by SIAN DUTTON | Published on May 7, 2020

This is usually the time of year where we see brands both big and small start to plan out their early talent strategies. This will of course still be happening, but it will look and feel very different. Face to face engagement on campus is unlikely to happen in the autumn term, internships and inductions are becoming virtual experiences and the number of vacancies are reportedly in decline. Employers are shifting to more online strategies and the chances are this move may become a permanent one. 

The tale of 2020 is an unsettling read. In case you have not seen the news (or any digital device recently) here is a quick recap: 

‘UK Youth Employment prospects crumbling in coronavirus crises’ – The Guardian (20 Apr 2020) 

‘Graduates lose job offers during coronavirus pandemic’ – The Times (15 Apr 2020) 

‘Coronavirus: Two thirds of students have had job applications paused or withdrawn, survey finds’ – The independent (15 Apr 2020) 

And indeed those ‘surveys’ have found that: 

27% of organisations will be reducing the number of graduates they hire. 40% fear it will affect their recruitment process, with 60% having moved assessment centres online and 71% having moved interviews online.1  

This has left 70% students feeling (quite understandably) anxious.2 

So how can you ensure that we rally behind Stephen Isherwood “to make sure that a whole generation (of graduates) isn’t lost”? Well with most organisations contemplating their options here are a few ideas on how to avoid future losses by utilising the arsenal you already have.  

  1. Keep communicating! 33% of all students said they would like to receive regular updates on how employers at large are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. A further 24% are keen to hear from specific employers, while 36% are interested in seeing updates to employer profiles.3 
  2. Prioritise the use of social media! 47% of Gen Z and Millennials have increased their usage of social media and 50% said they have more time now to interact with brands (potentially interspersed with the odd Gordon Ramsey video if they are anything like me). Furthermore 14% have downloaded another social media app.4  

What do you then say? This answer comes in five parts: 

  1. Helpful hints and tips 

Social distancing may prevent Gen Z getting actual ‘office’ experience however it does not mean they can’t be equipped for the world of work. 43% of young people are looking for news they can use in the form of actionable daily tips, so make this work for your company long term by giving helpful advice of how to build the soft skills they will require to succeed like Empathy, Team Work and Active Listening.5 Students are also keen to read around the topics of Mental Health and maintaining a work/life balance as 73% of Gen Z believe companies and brands should play a role in improving their quality of life and wellbeing.6 

2. CSR 

Whilst most organisations are putting on a united front demonstrating the ways in which they are helping the fight against COVID-19, this is not a time to forget the other contributions you have made. CSR strategies will have long been in place prior to this crisis and is still something that should be talked about as Early Talent hold this in very high esteem.  

3. Dial up the human element 

Students want access to key individuals within organisations and the expectation will grow, as now more than ever we (as consumers) are getting video updates from CEOs from airlines to hospitality to retail. Create opportunities for this interaction to happen. This could be done through augmented experiences, virtual open days or a simple online Q and A.  

4. Open the dialogue 

Brands such as Reebok are using Twitter to open a dialogue with their audiences and tailor their content accordingly. This not only helps to raise engagement but aids in making your audience feel valued and appreciated, as you are giving them a voice. 

5. Keep it tied to your principles and values 

This week Brian Chesky, CEO of AirBnB wrote a note to all of his employees addressing the need to restructure the business. He was open, honest and showed empathy, but more than anything he explained the decisions the company had made using their core values and guiding principles – you could sense his sorrow in his writing. When thinking about the comms you are putting out to future talent, think about the content in relation to the bigger picture and try not to be tone deaf.  

In summary, the world of early talent is going to be a very different place post social distancing and COVID-19. The good news is that this group of individuals are extremely adaptable and will in the majority embrace change.  

This gives you the opportunity to mix it up and really embrace early adoption of new techniques and messages, attracting and securing top talent in the space.  


  1. Institute of Student Employers. (2020). COVID-19: Challenges for student recruitment and development. London: Institute of Student Employers. P 1. 
  2. Hype Collective. (2020). Campus Pulse Check, April.  
  3. TGI. UK Trendence Research. (2020). How are Gen Z responding to the coronavirus pandemic? 
  4. Vice Media Group. (2020). Youth in Pandemic: Hopes and fears for an uncertain future. P 6. 
  5. Vice Media Group. (2020). Youth in Pandemic: Hopes and fears for an uncertain future. P 7. 
  6. Havas People. (2019). ‘The Opportunity Gap’ – How to become a Meaningful Brand for Early Talent. P  7.