Companies have been recruiting graduates from a smaller pool of personal connections during the pandemic, shutting out young people from less privileged backgrounds, a survey shows.
More than half (57%) of recruiters said they had become more reliant on personal networks and word-of-mouth recommendations, while more than a quarter (28%) said they were more likely to hire someone they already knew because they saw them as a safer bet in uncertain times.
During the pandemic, nearly two-thirds (63%) of recruiters have turned to online networks on platforms such as LinkedIn to compensate for the absence of in-person contact, making these a new frontier for nepotism, the study suggests.
“Tech should be a huge leveller. The nepotism which exists in industry, where business leaders rely on existing contacts to fuel recruitment pipelines, ought to be a thing of the past, and equal access of opportunity should finally be a reality. But at the moment it’s simply not happening. Employers are swapping one closed network with another,” the researchers at Savanta agency wrote in a report.
Nearly a third (30%) of the recruiters – who were senior decision-makers at a range of businesses – said they had turned to colleagues for candidate recommendations, while a quarter (24%) had asked friends and nearly a fifth (17%) had asked friends.
The recruiters also said they had become more reliant on job sites during the pandemic, and turned less to university careers services and campus careers fairs. A quarter said they had been proactively targeting students based on their online profiles. Two-thirds of businesses (66%) plan to conduct more of the recruitment process online in future.
As well as surveying more than 500 HR professionals, the researchers – who were commissioned by networking platform Handshake – spoke to 640 students and 334 recent graduates in the UK.
A third (33%) of those looking for jobs thought interviews and applications were biased towards their better-connected peers, and 15% worried that their background would stand in the way of employment. A fifth (22%) said they lacked the technology to access online careers services.