• Human Theory

Graduate Recruitment: Attracting young talent is an empathetic business

The landscape for graduates has changed enormously over the last few years, but graduate recruitment largely has not, based as it is on the thoughts and experiences of people who entered the workforce in very different conditions.

In order to give itself the best chance of attracting the best graduate talent, businesses need to show they understand the motivations graduates have at different points of their journey, the barriers they foresee, and the emotions they feel, to make sure they are as understanding and empathetic to the situations recent graduates see themselves in. The more human a business is in their understanding and behaviours, the more attractive businesses they will show themselves to be.

The below is an overview of what we have found, by scraping authentic conversations from across social media and the web:

Conversations around leaving university hit a peak around mid-May, in line with final exams. These conversations vary across the country, as different universities finish at different times. This should be taken into account when geo-targeting messaging aimed at attracting graduates. The pride graduates express at this point, celebrating their achievement is juxtaposed with overwhelmingly negative sentiment, showing a fearful audience on the threshold of adult life. The negativity focuses on three main areas. Businesses should tackle these head on, if they want to demonstrate empathy towards potential graduates, both in terms of their communications, but what they offer to graduates:

  1. Sadness at the loss of “social life”  – students clearly associate moving into full time employment as a time where they will no longer see close friends, and most tellingly, as a time when they will no longer have time for a social life. Authentic content, featuring groups of graduates, having fun together as they move into “adult life” would be a good way to combat this fear.

  2. Anger at the level of debt they are saddled with is a big topic, working alongside the fear of not finding a job. Debt, Student Loans, Maintenance Loans and work experience are huge topics of conversation. Showing an understanding of the living costs associated with working, especially for London-based companies, is essential, rather than just focusing on salary alone.

  3. There is a lack of confidence about what is expected of them, how they should go about getting jobs, and the application process. Large volumes of chatter was observed around never hearing back from companies after applying. This negative experience is shared, and the companies seen to be behaving negatively in this way are named and shamed. Good candidate express should not be underestimated.

Another trend worth noting in terms of semantics, is the overall downward trend in searches for ‘Graduate Jobs’ over the past five years, in favour of ‘Graduate Schemes’ , with particular peaks for the latter in October each year indicating that creating a true ‘scheme’ rather than just a ‘job’ has become more and more important to graduates. Paying more attention to the career paths will enable a company to stand out when it comes to offering what young talent wants.

A final footnote – the increasingly difficult job market is reflected in smaller, but noticeable, peaks in conversations and searches around graduate jobs and schemes in January and February, suggesting that companies shouldn’t necessarily run waterfall programs that stop in August/ September time.

All of this is a simple overview. To truly connect with young talent, it is important to understand what they care about, what they are fearful of, and the language they use to reflect these things, on a localised level, meaning companies can reflect this in their offerings, their communications and most of all, their behaviour. That is what will separate companies that truly care about the young talent coming into their organisations, and will be the more attractive options for that talent.

Drop us a line at if you want more granular, human insight to help you make that happen.

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