the top of the 'must have' list for many young people entering the workforce for the first time.

Our Early Careers Survey showed 95% of graduates ranked training and development opportunities as a top factor when looking for a job.

Clearly highlight your training offer and routes for progression for the role as these will help early talent know that there is development opportunities and future reward.

Additional support

The majority of young people surveyed by UK Youth said their mental health has been impacted negatively by the cost of living crisis.5

This year's ISE Student Development Survey found that compared to previous years, 64% of employers said that the number of graduates and apprentices with mental health issues has increased.6

The majority of employers (85%) who responded to the survey said that they now offer mental health support and counselling.

As part of your recruitment process, highlight the support networks and services available in your organisation.

It's important that employers inspire and support early talent, making them believe that they have the potential to be future leaders.

Prospects at Jisc can inform your attraction strategy with the latest graduate labour market data and provide tailored recruitment campaigns.  


  1. Young people ditching ambitions over UK cost of living crisis, research finds, The Guardian, 2023.
  2. Majority of candidates less likely to apply for roles that don't specify salary, research finds, People Management, 2022.
  3. Cost of Living in United Kingdom, Numbeo.
  4. Graduate salaries rise at the fastest rate in 20 years, ISE, 2022.
  5. Cost Of Living Crisis Negatively Impacting Young People's Mental Health Finds Poll By UK Youth, Youth Employment UK, 2023.
  6. Graduate programmes and apprenticeships now hybrid, but mental health issues increase, ISE, 2023.

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