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How graduate recruitment has changed in 2022 

November 2022

The Institute of Student Employers annual Student Recruitment survey sheds lights on how employers are changing graduate recruitment processes and practices, explains Stephen Isherwood, chief executive, Institute of Student Employers

The way employers engage and recruit graduates has fundamentally changed in the wake of the pandemic. The emerging trends that we are seeing are not just limited to a more permanent shift to hybrid practices but employers' processes and even the recruitment cycle are in flux. 

Institute of Student Employers (ISE) annual Student Recruitment Survey tracks how employers of tens of thousands of graduates, and apprentices, are recruiting. Covering all sectors, the data has highlighted three ways that our sector is changing. 

Recruitment throughout the year 

Graduate recruitment campaigns tend to follow the academic year, beginning in the autumn and closing in the spring/summer with the most offers made between January and March. However, there has been a shift.  

This year we asked employers if they ran continuous recruitment campaigns. The competition for early career hires is increasing and as a result organisations are moving away from formal early career schemes. They are starting to ensure they have the ability to secure hires for key roles throughout the year. 

More than a third (38%) of respondents said that they ran continuous recruitment campaigns. A need to stay open to fill hard-to-fill roles, responding to business demand and to secure top talent as early as possible were among the reasons. Employers are building greater flexibility into their recruitment and learning programmes.

Academics have criticised the use of personality tests in recruitment, finding that they have low success in predicting future job success and there are issues around diversity.

Personality tests out of favour 

Personality tests used to assess and select candidates are reducing in frequency. In 2014 around a third of employers used personality tests to screen candidates and this has gradually declined to just 9% in 2022.

This may be a good thing as questions have been asked about the impact that such tests have on diversity.  

Over the last ten years academics have criticised the use of personality tests in recruitment, finding that they have low success in predicting future job success and there are issues around diversity. A report by the Center for Democracy and Technology details how using personality tests in recruitment can harm and exclude candidates with disabilities. The most popular form of testing now used by employers is the situational judgement test.

Historically, recruitment methodology was competency based. This year most employers (68%) still report that a competency-based lens underpins their recruitment strategies. Companies use a competency approach to recruitment to get candidates to show how they would demonstrate certain behaviours and skills in the workplace. But the mix of methods used by employers is now much more diverse. Just over half of employers utilise a strengths-based perspective (56%). This approach to hiring focuses on natural talents and motivators, as opposed to a candidate's competencies. Rather than focusing purely on candidates' skills and behaviours, strength-based recruitment focuses on the intrinsic motivation that drives those behaviours. A further 35% of employers utilised a values-based exercise within their recruitment process. This type of activity seeks to help candidates identify their values and find roles in line with their values.

AI growing in popularity  

Increasingly, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining traction in recruitment as it can save time and increase efficiency. This year, we asked employers if they use AI in the selection process, and if so, to what extent. 

We found that around one in ten employers have added AI to some areas of their selection processes.  

The most frequently used AI tool was to pre-screen candidates and to analyse video interviews. This was followed by using AI algorithms to analyse CVs, update candidates about where they are in the process, and finally using AI in gamified assessments. 

However, different sectors utilise AI in their selection processes to varying degrees. Graduates going for jobs in financial or professional services or IT are more likely to find some of the selection process automated.  

Using AI in recruitment is a relatively early practice and there is much debate around the opportunities and challenges. While there are concerns about potential bias, employers are also not entirely confident in the outcomes. There are also challenges around how graduates perceive and engage in the process.  

However, there are also many positives, particularly in the early stages of recruitment. AI can help to create a more agile ranking process and reduce initial application volumes.   

There are also efficiencies further down the process to be gained with employers benefiting from automating scheduling of assessment centres.  

The world of student recruitment is ever evolving. In the long-term, 48% of employers told us that, in the future, hiring will be mainly virtual and a further 38% will drop academics from screening criteria - an environment students will need to prepare for.

The ISE will continue to track how and why the early talent labour market is changing, helping careers services to prepare graduates as well as share knowledge and insight among employers. 

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