Research shows the wide-scale level of disruption COVID has caused for young people with over half of students saying that their ideas about their future career had changed since the start of the pandemic.  

A report by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) and Debut, a graduate recruitment app, reveals the effects of COVID-19 on students’ thoughts towards graduate jobs and their careers.

In light of the pandemic, students also revealed what they were looking for when it comes to a future job.

The most important priority, which an overwhelming 98 per cent of students agreed with, was the organisation treating them fairly. The opinions towards this differed by demographics. The demographics most likely to believe that employers will treat them fairly in the recruitment process were White respondents and those who attended non-Russell group. Conversely, Black and Black-British young people (65 per cent) as well as other non-white ethnicities (52 per cent) were less likely to believe that the recruitment process would be fair.

The second highest priority was the job involving interesting work whilst the organisation providing access to training and development ranked third.

Interestingly, an above average salary ranked sixth most important in a list of nine priorities, indicating that it is not necessarily the most important motivating factor. However, even the least motivating factor which was that the student would be working with people like them received a 73 per cent agreement rate, with almost three-quarters of graduates choosing this as a priority.

Additionally, over half of students surveyed (57 per cent) stated that their ideas about their future career had changed since the start of the pandemic. Less than half (42 per cent) expressed feeling confident about finding the job that they wanted quickly after leaving education.

Specifically, more women reported changing their minds towards their career in light of the pandemic than men with 61 per cent of women considering this in comparison to only 52 per cent of men. Additionally, men felt more confident than women in finding a job than women (with 48 per cent of men believing this versus only 38 per cent of women).

The report makes several recommendations to employers in order to attract the best talent:

  • Making it explicit that the job is a pathway to a fulfilling career
  • Discussing the wider opportunities that the company will provide
  • Reaching a diverse pool of candidates through various channels
  • Making meaningful connections with candidates
  • Shifting to online recruitment processes if necessary

Additionally, to ensure diversity is made a priority, the report recommends the following:

  • Giving candidates the opportunity to see how they will fit in with the company
  • Being mindful of how you will communicate with different candidates – they all respond well to different approaches
  • Recognising what the students have achieved in their education

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of ISE, said:

Covid-19 will change how employers should target and speak to a range of student communities. This report demonstrates that students still want a blend of information, they want to know how to do well in the selection process and what the work really is like. And despite Covid constraints, students still want face-to-face experiences. Although this may be hard to deliver at the moment, employers can think about how to replicate the on-campus or in-office experience as closely as possible on-line.

Students are finding the current jobs market competitive and challenging, particularly when they hear what appears to be conflicting advice about vacancies. Employers that heed the information in this report and develop strategies that are sensitive to different student demographics will attract the best, most diverse student talent.

*This data was taken from ISE and Debut’s report ‘What do students really want?: Listening to the voices of young jobseekers’. This survey questioned over 2000 students and jobseekers in the UK in June-July 2020.






Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.