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January 30, 2020
The 6 Most Common Early-Career Recruiting Challenges And How To Solve Them
Liam Berry

Recruiting diverse, qualified talent for early-career programs like internships, entry-level roles, leadership development programs, and management training programs is harder than ever. And the rise of a tight labor market and a rapidly shifting digital-first recruiting landscape have introduced new early-career recruiting challenges while exacerbating old ones.

At WayUp, our experts in early-career recruiting design and deploy evidence-backed solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in the field.

Here are six of the most common problems in early-career recruiting and how to solve them.

Problem #1: Employer Branding

“Nobody knows who we are, so we struggle to recruit top talent.”

Your employer brand—like your consumer brand—is the outward-facing perception of your company in the eyes of candidates. Unlike your consumer brand, however, it’s not always the success of your company and the quality of your products that counts—especially when it comes to attracting early-career talent in Generation Z.

There are two primary types of employer branding problems: 

1) Your employer brand is virtually nonexistent. Candidates don’t know who you are, what your company values are, or why they ought to work for you over anyone else.

2) Your employer brand is strong, but it speaks to the wrong audience. Imagine a bank that struggles to attract top tech folks or a media company failing to connect with finance talent.

The first type of problem can make quality a significant issue. If candidates don’t have a sense of who you are as an employer, then it’s hard to have any sort of competitive advantage over big-name brands (even if you offer a better compensation package, benefits, or company culture). That means when top candidates are picking between you and your well-branded talent competitors, they’ll usually opt to go with them.

Problem #2 can make diversity a major issue. Let’s say you can attract top talent, but only from demographics in which your consumer brand performs well. Then you’re in a situation in which you’re either failing to hit your diversity goals or lowering the threshold for candidates outside your usual candidate profile. Both situations can lead to groupthink and cost your organization in productivity. Plus, research shows that diversity actually leads to better business decisions.

Solution: Develop And Distribute Employer Brand Messaging

Interactive employer branding products, like social media products, perform particularly well with Generation Z candidates.

If you want to develop an employer brand that speaks to a diverse array of top talent, you need to build messaging and content that speaks to your values, benefits, and culture. 

Great candidates have questions about what it’s like to work at your company, and you need to have answers ready.

The best way to connect with early-career talent is by putting things in relatable terms and recognizable formats. Articles, videos, and social media content that feature interviews and testimonials, capture cool perks and benefits, and showcase diversity and growth opportunities are excellent ways of directly advertising and providing the things most important to Gen Z and young Millennial candidates.

If you already have existing employer branding, but are failing to attract a diverse slate of talent, then it might be time to do some demographic research and apply your learnings to new employer brand messaging or content like the kind outlined above.

While research exists to show what appeals broadly to early-career clients across the board, specific demographic research can be a helpful way to understand how certain candidates view your brand—and, more importantly, how to change that perception.

WayUp offers a wide array of employer branding services. Our in-house creative agency has created articles, videos, interactive social media content, and targeted email campaigns to help hundreds of organizations—from venture-backed challengers to Fortune 500 industry leaders—shape the way top talent views them. We can also utilize our diverse, wide-reaching userbase to conduct brand sentiment research, broken down by demographic and functional specialty. 

These WayUp-led employer branding efforts lead to increased diversity, greater brand equity, and a 20 percent bump in qualified applicants.

Problem #2: Diversity Hiring

“We struggle to hire diverse talent.”

There are two main reasons that organizations struggle to hire diverse early-career talent.

The first is a lack of diverse applicants.

Maybe you have an employer branding issue like the one above: Your consumer brand connects with certain demographics, and you struggle to connect with other demographics as an employer. If your brand is less well known among certain groups, like women or underrepresented minorities, your jobs and programs might never be getting in front of diverse candidates, because they’re not seeking them out.

Or perhaps your employer brand itself is the issue. For example, if you’re an industry that’s known to be predominantly white or male, it can be less attractive to female and underrepresented minority candidates.

The second is a diversity drop-off in your hiring funnel.

Sometimes, unconscious bias is actually built into your job titles and descriptions. This can hurt your ability to attract a diverse slate of candidates. Perhaps thousands of diverse candidates are clicking on your jobs and internships, but the language is unconsciously turning them off.

But that’s only the top of the funnel. For many organizations, the unconscious bias is built further into the recruiting process. Maybe it’s the application process, your screening questions, or other elements of your recruitment process that are—unintentionally—unfair or unproportionately difficult for certain kinds of candidates.

