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 HR Director - 21st July 2014

As the class of 2014 enters the job market, hundreds of thousands of school leavers and graduates will be competing against each other for a limited number of vacancies - High Fliers Research have recently reported that 39 graduates are competing for every job. By Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK.

Many young people will find themselves unemployed, even though they may have good exam results. The issue of youth unemployment is thorny, unresolved topic between education and business. The two parties are locked in a stalemate. Shools argue that they already have their hands full trying to get students to pass exams, after all, good grades are a prerequisite for the majority of jobs. Plus they remind businesses that their careers advice funding was cut by over £100million - not to mention how vocal schools have been in their frustration of the axing of Connexions, the employment and advisory service for the under 25s.

Businesses are equallt frustrated. Many of them have had bad experiences with hiring young people. We recently surveyed 1,000 small business founders and 56% of them (who had recently hired a young person) said it hadn't been succesful. 38% of the respondents said it was because they didn't have the right skills, 35% thought they didn't have the right attitude and 26% said they didn't stay for very long. With that in mind, it's no wonder that many businesses are actively putting up barriers to dissuade young applicants - such as "18 months experience required" for even the most basic of entry roles. But these barriers only exacerbate the issue and the vicious cycle of youth unemployment.

After all, it's the young people themselves that ultimatley suffer. It's no wonder that the House of Lords EU Committee said that we have a scarred generation on our hands. They are fed up of joblessness and are fast becoming disillusioned. They take anything they can just to get their foot on the ladder and some experience under their belt - so that they can then get the job in the field they really want. Obviously, they then get stigmatised as being disloyal, and so the cycle continues. 

So who can stop this vicious cycle and actually help address the issue?  I would argue that this opportunity sits squarely with HR directors. Businesses need to take responsibility and change their recruitment strategy so that they can attract and retain the right young people, who are well suited to their business and can be developed over time. The paradigm that has existed with young recruits in the past has been wholly negative - putting up barriers to actively discourage applications from young people. In addition to this, the recruitment of entry-level positions has hitherto been exclusively based on skills, which are very hard to measure if it is the applicants first job.

The process for young applicants must reflect the stage they are in their career. Truth be told, the traditional CV and interview route doesn't really work with exprienced applicants - to use this tired method for young people who are just entering the jobe market is madness. The main reason why this approach doesn't worl is because it can't distinguish between applicants who can, but will, do a job well. Just because someone can theoretically do a job, doesn't mean they will. This is even more true with young applicants who are desperate to get a job and feel pressurised to please in interviews and say what they think the interviewer wants to hear.

With that in mind, HR Directors need to flip their recruitment strategy on its head - focusing on soft skills over experience. They must spend time figuring out what type of person that would suit their copmany; identifying soft skills will complement their company culture and team dynamic. By putting together job descriptions and recruitment processes that identify the right type of person, HR directors will enhance its success rate of good young hires. Young people will stay at companies when they respect and are aligned with their values, and where the business values them.

Of course, once recruited, development is key. Since the recession many business have cut their training and development budgets - this really is a huge false economy. Investing in young recruits really does dividends and yield long term results. There are so many talentaed, high quality young candidates entering the market. HR directos can now take the lead on finding them, by putting processes in place to identify the applicants that have the right attitude, who would fit in well with the company culture and then be developed over time. 


Click here to read the article on the HR Director website.


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