Why we need to start listening to young people’s experience of recruitment

As part of Business in the Community’s Future Proof campaign, backed by the City & Guilds Group, we’ve been touring the country listening to young people and working with businesses at a local level to help update the UK’s recruitment practices for the next generation.

All too often companies look to change young people to fit narrow outdated recruitment criteria rather than looking at how they can make their own processes more accessible.

With the workplace changing, we know that businesses need to update their approach. 

That’s why next week we will be kicking off our work in Bristol with an event, kindly hosted by PwC, for local employers to explore how we can make jobs more accessible for young people in the region.

Why is this needed?

Despite overall improvements in unemployment rates, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high across the UK. In Bristol the unemployment rate for young people aged 16 to 24 is 11.3%, more than double the overall unemployment rate which stands at 4.6%.

From unnecessary work experience requirements to unclear job descriptions and processes, young people continue to face systemic barriers in recruitment; with 1 in 4 young people in the South West saying they found the experience of applying for a job difficult.

So what are these barriers and how can we identify them?

Over the past month we’ve brought together young jobseekers from across Bristol to assess and ‘mystery shop’ 18 local firm’s entry level job vacancies. This work forms part of a wider piece of research in which we’ve assessed over 100 national employers’ entry level recruitment processes who collectively employ over 1.5 million people in the UK.

What we found was a shocking lack of transparency. In one job advert there was no mention of hours or salary – as one young person told us, not knowing this basic information means ‘you’re not able to make an informed decision about applying for the job. You want to know how much you will be getting paid, you may have childcare, insurance, rent obligations to pay that you will want to know if you can cover or not.’

Other job descriptions were less than clear about what the role actually involved and contained a staggeringly inappropriate amount of jargon. As another young job seeker explained:

‘It isn’t clear if it’s an entry role. It’s very complicated and hard to understand the words used and what the job involves. The wording used makes it feel like it should be for someone with experience. It sounds a highly professional job, not for someone trying to start off in the company. If I was applying I'm not sure I'd really know what to expect from the job on a daily basis which could put me off.

This is a common problem in job adverts as research for our recent #JargonFreeJobs campaign found that over a third of entry level job descriptions that we assessed contained unclear jargon, acronyms or technical language which put young people off applying.

But the problems didn’t end there. There were also strong criticisms about the lack of information about the recruitment process and what to expect.

As one young person pointed out ‘there seems to be an expectation that the applicant already knows how the process will work, for entry-level posts this isn’t the case - a better appreciation of this would make it more accessible.’

Our research shows the importance of listening to young people and on 26th June we’ll be presenting these findings to local employers in Bristol.

If employers are ever to understand how they can make their roles more accessible, gathering and sharing these kinds of insights is vital.

From including more details in the job ads to ditching the jargon, they show how making small changes to how you recruit can have a big impact for young people.

Find out more about how you can create more youth friendly job adverts by downloading our guide to youth recruitment.

For more information about Future Proof, see our Future Proof page.

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Grace Mehanna has been campaigning on good workplace practices for over 15 years. She started her career in Race for Opportunity (RfO) which focuses on improving employment opportunities for BAME across the UK where she developed the Race benchmarking. Grace then moved to BITC’s Workwell Campaign which was developed by international business leaders with the core purpose of creating happier and healthier workforces. This focused on encouraging businesses to support their employees and enable improved employee engagement and wellbeing. Grace took up the role of Campaign Director for the Youth Employment Campaign in 2015 which encourages businesses to create accessible and quality employment opportunities for all young people and working with City & Guilds Group through the Future Proof Campaign.

More about BITC and Future Proof