The Solution: Utilize Diverse Candidate Pools, Employer Branding, And Processes Designed With Diversity In Mind

WayUp's diverse, qualified candidate pool and sourcing tools put even the most ambitious diversity hiring goals within reach.

You need to go where your ideal candidates are. 

Take a hard look at your proactive sourcing channels. Are you leveraging the right sourcing channels and platforms? Are you attending career fairs at HBCUs and other diversity hubs? 

Another thing you need to look at are your passive sourcing channels. This can include inbound applicants from your website and job boards. What kinds of materials are on your website? Do they represent and reflect the types of candidates that you want to hire? If people do not see themselves culturally or physically represented at your company, chances are they will not apply.

WayUp offers the ability to reach diverse, qualified candidates with a proven sourcing and screening process that gets more diverse candidates through the funnel and in front of hiring managers.

WayUp’s candidate base represents more than 7,000 US colleges and universities—65% of our users are STEM and/or Business majors, 59% of are women, and more than 34% are Black and Hispanic.

Our employer branding products—including fully custom company profiles, branded articles and videos, and custom social media solutions—are expertly distributed to reach our diverse, qualified users in a way that leads to further touchpoints and conversions.

Our sourcing and screening team works with you to design unbiased questions and offer flexible, first-round phone screening with a member of the WayUp team on behalf of your company. Afterward, we provide soft skills feedback, no matter the outcome, and give passed candidates branded materials to help prepare them for the next round.

Problem #3: Lack of Efficiency

“We get too many applicants and referrals, and we don’t have time to review or respond to everyone.”

Recruiting and HR teams are inundated with applicants and referrals. While having many applicants to choose from might sound like a problem everyone would like to have, it can lead to a terrible candidate experience if the team isn’t able to respond to each applicant.

While the “applicant black hole problem”—candidates sending their applications into space and never hearing anything back—is standard across the field of recruiting (only 2% percent of candidates ever hear back), it can lead to a serious loss of faith in a company and negatively affect revenue.

Furthermore, if the team can’t review every applicant, there remains uncertainty that your recruiting team is moving the most qualified talent forward. How can you be sure if the applicants you move forward are the best if you haven’t reviewed all the applications? Screening every applicant not only provides the best possible candidate experience—which drives revenue and efficiencies across the organization—but also guarantees that the best talent is surfaced, and done so in a timely manner.

The Solution: Employ A Combination Of Digital And Phone Screening To Review Every Candidate’s Application

The answer should never be to reduce the number of interested applicants but to find a more streamlined way to review applications and surface top talent to your hiring managers. 

This includes understanding what your “knockout” questions are for each applicant. Examples of knockouts could be visa sponsorship, willingness to relocate, or even something like primary professional motivators. Once you have a good understanding of those, make sure that you are collecting these data points during the application process. This will help you quickly weed out applicants that do not meet your minimum requirements. 

Once you’ve surfaced the most qualified applicants, you can now divide those applicants into those who pass, and those who do not pass. Create an email template for those who do not meet those criteria and send it to them once you know they did not pass the initial criteria.

WayUp utilizes our proprietary digital screening technology to both collect knockout question criteria, digitally screen each application, and automatically send responses to candidates with clear next steps—or polite rejections—within 24 hours.

Problem #4: Your Recruitment Process Is Too Long 

It’s a frightening statistic, but ERE reports that top talent is only on the market for 10 days.

If you want to secure top talent for your roles, you’ll need to understand a few essential elements of your process first.

Did you know the average time-to-hire is 36 days? Why? Recruiters spend a majority of their day sourcing, scheduling, and conducting first-round phone screens. For some recruiting teams, tasks like scheduling and screening candidates can take up to 100 hours each week

Another factor that can contribute to a long recruiting cycle are teams operating in cycles, especially when hiring large classes of talent that will start at the same time. When you do a major push to attract applicants, perhaps by attending career fairs (where you’re garnering interest and collecting applicants over some time), you often only have time to respond when your team is back in the office and has time to follow up. This creates a lag that dampens enthusiasm, kills momentum, and opens the opportunity for other companies to swoop in on your top candidates.

The Solution: Don’t Let Your Funnel Build, Respond To Applicants Quickly

In this case, the simplest answer is also the most accurate one: Don’t let your funnel build up. By responding to applicants quickly, you’ll capitalize on the momentum built up from candidate attraction pushes and provide a great candidate experience. This will ensure that you move top talent through the funnel faster.

