Leveling the Playing Field in Graduate Recruitment

Using SHL’s cutting-edge science and talent solutions to identify top talent at The Undergraduate of the Year Awards

As the Director of SHL’s Professional Services business in the UK&I, I get many opportunities to meet with clients and organizations to discuss their business challenges. It’s often about processes and objectives and data and workflows – all very important stuff.

But earlier this year, I had an opportunity of a different sort. I had the chance to attend the 10th TARGET Jobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards in London, an event that SHL has supported from its beginning in 2009. And I was able to see first-hand the people – real people – that SHL’s products and services actually impact.

GTI, the UK and Ireland’s leading graduate recruitment and early careers specialist, hosted the awards, which recognize 10 or more future stars each year. They are awarded internships (and an array of other prizes) at some of the world’s best-known companies, and from the looks of genuine awe, gratitude and excitement on the faces of the winners that night, it was clear that the recognition was deeply meaningful.

Using Science to Identify Emerging Talent

At SHL, we are very proud to have partnered with GTI in running this program since the inaugural ceremony. Our role is to work with the employers (each sponsoring an Undergraduate of the Year award with a slightly different focus) to identify the success criteria and then to deploy our cutting-edge science and talent solutions to enable fair and objective assessment of each applicant.

This year, the awards attracted the most entries in its history – over 4,500 entries for 14 awards. We could talk about the amazing science, data, and validation behind our talent solutions (there’s a lot!) but that would be masking the true story here. The power of the assessments used in this program is in creating a level playing field.

Employers Seeking Different Skills

Our own research shows that employers are increasingly searching for graduates with the skills to engage and interact versus 10 years ago. They are looking for graduates who can comfortably present solutions, be creative and think conceptually, and who can adapt and cope as the world of work becomes more dynamic, fast-paced and complex. This is quite a shift from the behaviors sought in 2009, which were much more focused on “executing” – getting stuff done and delivering results, involving analytical thinking, and prioritizing and organizing skills.

The challenge for graduates and undergraduates is that the “engage” behaviors are those rarely “taught” in schools and universities. And underlying these interacting behaviors is a layer of confidence and comfort in social situations, which, if measured in a subjective way, has serious potential to advantage those with the support and means to develop these skills.

Driving Diversity

What’s fantastic about the Undergraduate of the Year awards is the diversity amongst the finalists. And this is made possible through the use of such valid, robust (there’s the science again) and objective talent decision tools. This enables raw potential to rise to the top, and the employers to identify the individuals who, with focused support and development, will help their organizations become more diverse and innovative, and ultimately, more productive.

UK TV show host and the award ceremony’s presenter, Rachel Riley, pointed out on several occasions how impressive the extra-curricular achievements of the winners are – studying astrophysics in their spare time; setting-up charities from the age 14; learning Mandarin and Russian, and leading various student bodies. The self-motivation and drive of these undergraduates is incredible, as well as their ability to pack in varied interests and activities on top of studying for a degree!

Leveling the Playing Field

We’re proud that SHL’s science has helped to identify 14 stars of the future in highly objective ways – 14 individuals, who, perhaps, without a fair and transparent mechanism to demonstrate their raw potential and aptitude for more, might not have shone in a process focused on measuring social and interactive skills, as often is the case during traditional interviewing alone. But, with potential, engaging skills can be honed and developed.

And our research shows that graduates aren’t interested in purely subjective selection processes that can introduce unconscious bias, or in dumbed-down assessments designed more for fun than fairness either. They want a fair and transparent opportunity to showcase their talent, and for an employer to spot their potential and provide them with the support and development to grow.

In 2019, the Undergraduate of the Year winners consisted of eight men and six women, from a range of ethnicities and backgrounds. Now that sounds like a more level playing field.

To find out more about TARGETJob Undergraduate of the Year Awards, visit: https://undergraduateoftheyear.com/


Author: Sarah McLellan