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Tech, climate and neurodiversity on recruiters' 2022 agenda

January 2022

Nicola Thomas predicts that this year graduates will favour employers with strong green credentials while recruiters increasingly put their focus on neurodiversity and tech solutions

The rise of AI, gamification and technological solutions

The Institute of Student Employers' (ISE) Student Recruitment Survey 2021 found there were on average 91 applicants for each graduate role. Considering some organisations recruit thousands of graduates into their schemes, there can be tens of thousands of graduates to sift through each recruitment cycle.

Considering the rapid advancement of technology in all parts of society, it is not surprising that AI and technology are augmenting recruitment, sifting through candidates and being utilised in video interviews.

Some of this technology can enhance the candidate experience. For example, most employers use applicant tracking systems that can increase candidate visibility about where they are in the recruitment process.1

PwC has reported that their use of automation in applicant scanning, psychometric testing and video interviews has removed human error and unconscious bias in graduate recruitment.

While this technology will become more and more mainstream in the graduate recruitment process, in 2022 companies should remain critical to ensure that technology is actually eliminating and not perpetuating bias. No company wants to repeat Amazon's 2018 mistake when they had to stop using their AI recruiting tool after it was discovered to downgrade women when scoring applicants.2

More sectors will start to implement neurodiversity targets

Data from our 2021 recruitment survey also indicates that in 2022 employers are keen to expand their search for students to attract a more diverse range of candidates, with 65% of employers reporting that they have formal targets around diversity.

While 35% of employers have no official targets for diversity, many note they aim to improve diversity of new student hires. A burgeoning area that employers are focusing on increasingly in 2022 is neurodiversity. Neurodiversity, the range of difference in brain functioning including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and other conditions, is increasingly becoming a focus point for graduate recruiters. While only 5% of employers have a target about this for student hires, leading employers like J.P. Morgan and Deustche Bank have launched autism internship and work programmes. I believe this focus will increase in recruitment and development in 2022.

Race / ethnicity,48
Socio-economic background,26
Sexual orientation,10
Transgender and intersex,5
Religion and belief,1
No targets,35

Graduates will prioritise carbon-conscious companies

A recent survey showed that three-quarters of millennial workers would take a smaller salary to work for a company that is carbon-conscious, with more than 70% saying they were more likely to choose to work for a company with a strong environmental agenda.3 A further 30% of respondents said that they've left a job in the past due to a lack of sustainability. This trend is only going to grow with generation-Z student hires moving into the work force.

In 2022 I believe that certain sectors will see a further reduction in applicants due to sustainability values. One study has shown that business school graduates choosing a career in the oil and gas sector has fallen by 16% since 2019, and by 40% since 2006.4

It will be interesting to see how student recruitment changes across sectors and organisations that lack a sustainability plan.

Graduate careers will continue to move virtual

Virtual recruitment can be cheaper and less time consuming than traditional recruitment methods generally, and can attract more diverse candidates by breaking geographical barriers. Almost half (48%) of employers think that their recruitment processes will be mainly virtual in the next five years.

This is having different impacts on employers. As one employer noted, 'The impact of COVID on employers being able to engage with students - there are lots of big employers that still have huge amounts of roles for students, but not being on campus and being able to tell students about those roles has had a big impact on student's confidence and perception of how many jobs are available.'

Similarly, it is expected that homeworking will play a large role in many organisations post-pandemic. Virtual recruitment and homeworking dominated 2021 and will likely dominate in 2022. At the time of our annual Student Recruitment Survey, 93% of employers were recruiting predominately virtually and a large proportion of organisations were mainly working remotely. It is expected that both of these ways of working will continue, to some degree at least, as we move through 2022 and beyond.

The health and pharmaceuticals sector will continue to grow

COVID-19 has changed more than just introducing the word 'epidemiology' to the general public. Unsurprisingly, vacancies in the health and pharmaceuticals sector is growing year-on-year, with 37% growth from 2022 to 2021, and an overall 24% increase in vacancies in this sector from the start of the pandemic.

Compared to other sectors, student hires are particularly engaged in the health and pharmaceuticals sector, with lower renege rates than other sectors, and higher applications per vacancy per role (155 per role, compared to an industry mean of 91). Due to increasing technological developments in this sector, and increased societal focus, this sector is set to expand in 2022.

Also in this series

  • Predictions for the 2022 graduate labour market - Kylie Cook from Gradconsult provides an essential guide to the year ahead for employers looking to recruit talented graduates.
  • What's new in 22? - Charlie Ball looks ahead to the next 12 months in the graduate labour market, with apprenticeships, training and the hybrid workplace all on the agenda.


1. AI in recruitment: Should robots be put in charge of hiring?, New Statesman, 2021.

2. Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women, Reuters, 2018.

3. Most millennials would take a pay cut to work at a environmentally responsible company, Fast Company, 2019.

4. MBA graduates take on a green hue as fewer choose fossil fuel careers, Financial Times, 2021.

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