In-House Recruitment’s Early Careers Conference

25 March 2024

On Thursday, 106 were one of an array of companies partnering with In-House Recruitment for their Early Careers Conference.  Armed with monitors, posters, and love hearts, we took to London Bridge to introduce the attendees to employer branding with more love. With a schedule chock full of tips, insights, and strategies to get aid early careers and foster future talent. After some light refreshments, custard pastries, and mushroom rolls, it was time for the main event to begin.  

The whole affair was wonderfully hosted by Natasha Preocanin who kept things moving swiftly with a lightness that put us all at ease. First speaking duties was a two-hander with to Estelle McCartney from Arctic Shores and Steve Norton from Aston Martin who took us through their collaboration and how they’re future-proofing applications.  

Aston Martin had four main challenges when it came to hiring: skills shortage, shrinking talent teams, falling short of diversity ambitions, and candidate experiences. On top of this, they’d seen a marked increase of the use in ChatGPT and that from a survey of 2000 candidates, 72% were using GenAI every week. This was putting a major blockage on finding the right fit for any one role as CVs were beginning to look the same and ChatGPT was found to out perform 98.8% of verbal reasoning tests. This called for an overhaul of Aston Martin’s hiring process. Using the analogy of a tree, McCartney explained that hard and soft skills were perishable and would change over time, like leaves, but that they needed to access core strengths, the roots.  

This involved centring the potential of a candidate, raising awareness of association bias, and creating new ways of assessing candidates that were visual and dynamic that could not be understood by AI. This included a quick time game, half day visits to Aston Martin’s offices for assessment, and stepping away from psychometrics. It was an engaging deep dive into how to break down roles into their core elements and recentre potential in candidates.  

Next up, we were introduced to the shady world of qualification fraud by Chris Rea from Propsects. Chris started his talk with a test of how many people we thought lied on their CV based on a CIFAS survey, showing us at least 1 in 11 and that 4 out of 25 didn’t think it was illegal to do so. What followed was an introduction to the personal and professional damage that scam artists can get away with, including in the NHS, because of lax vetting of candidates. This even included stories of scammers posing as universities to offer false diplomas. Maintaining processes and leading with transparency was how we could undermine the authority of these scammers and protect company interests.  

After a roundtable about our main challenges in recruitment, we had our first panel featuring David Andrews from M&S and Leila Moghadam from Latham & Watkins, chaired by Nicky Garcea discussing emerging talent strategies for 2024. Because of digital fatigue post-Covid, Much of this regarded folding in the employee journey and making sure candidates could feel what it would be like to be part of an organisation. Alongside this, both Andrews and Moghadam had spent time repositioning their brands to make them appealing to newer talent.  

Following them, Karen Smith from ACCA and Jackie Grisdale from SMRS who wanted to show how data-infused creative was the key to unlocking success in early careers. This started with asking if any of the guests had a target value proposition alongside their EVP, many of whom didn’t. Luckily, Smith and Grisdale showed that there was a wealth of data at our fingertips. This could be found through focus groups, surveys, competitor analysis, benchmarking, market and sector analysis, and a whole range of other methods. Alongside this, they took media mapper insights into account, for example finding that 68% of their talent pool was using socials, more specifically that 57% of women in STEM stream video content. This was the kind of nuance they could find in their hiring process and realise in their creative output, repurposing content to appeal to these streams that actually cut through to candidates.  

Then it was time for our second panel about the pros and cons of hybrid, virtual, and F2F assessments. Lauren Williams from TopScore took charge in leading the discussion, with Gwynne Goodfield Bem from HMRC, Paul Sobers from National Grid, Hollie Powell from EDF, and Toby Gordon from FCA. All of the panellists had a lot to cover in this but what struck me was the value of holding the line when it came to overhauling hiring strategy to achieve larger corporate goals. Not only was digital benefits good to sustainability but cut down a huge amount on printing costs, and even upping efficiency meaning candidates got offers 24 hours after the assessment process. After so much discussion of how HR and employer brands can become more agile, it was great to hear how this was being done at organisations.  

Now that we had our imagination sparked, it was time to see what the practicalities were in crafting an award-winning early careers strategy, presented by Gemma Appleford from IPG Media. They had worked with big names such as Amazon, Nike, and Lego, but because of this they were spread thin to achieve their key recruitment goals. This led to constructing a new student pipeline, targeting schools and colleges to help launch an early careers community. This helped to streamline the recruitment process by introducing one way video interviews to prioritise flexibility for candidates. This strategy managed to save £286k in training fees, their in-take rate more than doubled, and a 100% completion rate of their apprenticeships. It was another lesson in how hiring is not just the job of the recruitment team but needs to be a cultural concern for all in a business.  

After some more roundtables and coffee breaks, where we actually shared some success stories in hiring practice, Frances Bennett and Holly Fey, a dream team from Burges Salmon, took us inside the firm’s trailblazing apprenticeship scheme. In a familiar background, their apprenticeships were not truly representative with only 18% of candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This led to more attentive processes of teaching potential candidates how to apply through coaching sessions, allowing for all types of questions at regular intervals of the hiring pipeline. When actually in the apprenticeship, they would have designated contact for support and allocated individual leadership supervisors. The biggest takeaway is their apprentices now could benefit from a career with longevity at the firm because they took the time to recentre their experience and foster talent where it was needed.  

Finally, the day rounded out with Gaby Patenaude from, who’s talk on decoding Gen Z and redefining early careers engagement. This began with them identifying key behavioural trends within Gen Z they had found during the hiring process, namely scepticism of anything corporate, being digital natives who craved community, and wanting careers that made a difference. The first they navigated by engaging with real life employee stories and making them the focus of their campaigns. When younger talent could identify with someone on a journey, they became more receptive than from top down explanations. This was one of the many ways they externalised the internal, essentially showing rather than telling. To further this, they founded advocacy programmes that leveraged networks of their peers to increase authentic endorsement of their company.  

This high touch and personal candidate experience allowed them to differentiate from the competition. This included both offline and online applications, in-office experiences, and pre-onboarding nurturing journeys for their applicants. It was an insightful detail into how to repurpose the fundamentals of the employer-employee offer, cutting to the bare bones that resonate most with Gen Z. It was refreshing to see an analysis on this demographic that didn’t play into the stereotypes you often see in retaining their engagement and gave us much to use in future audience targeting.  

By and large, the In-House Recruitment Early Careers Conference was a heartening look at the different forms personalisation will take as we step into this new era of company transformation. In terms where the hiring process can become increasingly faceless, these recruiters were going the distance in humanising the employee experience and showing great investment and care in the journey of potential and current employees.  

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