Candidate Experience / Hiring

Early Careers: How to Attract Top New Talent

With the unemployment rate at historic lows, successfully recruiting early career talent has become a strategic imperative.
And Gen Z won’t make it easy: Winning over this cohort of job-seekers will require employers to be more authentic, digital, and proactive than ever before. Whether you’re recruiting on campus or for your apprenticeship program, you’ll need to find ways to accurately, efficiently identify the right-fit talent while also making the time candidates spend with you as engaging as possible.

And undoubtedly, many organizations are out of practice. One recent analysis of nearly 4 million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 found that 35% of postings for “entry-level” positions asked for prior relevant work experience. More than 60% of listings for “entry-level” software and IT Services jobs, for instance, required three or more years of experience, which is historically considered the cutoff for “entry-level.”
The expectation, it seems, is that young workers have acquired those early experiences via internships or training programs somewhere else. While that would certainly be nice, it hardly seems like a scalable solution for a company looking to grow.
Here’s how to break away from that paradigm in favor of a more inclusive, more reliable recruiting strategy for young talent. 

Define What “High-Potential” Means for Your Organization

The first step to filling your workforce with high-potential early career talent is to define what that means specifically for your organization -- now and in the future.
How do you expect your workplace to evolve over the years? Which skills, traits, and competencies will people need to drive successful business results?
With early career talent, it can be helpful to focus on foundational traits, such as learnability, agility, and curiosity. These core skills are the table stakes needed to prepare for digital transformation, and all three show significant correlations to better employee performance during digital transformation.
  • Agility: The ability to adapt flexibly to changing situations.
  • Learnability: The drive to constantly seek self-improvement and development.
  • Curiosity: Being open to and desiring to learn about change and novelty.
Understanding and developing these competencies will help your early talent to more easily reskill or upskill as roles evolve and requirements change.
You’ll also want to consider factors that align specifically to your organization’s mission, vision, and values. For example, if you want to prioritize transparency, include that as part of your profile.
Finally, look beyond prior experiences to find new ways to quickly assess both “soft” and technical skills. Well-designed assessments can also help evaluate candidates’ technical skills, from basic cognitive abilities to coding in specific languages.
Together, these approaches will allow you to take a more tailored and inclusive approach to early career recruitment than relying on outdated ideas about degrees, internships, and grades.

Refine Your Graduate Recruitment Strategy

You can find high-potential early career talent across university campuses. Attracting recent university and college graduates is an essential component of hiring high-potential entry-level workers. But you may need to revisit and refine your graduate recruitment strategy to attract suitable candidates. What are your specific goals for the program? Which entry-level positions are you looking to fill? What organizational capabilities are you trying to expand?

Develop a recruiting plan and calendar. Don’t take a break from graduate recruiting just because classes aren’t in session.

Work year-round on developing relationships with local universities. Consider creating paid apprenticeship programs for graduate and early career talent. When local universities are aware of these opportunities, they can recommend students or even offer credit to students who participate. This provides an excellent opportunity to network with motivated early career talent.
Don’t limit your graduate recruitment to in-person recruiting. Recruit graduates via social media, too. Share stories from existing early career talent at your company and from employees who started in entry-level roles and worked their way to different positions.
Be active on your social media channels, and be sure to interact with pages for your target universities and their student organizations. This gives your company wider visibility where students actually spend time. Consider hosting virtual recruiting events or “office hours,” and invite students to participate in live chats with recruiters or hiring managers to learn more about the company and specific opportunities.

Attract More Diverse Entry-Level Talent

Expand your recruitment opportunities to attract more diverse talent. Not everyone has the means to attend a prestigious private university, so be sure to recruit at public universities and community institutions, too. This opens up your talent pool to high-potential candidates from different socioeconomic backgrounds, some of whom may be members of historically excluded groups.
Review your traditional sources of early career talent. Are your job postings getting in front of diverse candidates, or do you need to seek out alternative sources with a more diverse pipeline?
Develop partnerships with professional organizations dedicated to historically excluded groups. Look for candidates who demonstrate initiative by joining professional groups or earning certifications online. Build out apprenticeships for diverse talent, especially for candidates who may not be able to afford traditional or formal education. Encourage employee resource or affinity group members to refer promising early career talent from their larger communities.
With a robust assessment, you don’t need to rely on university credentials to tell you someone’s competencies, which allows you to expand your search pool without reducing the quality of your talent pipeline. Remove arbitrarily limiting factors from job descriptions for your entry-level roles, such as the requirement that candidates have a certain number of years of experience. Assessments that measure skills, traits and competencies have much higher predictive validity than these legacy requirements do.

Refine Your Employer Branding to Draw High-Potential Talent

Competitive pay and benefits are essential components of an attractive entry-level role. But high-potential candidates aren’t just looking for a job, even if the opening has these and other benefits. They want a career opportunity and a job where they’re valued, developed, and moved into roles where they can reach their potential. Those possibilities should be reflected in the employer branding materials used to attract high-potential entry-level employees.
Create clear paths for mobility for each entry-level role you’re hiring for. Make those paths visible on your career site and materials used to attract candidates. This is especially important when hiring early career talent, because high-potential talent doesn’t want to feel stagnant in entry-level roles.
High-potential employees will be willing to commit to your company if you demonstrate an investment in them and their potential. In addition to the specific job training required for the role, be transparent about the options your company offers for long-term career paths and professional development. List the learning organizations you partner with, and emphasize that learning is part of the job.

Communicate that you want employees who are critical thinkers, innovators and change-makers.

To bring that commitment to life, highlight high-potential talent who started their careers with your company as entry-level employees and show, in their own words, their career trajectory. Even if they aren’t in traditional leadership positions, demonstrate the ways your company helped them achieve their potential.
Consider adding branded, ungated assessments to your career site that provide feedback to test-takers on their strengths and opportunities for improvement. On the assessment report page, link to specific early career positions that match each person’s strengths. This can give high-potential candidates insights into where they might fit at your company while also providing information they can take with them into any role.

Implement Engaging Assessments

To identify the best candidates for entry-level roles, assess candidates for the qualities you’ve defined as indicating high potential. With the war for talent raging, early career talent is still in very high demand. Create an engaging assessment process that sets you apart from your competition.
Gamified assessments are reliable, valid assessments that implement gaming elements like progressing through levels or earning points or badges. Gamified elements and progression offer immediate feedback on performance, which keeps candidates interested and helps them remember you better. These elements make the assessment process more engaging, improving the overall candidate experience.
Be transparent about the day-to-day tasks and routines employees in these roles should expect. Situational judgment tests give candidates a glimpse into daily life in that position. You don’t want to hire someone who’s going to leave a few months into their employment.  
If you receive a lot of applications regularly, assessment results can help you find the high-potential early career candidates to move to the top of the list. Ranking candidates makes the high-potential talent much easier to visualize in your recruiting dashboard.
All assessments should be easy to access directly through the job application and compatible across devices, especially laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.
The job market is only becoming more competitive, so you need to tap into overlooked sources of high-potential talent as part of your recruiting strategy. Empower entry-level employees to level up within your company and lead your workforce into the future.

Aon | Assessment Solutions

Aon's assessment solutions provides clients with powerful tools and insights to help them make better talent decisions at every stage of the employee lifecycle. This includes pre-hire assessments, identifying future leaders, screening for digital skills and agility, and AI-enabled solutions.

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