With so many young people unemployed, is there really a war on talent in early careers?

Having worked with corporates, I clearly remember conversations about a war on talent.  At the time I was incredibly surprised due to the volumes of applications we were receiving.  In one company there were over 20,000 applications for 100 roles.  Yet there were occasions when we would have roles unfilled.

On reflection, I believe the issue exists in the processes that are implemented through marketing and selection.

Small target group

Employers have limited resources, which means they need to select which schools, universities and student groups to target.  More often than not, this results in different employers targeting the same limited group of students.  It is this group of students who tend to apply for multiple jobs and therefore has a greater chance of securing at least one role.  On the flip side, students outside the target group, who would be great candidates, are often unaware of the opportunities.

Grades, work experience, and extra-curricular activities

There’s a shift starting to take place regarding grade requirements for roles.  Previously graduate roles required a 2:1 degree classification, now employers are moving toward only requiring candidates to have a degree.  In addition, employers are looking for well-rounded candidates.  Hence a greater importance being given to work experience and extra-curricular activities.  So, individuals need to participate in a few activities beyond their academic lives to make solid applications.

Selection criteria

Most students don’t understand how selection processes work.  They are often unaware of the different types of assessments or how selection criteria are created and evaluated.  This leads to a limited understanding of how to prepare and what they need to demonstrate to be successful.


What would happen if we addressed these points?  Imagine if marketing targeted candidates who would be most interested in the roles available.  Consider how companies and candidates would benefit if applicants demonstrated their ability during the application stage.  What would happen if everyone understood which skills and behaviours specific employers were looking for?

I believe we would create a more level playing field. In turn, candidates would be more likely to apply to roles and companies that truly appeal to them.  In addition, employers would engage more easily with candidates who are the right fit for their organisations.