According to research by McKinsey, around 7.6 million jobs and 24 per cent of the UK workforce were at risk because of COVID-19- related lockdowns. The disrupted market has led to a soar in unemployment with it being revealed that over 307,000 people are still away from work.

Young people have been one of the most affected groups of the pandemic. With the number of people on company payrolls down by 693,000 on pre-pandemic levels, over three-fifths of these were younger than 25 years.

Those that have just graduated, or left school, and are now on the job hunt, are having to compete with more experienced professionals for the same roles. Two in five (39 per cent) graduate employers also expect to hire fewer graduates over this next year and younger students who should be sitting GCSE’s and A levels in the summer, are facing yet another year of cancelled exams.

But what impact will this have on the future of talent? If more candidates are entering the market without the current qualification expectations for the respective sectors, how will this change the landscape? And, most importantly, how can businesses and their HR teams prepare for this potential gap in talent in the coming years?

Ease your expectations

Recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed that children across the UK are likely to lose at least half a year of normal, in-person schooling, which could lead to a long term loss in earnings of around £350bn. This clearly suggests that the pandemic has hugely impacted young people’s prospects as well as affecting the qualifications they have been able to achieve.

With this in mind, HR teams must be as accommodating as possible in the coming years for any candidates that apply for positions from this COVID-cohort.

Importantly, they will need to consider bringing in candidates who are capable and willing to adapt, but may not have the qualifications that were desired previously. In doing this, businesses will need to have a clear plan in place to bring these new employees up to speed where necessary, and outlining training opportunities and explaining how they will be supported to gain these skills or qualifications, should be an integral part of their onboarding process.

Re-assess your job descriptions and hire for aptitude instead

With the pandemic impacting young people’s prospects and the ability to gain qualifications, it will be the employer’s role to re-evaluate how talent is approached over the next few years.

For example, before COVID-19, the business may have had a set list of candidate requirements that prioritised specific qualifications or a set amount of work experience. If many candidates have had restricted work experience opportunities, or have been unable to get certain qualifications as a consequence of the pandemic, it is unfair to keep these specifications on job advertisements and descriptions.

Instead, ensuring job descriptions are less rigid means that you can appeal to candidates who potentially have what it takes but would have been excluded by prior requirements.

Similarly, hiring candidates with an aptitude to complete roles that are essential to your organisation, also raises the importance of this element of the evolving recruiting process. As well as amending job descriptions, carrying out an online assessment centre or giving the candidate a short task to complete at the interview, can help to identify whether they are suited for the role.

Whilst CVs can sometimes offer an outline of the candidate’s experience, they are not always the best indicator of skill set. Instead, asking the candidate to complete an aptitude test is a much better way of determining someone’s ability. This process also avoids relying too heavily on a candidate’s CV or prioritising job descriptions and rather, allows candidates to prove their suitability beyond restrictive requirements or what is written on their CV.

Use the change to focus on employee wellbeing

This shift in recruitment and candidate expectations in the coming years is a perfect opportunity for HR teams to put a renewed emphasis on the business’s wellbeing offering. Knowing that they may well need to implement new initiatives in order to support the COVID cohort’s personal and professional development, such as a mentoring scheme and more elaborate training programmes, offers a chance to request additional funding and reinvigorate the whole HR function. This will help to support all employees, no matter their seniority, and have a positive impact on the rest of the business.

The jobs market has been very turbulent over the last 12 months. Whilst even professionals with decades of experience have suffered, young people have experienced particular setbacks due to the ongoing complications surrounding the pandemic.

The talent acquisition process must therefore evolve to accommodate these young people as they start – or restart – their careers, with this change and HR professionals must be doing everything they can now, to navigate this impending gap in experience, skills and qualifications. Adapting the approach to recruitment and re-addressing candidate expectations is a good place to start. It is up to HR leaders to ensure that new talent is approached in the right way, supported, and given tangible training that will help them excel and develop in their roles.





Thomas Seymour is Senior Director, at HR technology talent specialist mthree.