Set up a system that allows candidates who pass your basic requirements to schedule interviews right away–even if they’re going to take place weeks in advance.

WayUp’s digital screening service will respond automatically to candidates and—if they pass—allow them to automatically schedule an interview with a member of either our team of expert first-round phone screeners or your own, in-house recruiting team.

Problem #5: Increasing Return-on-Investment (ROI)

“We want greater ROI from our early-career recruiting.”

Like most business units, your team is—at some level—measured on ROI. How much are you spending to get a single hire? What other metrics can be used to measure your success? How can they be measured against costs?

Of course, the first step to improving your ROI is knowing how to calculate it.

The Solution: Calculate Your ROI & Locate Areas Where You Can Optimize

The first step is understanding what your ROI is. 

How do you do that? You need to understand how much investment you’ve made from not only a budget perspective but a headcount perspective and what the outcomes are of each of those efforts. Calculate the costs of each component of the recruitment funnel—and compare them to performance metrics of the desired results, like applications and hires.

A few examples of costs to analyze against your hiring performance: 

  • Sourcing, tech, tools, marketing campaigns, etc.
  • How much does each channel cost?
  • Where are you getting the most qualified candidates that turn into hires? 
  • What does your interview process look like, and what is the ratio of hires-to-interviews?
  • How many working hours are spent on this? What’s the value of those hours?
  • How else could your team be spending that time? What could be gained from that?

One easy way to look at this is to calculate your recruiting cost-per-hire. Recruiting ROI experts recommend adding up the aforementioned costs (tools, personnel, time, opportunity cost) and dividing that by the number of hires made during the period of those expenditures. This number can often be intimidating—NACE reports an average cost-per-hire in 2019 of $6,110—but understanding this number is an important part of forming an optimized strategy.

So, where do you begin when it comes to optimization? Do you start by trying to cut costs? Or do you try to increase productivity?

While you could always add headcount—if budget allows—to free up your existing recruiters’ time and increase productivity, that would only add to your total costs. The goal is to become more efficient with the team and the resources you have. You can do this by looking for ways to tighten your strategy (knowing what works and what doesn’t) and automating tasks that will give your team more time.

Examples of useful recruitment process automations include tech-enabled interview scheduling through calendar applications and automatic responses to unqualified applicants.

WayUp provides clients with data analytics across the top of the recruitment funnel, which can help you understand the factors that determine your ROI. 

Our analytics experts can make recommendations in real-time throughout your recruitment funnel, helping you to optimize toward your desired outcome. Our digital screening and automation technologies can also help increase efficiencies, which can help you improve results (and, therefore, ROI).

Partners of WayUp enjoy an average cost-per-hire between $1,000 to $1,300. Because WayUp offers sourcing, scheduling, screening, and candidate coaching services, many of our partners use WayUp to hand off candidates directly to hiring managers. This eliminates the need for additional personnel (especially ones who are only useful during the “busy season” but increase overhead costs all year long).

Problem #6: Analysis Paralysis

“We struggle to analyze our recruiting funnel and can’t see where the drop off is.” 

Analyzing a modern recruiting funnel can be incredibly difficult. With different platforms, technologies, metrics, and goals, your data is going to live in so many places and appear at inconsistent rates.

Plus, recruiting teams that are stretched thin will barely have time to gather the necessary data, let alone analyze it for actionable insights on diversity, efficiency, and ROI.

The Solution: Understand Where Your Data Lives, Unify And Analyze It

WayUp's comprehensive data solutions help you develop action plans for tackling unconscious bias, hard-to-fill roles, and more.

Start breaking down each part of your funnel. What is your application-to-passed-applicant ratio? How many of those applicants move to the next round? What are the demographics of these applicants? Find out where this data lives and use an applicant tracking system or recruiting platform to track and measure these points over time.

From there, you can start to analyze which criteria your candidates aren’t meeting. Maybe it’s a core requirement. Or, perhaps, it’s a personality trait. You can then make assessments about how to adjust messaging or marketing efforts to meet those challenges.

By integrating deeply into our clients’ recruiting processes through sourcing, screening, and interviewing candidates, WayUp houses all of the most essential data points in one place.

Our client-dedicated analytics can provide both key data points and the actionable insights that your team might lack—all in an EEOC-compliant manner and in real time. From there, you can surface candidate drop-off patterns and develop data-driven strategies.

Want more early-career recruiting advice from WayUp experts? Check out the Employers Resource Hub.

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