What to expect from your graduate job hunt in 2018
Apply to a graduate job or internship with a traditional, large graduate employer in 2018 and you might find that the selection processes are more technologically sophisticated than you were expecting. Some of the largest employers are putting a twist on the original video interview process: HSBC is among those introducing job simulators and immersive online assessments, for example, and Unilever includes a business case study in its digital interview.
And video isn’t the only revolution in graduate and intern recruitment. Read on to find out more about the new-style video interviews and other trends coming your way.
First came Skype interviews, then video and now job simulators
According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), 53% of its member employers now use video interviews, compared to 42% in the previous year and just 6% five years ago. The ISE typically represents big graduate recruiters – these findings do not apply across the whole graduate jobs market, but can be a useful indicator of trends among large employers.
The original video interview format involved either:
- having a phone-style interview over Skype/FaceTime or similar, or
- having to record your answers to standard competency, situational or motivational questions that flash up on screen.
These are still in evidence, but there are other options now too. In a typical job simulator and online immersive assessments candidates are shown a video of a workplace environment and a workplace-based scenario, about which they need to answer questions. For example, the video might be of a client making a complaint and you might be asked how you’d respond in that situation. You might be required to type an answer, to select an answer from a choice of options or to upload a video of yourself answering the question.
Is it game on for virtual reality?
Some employers have gamified aspects of their recruitment process for the past couple of years: Network Rail, Unilever and E.On among them. Some employers use them instead of aptitude tests; for others, they are non-assessed and enable candidates to work out whether they want to apply in the first place.
But some employers are working with specialist recruitment companies to produce virtual reality (VR) assessment centres. Candidates take part in tasks within a VR world, complete with headsets and the like. This is all still very new, but one or two employers may be introducing them soon.
Interviews are now more about your behaviours than your skills
Why are graduate employers increasingly using video job simulation and, potentially, virtual reality? Partly to make their recruitment processes more streamlined, both for them and candidates. And partly because there is a general movement towards focusing more on a candidate’s strengths and how they would actually behave in the role instead of whether they have a base-line competency: this is why they use video to immerse you in a role.
Strengths-based applications and interviews focus on your future potential to do the job well. Recruiters conducting a strengths-based interview will be looking to capture what you find energising or draining and your natural responses to workplace situations: how you would actually behave in the job and what you are good at. This is in contrast to a competency-based approach, which explicitly focuses on examples of skills you used in the past.
So a competency interview question would be ‘Give me an example of time when you worked in a team to achieve an objective’, for example; equivalent strengths interview questions might be ‘Do you prefer working in a team or independently?’ or ‘What impact do you have on a team?’.
The ISE notes that: 55% of its employer members use competency-only recruitment processes in 2017/18, but this has fallen from 63% in 2016; 17% use a strengths-only recruitment process; and 24% use a mixture of strengths and competencies.
Recruiters care what they think about how they hire you
Many employers are increasingly designing the recruitment process so that candidates have a positive experience throughout; they want candidates to want to accept if made a job offer.
As such, they are doing what they can to speed things up. According to the ISE, the time between an initial application and accepting a job offer at one of their member employers is now 9.5 weeks, as opposed to 11 weeks in 2015.
In 2018, an initial application may take just minutes to complete (as you only add in essential information, not even uploading a CV) and your assessment ‘day’ is only likely to last two to three hours.
More opportunities for feedback are now built into the process, too. After the video stage, some employers using strengths-based approaches send candidates a breakdown of their scores on different strengths to enable them to improve.
What employers want you to know about fairness
‘Social mobility’ is a hot political topic in and outside of the world of recruitment. This is about ensuring that those who come from lower socio-economic and other disadvantaged backgrounds have the same access to, and opportunities to succeed in, careers as those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.
Martin Perfect, associate director in the career development service at the University of Leicester, told TARGETjobs’ sister publication The Guardian UK 300:
‘Widening participation students [those who have faced barriers in accessing higher education, due to coming from a lower socio-economic group or other disadvantaged background] often choose not to apply for jobs with the most prestigious companies because they think that the employer isn’t “for” someone like them. They also tend not to have had the same range of experiences as students from more advantaged backgrounds have had – work-shadowing through family connections, for instance. If this is the case, the traditional recruitment practices run by some graduate employers […] may unconsciously favour more privileged candidates.’
Yet, he and TARGETjobs – along with the ISE – see that recruiters are making real efforts to change this. In fact, one of the reasons that employers are using strengths-based recruitment is because it relies less on one’s background and focuses more on future potential.
Recruiters are increasingly training their managers and interviewers to be alert to their own unconscious biases and, according to the ISE, 18% of its members operate name- or university-blind CV/recruitment processes. Others have removed the CV, relying on the results of online testing and/or the initial video interview for their first sift.
Many employers are now visiting a broader or different range of universities (outside of a select number of Oxbridge and Russell Group institutions) and are actively encouraging students from minority or under-represented backgrounds to apply. Some attend specific events on campus, run their own events, or offer insight days or work-shadowing days.
The fact of the matter is, whether you decide to apply to an employer should be determined only by your ambitions (and your degree subject, if the job requires a vocational course!) – not by whether you think an employer wouldn’t be interested in someone from your background. And employers want you to know that.
What to do next…
- To get clued up about the recruitment processes, read the advice on TARGETjobs about the different recruitment processes: we have careers advice for all students and graduates, careers advice for individual sectors and employer-specific advice on selected employer hubs.
- To find out more about employers, read our employer hubs and take every opportunity to meet employers at careers fairs and careers events.
- To practise essential interviewing and assessment day tasks, go to your careers service for mock interviews and employability workshops.