Any business needs a regular injection of new talent if it’s going to thrive. That doesn’t just go for executive talent but also early career hiring— a big focus for Talent Acquisition (TA) leaders as organizations look to bring in fresh ideas, develop skills, build networks, and identify future high performers. When budgets are tight, entry-level hires on lower salaries can be an attractive choice for employers, too, reveals Korn Ferry’s Talent Acquisition Trends 2024 report

It’s challenging for companies to balance pressures on the bottom line with investing in a talent pipeline that will serve them for the future. Yet as a talent shortage threatens business growth globally, not investing could cost them. Korn Ferry experts predict that by 2030 nearly $8.5 trillion in revenue could be lost if this talent shortage is not addressed.  

To get ahead of the competition, recruiters are looking for fresh approaches in early career hiring to cast the net wider, reach more candidates, and bring in new talent. Our experts explore some of the key strategies they can use. 

Engaging Talent Earlier On

TA leaders should look to get their brand in front of potential candidates much earlier on, even engaging with future talent while they’re still at school. For some companies that means university students, for others it means searching for hires in technical and non-traditional higher education institutions. 

“We’ve already built relationships with key colleges—we’re now moving into high-school (14 to 18-year-olds) to attract them into our organization.”
~ CHRO, Global Healthcare Business

Hiring managers can capture the attention of students by giving guest lectures, talking to them about how to write a résumé, providing interview tips or explaining what life at a certain company looks like. Korn Ferry experts also recommend providing meaningful connections in social areas, such as sponsoring a relevant club or sports team. 

According to a Harvard Business Review study, 9 out of 10 employees say they would trade a portion of their life’s earnings for greater meaning at work—so educating candidates about the values of a company, as early as possible, could also pay dividends in the future too. 

 “Many companies are talking about what support they can offer, in some cases before candidates even go to university, so they can be seen as an employer of choice post-graduation,” says Korn Ferry’s Director of Global Early Careers, Victoria Raper.

Widening the Talent Pool

Companies need to cast the talent net wider, moving away from recruiting exclusively from top-tier or Ivy League universities and branching out into state colleges, vocational schools, and similar institutions to attract new early career candidates. To attract top potential talent, organizations might offer appealing level-up opportunities such as bootcamps, apprenticeships, and in-house certification programs as alternatives to traditional university education. 

Some employers are even providing modules on workplace readiness to prepare today’s students for professional environments—a response to the generation’s experience with isolation during the pandemic. 

More than 60% of Americans aged 25 and over don’t have a degree, and degree-based hiring can also hinder DE&Iefforts. “The reality is, when you start to widen that net to incorporate other universities, colleges, or routes to education—such as bootcamps—you start to see increases in diversity,” says Raper. “And to support this a lot of big companies are now working with institutions that they wouldn’t previously have done,” she adds. 

Given the cost for higher education remains prohibitively high for some, part of this “widening the net” is also bringing in new skill sets that may not have been developed within a traditional university, college, or work experience environment at all. 

Embracing the Role of Tech 

Embracing automated technology should be a top priority when assessing early career candidates. Predictive tools can assess the potential of candidates rather than examine their proven experience—which is particularly helpful when there are hundreds of similar applications, with little to no work experience to differentiate them.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is enabling hiring managers to get more relevant jobs in front of candidates on platforms such as LinkedIn and is enhancing their ability to assess and filter candidates far quicker in online assessments. It’s also helping them move applicants through the process more quickly.  

“Through online assessment tools we might eliminate 80% of the applicants, which means you don't need to have people conducting interviews and sifting through CVs,” says Michael Gorman, Korn Ferry’s Team Lead for Early Careers. 

“It’s better for us, but ultimately, it's much better for our clients. What we have found, by using those tools, is that a lot of the hiring decisions are also the right hiring decisions. And that's based on tenure or interns converting to be on graduate programs, for example,” he adds. 

However, despite its efficiency benefits, new technology also brings its challenges. Candidates are now able to scrape content from generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT on application forms, as well as get live support during interviews, which means early-stage selection and scrutiny needs to be smarter than ever. 

Committing to Training & Development

According to Korn Ferry’s Talent Acquisition Trends 2024 report, 76% of Gen Z employees see learning and development as a key driver of work engagement. And companies are now realizing the untapped potential of early career programs for workforce development.  

Experts predict that more talent leaders will double down on their early career hiring strategies, using online assessments, and training programs, to develop the future workforce. This includes increasing internal mobility to hold on to hires and create clear career paths.  

But one challenge for organizations hiring early career talent for the first time is that turnover rates are also rising. This is due in part to the blending of freelance/contractor roles with full-time positions, especially among younger generations. And during the hiring process itself, candidates are waiting for multiple offers to land before deciding which one to take.  

Raper says: “We're seeing high application volumes from candidates, but it’s very much a candidate-driven market. A lot of candidates will accept offers, and then pull out much later in the process. They'll stay in other processes with competitors and decide once they've got all the offers on the table, picking which one's going to work best for them,” she adds.

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Investing in DE&I to Future-Proof Your Business

By casting the net wider, businesses are building the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. And this larger candidate pool is critical to achieving DE&I goals in the future, particularly when it comes to nurturing a more diverse future leadership team. Only 5.9% of all US chief executives are Black, for instance, while Black Americans comprise 13.6% of the population. Meanwhile women and people from minority racial and ethnic groups hold fewer than 25% of C-suite roles. 

However, recruiters must remember that inclusivity should also extend to the wider Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Younger candidates are not just seeking jobs; they are looking for companies that value their overall well-being and personal development. Early career hires are advocating for honest conversations and for better resources and support, such as access to counseling, free wellness apps and promoting work-life integration.  

By extending this EVP to their DE&I hiring strategies, companies can win out against the competition.  

New Talent, New Tactics

Strong early career hiring is critical to future success, but what are the other trends that should be on your radar? Watch Korn Ferry’s talent experts discuss the biggest trends from our 2024 Talent Acquisition Trends report in this On-Demand Webinar: Talent Acquisition Trends 2024: New tech, new talent, new tactics.  

To find out how to apply these to your organization, get in touch with Korn Ferry’s talent acquisition specialists, who will help you find the right people to grow your business—anywhere in the world.

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