Should COVID-19 have a longer-term impact on your graduate hiring strategy?

Spring and summer are the traditional season for graduate recruitment to move into full swing. However, this year finds recruiting teams like yours operating within an entirely different work and hiring landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With students sent home from university to study online and with remote working part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future, the decision you currently face is whether to pivot your company’s hiring approach towards something completely virtual or to put your programmes on hold.

Whether we are reacting to an economic recession, natural disaster or pandemic, one thing we know is that bringing in fresh talent is an important source of vitality and often a major part of a company’s financial recovery.

That is why many companies are turning to technologies such as video interviews and online pre-hire assessments to find their 2020 graduate cohort. But if, like them, you are considering switching up your processes in the short-term, could this become the impetus for re-designing your entire approach to entry-level recruitment for the long-term?


HireVue recently undertook research into the early career programs offered by 90 of the top companies in the UK, Australia and the US, to find out what was available to entry-level candidates and the steps within the hiring process.

The results revealed the narrow approach that companies continue to take for entry-level recruitment, the inefficiencies in current screening practices, and the potential for change:

  • Options are limited for entry-level roles: Despite the ongoing attention on non-university career paths, the majority (55%) of the companies we investigated listed a graduate program as their only full-time option for entry-level candidates. Only one in four (25%) companies listed an apprentice program of some kind and a mere 16% mentioned other options such as traineeships. This means that recruiters are overlooking a wealth of entry-level talent, just because candidates didn’t complete a university degree.
  • Any degree will do: Of the 65 companies that had graduate programs and listed degree requirements, over half (54%) stated no subject preference and a third were just looking for a degree in a ‘relevant’ (but unspecified) subject. This would indicate that companies aren’t looking for specific knowledge from their graduates, but are just using degrees as an arbitrary screening measure.
  • CVs see background, not potential: Of the 74 companies that offered the relevant detail on their process, over four-fifths (84%) ask graduates for a CV as the first step, regardless of its well-reported limitations. This means that candidates are being judged on where they have been, not what they can do.
  • Lengthy hiring process: While companies are bringing in new assessment types and formats to get to know candidates better, this is significantly impacting the length of the hiring process. Three-fifths (61%) of companies have 4 or more stages, and almost two-in-ten (16%) have at least five – which risks souring the all-important candidate experience.


There is clearly a great deal of scope for improvement within entry-level recruitment programmes. So, how should you be adapting yours for a post-COVID world?


Diversity needs to be the starting point for any companies that are serious about evolving their hiring process – broadening your talent pool and evaluating candidates based on potential and suitability, as opposed to experience.

That isn’t to say you can’t maintain a shortlist of colleges and universities to visit. But beyond that, your hiring team must be casting as wide a net online as possible by adopting and offering remote interviewing on a more permanent basis.

And it’s not just about where you look. You should also consider how you’re evaluating talent. Grades have been shown to be a poor indicator of future job success, and with exams cancelled for the year, this is the perfect moment to pivot away from such arbitrary predictors. Going straight into an online assessment that tests candidates on their competencies and behaviours will not only ensure this, but also remove the need to review their CVs.


Interviews have the potential to provide crucial insight into candidates’ skills and potential, but it can be difficult to scale human interviewing across a large candidate pool. No matter how good our intentions, we bring too much variability and inconsistency to the process.

Here, online assessments such as on-demand video interviews become an absolute necessity. They offer you the ability to handle a far greater volume of interviews, in a manner that is both consistent (for candidate and recruiter) and provides a more 360° candidate view.

The use of videos will also give you a chance to introduce the company. Many organisations choose to record a welcome video to preview their programs, values, and culture.


Today’s graduates expect their candidate experience to be snappy – not seven-staged. And having grown up in a digital age, they will look for you to leverage technology to deliver this.

Use this as an opportunity to modernise and shorten your hiring process; find solutions that consolidate steps by measuring multiple things at once. You should also consider how you can leverage social media, job preview videos, and online employee stories to give candidates a full virtual picture of your company before they start the application process.

Communication is also crucial for a positive candidate experience. No matter how many stages you have, make sure you provide guidance and feedback every step of the way. Not only will this decrease the risk of candidates turning down jobs because they didn’t hear back in time, but it will also avoid the longer-term brand damage of leaving a poor impression on your consumers of the future.


In the face of COVID-19, the prospect of embracing further change can be daunting. But virtual hiring is not an unknown. It is tried and tested. And it’s what candidates want.

Recruiters have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to implement lasting change in how they bring in new talent. It is time for you to break down the barriers within the current graduate recruitment process, encouraging a far more diverse applicant pool, and delivering a better candidate experience.

Kevin Parker, CEO and Chairman of the Board, HireVue

Author: Editorial Team

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