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New research finds majority of early talent are put off applying to companies with bad reviews

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Handshake’s latest research uncovers what students and graduates look for in potential employers, how to reach them and how to keep them.

LONDON, Monday, 8 January 2024 – Handshake, the largest early career network, today announced new research on what university students and recent graduates are looking for from their potential employers, including how to reach them and how to keep them.

Findings from the Early Talent Careers Influences in the AI Age, which surveyed over 2,000 students and recent graduates, revealed that almost half (48%) of early talent are attracted to opportunities that allow them to use AI tools in the role, while 55% are put off by bad company reviews. 

What matters to early talent?

Flexibility, work-life balance and reviews are just as important as salary to early talent when considering whether to apply for a job. Negative reviews can halve an employer’s candidate pipeline – with 55% of early talent saying they would be dissuaded from applying to a role with negative experiences or reviews about an organisation from current or former employees.

Balance is also important to early talent. Over half (54%) report their proximity to work and commute times factor into whether they decide to apply for a role, while 50% say the availability of flexible working options would make them more likely to apply.

Early talent also wants AI to be part of their career journey, with nearly half (48%) agreeing that they would be more likely to take a job at a company where they could have a chance to use AI tools in their work. As generative AI is predicted to drive a 7% increase in global GDP, this trend indicates a significant opportunity for employers to invest in early talent to bolster their workforce’s AI capabilities.

Where can employers find early talent?

Direct outreach has come out top for how students and graduates want to receive information and advice from potential employers. Nearly three quarters (71%) of early talent want to hear from prospective employers via 1:1 in-person discussions. 

Yet, two thirds (66%) also like digital communication through direct messaging and email, and 62% want to see potential employers at on-campus events, workshops and careers fairs.

The secret to retaining early talent 

It’s expensive to do business right now, so keeping the cost of hiring down is an important consideration. For early talent, this means meeting their needs as they embark on their careers amid a landscape marked by substantial change and economic uncertainty.

Prioritising and promoting a healthy work-life balance has come out on top for students and graduates when deciding whether to stay – with 56% reporting it as a factor that would keep them in a role or organisation.

Similarly, 47% would stay for good relationships with colleagues, 46% for competitive salaries and pay increases, and 44% for job security. Yet, just over a quarter (28%) said that continuous learning opportunities would keep them in their role.

“Today’s early talent is willing to walk away from a job if it doesn’t completely match their expectations,” shared Christine Cruzvergara, Chief Education Strategy Officer, Handshake. “Armed with the insights from the research, our hope is that employers and educators can further understand how to engage  new and emerging talent – and keep them interested – to unlock the benefits of the next generation in their workforce.”

“The preferences for location, salary, progression, responsibilities and flexible work of today’s students and graduates are clear – they’re demanding of their employers that they step up to meet their needs,” said Mary Curnock Cook, CBE and Chair of Pearson UK. “There are important findings in this research from Handshake that employers need if they want to recruit early talent and have the upper hand on AI and digital skills.”

Recruiting students and graduates is essential to business success, but the evolving landscape of career development and talent acquisition is being heavily influenced by AI and societal changes. Today’s businesses need to meet early talent where they want to be met – ensuring their offering is what students and graduates are looking and willing to stay for. 

Read the Early Talent Career Influences in the AI Age Report

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