Take a lesson from online dating to find young talent

Duncan Cheatle
Universities Anticipate High Numbers Of Students
Prevent the costly risk of hiring the under-prepared (Source: Getty)

Why is it so hard to find enterprising school-leavers and graduates with the right intangible soft skills who can (and choose to) stay with your business beyond 12 months?

Probably because neither side is managing the other side’s expectations.

Is a job description and a link to a company really enough for candidates to “get” your ethos? And is a two-dimensional CV, an interview, and a couple of references enough to gauge whether a contender is right for your firm and team?

Probably not, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent to businesses across the board that longer-term, pre-recruitment planning could help both parties find more of an ideal fit.

Court applicants early

If it’s millennials you need, build a community and keep them engaged with meaningful advice and skills-guidance. Speedy, short-term hiring bouts simply don’t build rapport. Create a lasting presence in interactive places that showcase your company culture as much as the roles. Gen Y and Gen Z want to know about the firm’s underlying purpose and values more than they do about the role itself.

Young hires rarely emerge from school with all the employability skills they need, so before you even need to hire them, steer them towards developing business-savvy practical skills. Some of the biggest graduate recruiters are now hiring at 18, and prioritising business acumen and soft skills over academic results.

Truly proactive employers think beyond the transactional 30-day job ad and create a year-round employer brand that’s visible, accessible and attractive. This, together with tools to measure right-fit softer skills, is a great route to unearthing candidates whose values and aspirations are a good match. Think online dating, but for jobs.

The golden rule

Most people want feedback. It’s how we improve and adapt. Find a way to give it to as many applicants as you can. If you can’t, you can still reduce the number of misguided applications by communicating more precisely what you’re looking for. Advanced recruitment websites now offer unsuccessful candidates a tailored reply on where their skills fall short, including improvement suggestions.

Connect and prepare

There are 7.5m UK-based 16-24 year olds. Employers need them to build their “intangibles” and complement their extra-curricular assets with a variety of work experience to prove business nous. A new breed of interactive learning and recruitment platforms are guiding jobseekers towards courses and experiences that employers rate highly in developing the skills they want.

And firms of every kind, large and small, need to offer and find ways to communicate about shadowing, mentoring and work-placement opportunities, even if just for a day or two. In 2015, only a fifth of employers were involved in inspiration programmes (in-school talks, mock interviews, open days, challenges). There are low-cost ways to do this that are especially helpful for smaller businesses with limited recruitment processes.

We’re doing a disservice to our aspiring youth if we don’t help them take control of how they prepare and equip themselves for work and connect meaningfully with businesses. We must encourage them in practical ways to boost their grasp of enterprise, whether at school-leaver, graduate or second-job stage. For businesses, it also helps to prevent the costly risk of hiring the under-prepared. Academic ability is, as many of the largest employers have worked out, an unreliable measure of business capability.

If we’re serious about attracting enterprising millennials, our relationship should begin much earlier, and as pragmatically as possible.

Duncan Cheatle is founder of The Supper Club and rise-to.com.

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