Jun 18th 2020

Key takeaways: The best way to attract young talent

By 2030 75% of the workforce is going to be Gen Z. In 2019 73% of people found work through social media. Businesses, especially in Manchester, need to shift their approach in attracting young talent away from the traditional recruitment methods and to successfully stand out from the crowd.

Last week our Manchester City Manager, Ash Sabzevar hosted a virtual panel event where employers from Manchester could ask students questions about the best way to attract graduates like them. Our panel included three final year students from Manchester University – Katie Farquharson, studying Geography, Freddy Smith, studying English Literature and Mariam Hussein, studying International Business and Finance. 

Here are the main takeaways from the event. 

How the pandemic has affected their job search

To kick things off we asked them how they were feeling in light of recent things. Katie, having had a few job interviews lined up which have been cancelled, is finding things a bit uncertain. “I feel a bit nervous about getting a job now and how long it’s going to be before I do land one.” 

Both Freddy and Mariam feel the same way, with Mariam knowing people with job offers that have been taken back. But the students are approaching things with a positive attitude. “Although my expectations have been lowered, for me, it’s just about persevering and looking at as many roles as I can,” says Mariam.

Hone in on social media 

With companies starting to pick up their hiring, students are turning to social media channels as their main source of job opportunities. 

“Gen Z graduates are more used to using social media platforms nowadays than ever before,” says Freddy.

“The Linkedin job search has been really useful right now. There is transparency on who’s posted the job and the role, which adds more depth and personality to the vacancy,” says Mariam. Freddy agrees with this and believes social media is a great way to really get in and understand the candidate from the get-go. “When an employer reaches out to you on social media it encourages you to go back and look into the job as it feels as though they want you personally.” 

Any experience is good experience

There are two million people in the UK who work as freelancers, with Talent Acquisition Managers, especially right now, moving away from hiring permanent people and instead focusing more on project-based work. Although this is a bit different from the typical graduate role, these students are more than happy to accept this if it means gaining valuable work experience. 

Both Freddy and Katie are open to something away from the traditional job role as it gives them an opportunity to dip their toes into something before they commit long-term. 

Freddy says, “I’m open to any role that can open doors to other opportunities and give me some valuable experience working in an office.”

All three of them would be willing to consider unpaid work experience if it means kickstarting their careers. But for Mariam, it’s important in that case to be reimbursed in other ways. “I’m open to it personally if it means I can build connections to get into that industry. But if unpaid, I expect other things like workshops or resources to help you learn extra skills.”

It’s not all about the money 

Gen Z is purpose-driven. They want to make an impact on the companies they work for and in the work they do. This is evident in the type of work cultures they’re looking for. Freddy told us, “I want to get a sense of how I am going to be valued in the company and that I am working in a team of like-minded, friendly people.” Katie holds the same views. She believes that company culture should be a focus as you spend so much of your week and time at work so businesses should put energy into things like team-building. 

“Company culture is very important for graduates and not just feeling like a cog in a machine,” says Katie. 

Adding to this Mariam also highlights how important learning and development are for her. “Whether it’s through exams or available courses I want to feel like I am constantly progressing.” 

Communicate your company culture 

Companies should focus on their employer brand and how they portray their culture to candidates. Both Freddy and Katie emphasise the importance of online tools to gauge culture prior to applying for a role. “I look on their website to see if they have all their employees listed as it gives a good feeling about the company and how they value their individual employees,” says Katie. Freddy backs this up and says that “companies should use social media to get their brand identity out there to attract graduates.”

For Mariam, she places more weight on companies collaborating with societies. “What I have found really useful in the past is when employers come directly to us and hold talks where we can ask them honest and direct questions that give us a more intimate insight into the company culture before applying.” 

Identify your core values

A recent study we did showed that 27% of graduates want to make a positive impact on society and/or the environment and therefore look for a company that holds this as part of their values. This rings true with Mariam who looks for companies that promote social responsibility. “Especially now, Gen Z is more aware of social activism and responsibility so I look for a company that gives me a platform to play a role in this.” But she also goes on to say that she wants to see action beyond the words they use.

“Anyone can virtue signal so I want to see a company following through with their values.”

Whether that’s making a mentorship scheme with graduates to talk to high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds, or helping BAME candidates into a career. 

Katie also believes in the significance of promoting equal opportunity. “I like to see how companies use social media to support important matters such as Independent Woman’s Day.”

Go the extra mile in the application process

Hiring is no longer transactional. Young candidates value honesty, transparency and communication more than anything.

“What really puts me off is when companies aren’t very personal and you feel like a number more than an individual,” says Katie. 

According to Mariam, applications that are long and drawn-out can actually deter candidates from completing the process. “I’ve had people give up applying because they require you to do lots of tests under a strict time limit. If you have to do stuff like that, you should personalise it, even if it’s just an automated message. That personal touch is what makes me want to apply again.” 

Freddy goes on to say that “feedback is key when applying for jobs. As a graduate, you want to feel like you are being taught something even if you don’t get the job. A company should give the sense they want to improve the graduate workforce as a whole and not just see us as some form of profit.” 

Shout about Manchester as a city 

Last year Manchester University was voted number one in terms of employability, and businesses received investments of over £200 million in funding. So local businesses should be promoting themselves and the city more. “If you are a Manchester company you should show more awareness of the culture of Manchester and show pride in being a part of it,” says Freddie. 

For Katie, studying in Manchester has shown her it’s just as good as working in London but hasn’t really had much contact with local businesses. “If I had heard more about what they had to offer I would’ve been enticed to apply to roles in Manchester from the beginning. Mariam agrees with this. “The most innovative forms I have seen is a collaboration with societies to come in and talk to students. It encourages people to look into a company and employers in Manchester should focus on doing this.”

“The reason people go to London is the influence, the networks, the connections. If you’re able to show the same level of influence and connections then people will stay in Manchester.” 

From an exploding start-up scene to an amazing cultural heritage, Manchester has a lot of great opportunities to offer. Read more about why graduates are choosing the north as a base to kickstart their careers here