New guidance for employers

Mar 9, 2022

In this blog, our Director of Impact and Evidence, Chris Goulden, reflects on new guidance for employers who want to recruit young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.


The post-pandemic peculiarity

The pandemic’s waning has left us with a peculiar outlook for young people’s job prospects. While unemployment has fallen back to low levels, that still means one in nine (or nearly half a million) 16–24 year olds are out of work – a much higher rate than for other ages. At the same time, the number who neither have a job nor are looking for one remains higher than before the pandemic at 2.64m. Many of those are also outside full-time education.

That means – with job vacancies at an all-time high – the challenge for employers is how to engage (or re-engage) young people who might be further away from the job market and experiencing one or more disadvantages or discrimination. However, there was no guidance, rooted in robust evidence from testing the effect of different approaches on successful recruitment outcomes, available for employers to use.

So, as part of our programme of evidence-building as a What Works Centre, Youth Futures commissioned the Center for Evidence Based Management to review existing high-quality evidence about what works in recruitment and selection processes. The Center are aligned to our mission of promoting evidence-based practice with businesses, policymakers and our other partners. We’ve also worked with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) who have produced an employer-facing summary of the evidence, setting out the problem and solutions that employers can use.

What’s the problem?

There are four aspects of current practice that present problems when it comes to recruiting young people facing disadvantage. These are:

  1. Ineffective recruitment channels and advertising – i.e. using purely formal, online or professional routes
  2. Poor short-hand selection methods – e.g. years of experience or age are found not to be reliable predictors of job performance
  3. Sub-group differences in selection tests – e.g. IQ tests
  4. Bias – unconscious or otherwise – e.g. affinity bias, where we are drawn to people we know or who are similar to us.

These factors can be addressed through better understanding of the needs of young candidates and through using high quality and structured approaches and tools that address bias, sub-group differences and remove unreliable short-hand methods.

How can we reduce the problem?

When it comes to reaching out to young people about a job, the evidence suggests that it’s worth investing in getting to know the target group – their activities, interests, networks and where they hang out. It’s important to adapt to the context – a national or uniform approach is less likely to work. Partnering with organisations that already work with or are led by young people facing disadvantage can help to better understand their needs and issues.

At selection stage, structured interviews should be used to assess all candidates for the same job position. Guides and clear evaluation grids based on job analysis will help. Define the questions to be asked, their order, and provide examples of ‘ideal’ and ‘poor’ answers, together with a clear indication of what the rating scale is.

When it comes to the use of testing, cognitive ability tests are the most robust way to predict future job performance, but they must be ones that compensate for potential subgroup differences. Otherwise, they risk re-enforcing bias and discrimination rather than addressing them. Badly designed and biased tools can be worse than no tools at all. Recruiters should quiz recruitment providers for details of the tests they use. Finally, post-recruitment, it’s important to track the data to detect bias in the process (something that has become the norm for many).

Getting the messages out

At Youth Futures, we’re delighted to be working with CIPD on their campaign One Million Chances. The next phase of this launches today to coincide with National Careers Week. The campaign will highlight the evidence and practical guidance that employers and recruiters can use to give young people from marginalised backgrounds the fair chance that they need to get into good jobs.

Read our scientific summary of Recruiting young people facing disadvantage: an evidence review here.

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