With youth unemployment and the skills shortage frequently making headlines, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is easy to find and recruit high calibre candidates for apprenticeships and entry-level roles.
Through our work speaking to young people and supporting training providers and employers across the country, we know that this could not be further from the truth. The approach adopted by many of these providers and the employers they support to recruiting for a vacancy – is often based on that from another era.
If I look back to the time when I was applying for my first job, the process was simple. Local papers were a good source of information, sometimes adverts or posters around school and then came the graft of visiting, or writing to get hold of an application form. We would fill in many forms, each with a covering letter, and put them in the post before waiting for a reply.
It often strikes me that many organisations still use this basic process today. Admittedly, we have moved on from post to email, but that is often it.
There has however, been a fundamental shift in the behaviour of young people in recent years. At GetMyFirstJob, we work closely with the 14–20 year old age group, handling over 20,000 applications per month, which provides a lot of insight into how applicant behaviour is changing.
This change in behaviour is not simply the shift to digital; we have all heard about Facebook and social media but these platforms, and more importantly, the use of these platforms is evolving rapidly. The ‘average’ young person now interacts with social media exclusively via mobile phone. If they want to find the answer to a question, Google will provide an answer in seconds. This answer is often taken as ‘fact’; young people skim quickly often without the depth of research that we might assume.
To ensure that businesses not only get a selection of applicants for apprenticeship roles, but also find the best candidates, it is vital to ensure that the messages are optimised for your target audience.
If businesses use Facebook, that’s great; but are they optimising messages for mobile and ensure that the same message is delivered across multiple platforms? How are firms responding to young people? They are more likely to tweet than to call.
The new approach has to be far more than waiting for the right person to find you. Businesses may believe that young people should make more of an effort to act as we did when we were their age. The reality is that their approach and skills are very different to those that we possessed.
Through GetMyFirstJob, we’ve learnt that social media, text messages, jobs boards and careers advisors in schools and colleges are all crucial for attracting a high quality talent pool. When businesses have attracted them, they then need to work fast to respond in their timescale. If they don’t, young people will typically move on to the next thing.
Finally, businesses need to remember that all of these new media channels are two way. When firms put their brand out there as a powerful recruitment tool – which it must be – they need to remember that digital interactions happen in a very public space. Candidates can share their views on different companies and their recruitment process in seconds with hundreds of others. Their opinions will influence their peers influencing businesses’ ability to recruit other high quality candidates. We couldn’t do that by post.