79% of UK students comfortable with companies tailoring student recruitment for diversity & inclusion

More than three-quarters (79%) of UK students either agree with or don’t object to companies hosting recruitment events deliberately aimed at women, BAME or undergraduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Research among more than 1,600 UK students across 74 universities – commissioned by RMP Enterprise – also shows how students think diversity and inclusion-friendly recruitment and workplaces could lead to more representative companies.

The vast majority (95%) of students think diversity and inclusion is important in the workplace and 82% are comfortable with employers staging events designed specifically for women. Students with similar views about companies attracting people from lower socio-economic backgrounds totals 81%. However, slightly fewer (74%) are comfortable with similar approaches for students from different ethnic backgrounds.

Emma Miles, Client Partner at RMP Enterprise said: “With the impact of Covid-19 showing that new graduate roles are cut by 12% this year and internship/placements cut by 40%*, this could be an opportunity for employers to reach a wider pool of talent and move away from targeted university lists.

“We are now having to live more digitally and this offers employers the chance to become more accessible and attract the best talent from all walks of life.”

Based on the research – co-funded by some of the UK’s largest graduate recruiters including, Bank of America, Citi and Mazars – RMP Enterprise has launched ‘Open Door’ events to improve how accessible employers are to students from all backgrounds.

The company’s research has also identified six factors to help employers attract genuinely diverse and inclusive early talent into their businesses:

1.     Be clear on why you are asking for personal information

48% of students did not know why employers ask for personal information with 18% of BAME students saying they felt employers used it to see who would not fit in. Eight per cent of students said they had considered changing their names on job applications. With many employers capturing personal information at the first point of engagement or during the application process, it’s important to educate students and be really clear on why companies need this information.

2.     Remove barriers and be flexible

The research showed that almost a fifth of students have missed an interview due to work commitments and 15% because of financial constraints. Employers need to remove barriers to entry – such as travel costs or financial loss through taking time off work to attend face-to-face interviews – and increase accessibility through digital events, competitions and virtual assessment centres to ensure nobody is excluded.

3.     Have work that aligns with employee values

Eighty-four per cent of students believe it’s very important to match work to their personal values. White Welsh students value this more than other ethnic groups (90%); however, BAME students follow closely, at 88%. This factor comes third most important for women and men, but with eight percentage points more for women (88%). People with a disability also place it third (84%).

4.     Provide mental health initiatives

Having mental health initiatives in organisations ranks more highly than salary among almost 80% of students overall, whether white or BAME. Four ethnic groups – black African/Caribbean, northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh – each show 100% support for this element of D&I. For people with a disability, this comes joint first.

5.     Salary

Overall, salary is a motivator of high importance during job hunting for 74% of students. By ethnicity, white northern Irish students are most concerned about salary (88%), with 81% of BAME students saying it’s important. By gender, women and men both rank it 4th (74% vs 73% respectively) while it rates similarly for 67% of disabled students.

6.     Being part of a diverse workforce

This is very important for 56% of students overall, with fewer than one-fifth (17%) deeming it of lowest importance. BAME students share this view more strongly than the overall sample, with 65% saying it is important to them. Women put this factor in 5th place at 63%, a figure 23 percentage points higher than men, who place it 7th. For disabled students, this ranks fifth (59%). Companies showcasing their D&I initiatives to potential employees – such as support for mental health and well-being – is an important part of attracting this generation of undergraduates.

The findings have prompted the launch of a new way of connecting employers and students in an accessible and inclusive way. RMP Enterprise has launched its ‘Open Door’ events this week, with the first event taking place at the start of the academic year. This is a fully digital event open to all students regardless of their university, degree background, demographic or year group. This event will provide a way for students from all backgrounds to meet employers virtually and receive resources to support them with their mental health and wellbeing.

Direct quotes from students captured in the research:

Have you ever opted out of an interview due to financial constraints?

  • “Travel costs to get to London from my city were far too much on a short notice, therefore I decided to opt out.”
  • “Interview in London, very early in the morning so the coach wouldn’t get me there on time. Train ticket was £150 and they didn’t refund travel costs so I couldn’t afford it.”
  • “I was shortlisted for an interview. However, I was really struggling with my upkeep in terms of food, rent and bus fare. Consequently, I missed the interview in one of the banks.”
  • “I was told about the interview very late, and as I had to travel nearly 300 miles from university to London and organise accommodation. As it was so last minute, the financial assistance they offered to cover transport was nowhere near enough to cover the train and sort accommodation, so I had to cancel.”
  • “Yes, several times. I once had to get to London from Newcastle for a 9.30 am interview and I had to get the overnight coach to reach there on time and so that I don’t have to pay for overnight accommodation.”
  • “I had to travel from Devon to London for an assessment centre (despite the actual position being in Exeter). The company was offering to reimburse fuel costs only up to £50, and this would not be reimbursed until several weeks after the event. I did not have the money at the time to get there, nor did I have enough money to be able to wait for reimbursement.”

Do you have any more comments on your experience of interviews? 

  • Opted out of interviews after learning they were group interviews. I am autistic and didn’t feel like I would be able to show what I can do and felt I would be overshadowed.
  • Face-to-face interviews can ruin the idea of no prejudice or discrimination as people make subconscious judgements before someone has even begun to speak. 
  • I sometimes felt that my nationality played a factor in hiring decisions

Author: Editorial Team

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