"We need to ask the right questions": Katerina Rüdiger, Chief Community Officer, CIPD on youth recruitment

March 7 2016  —  by Katerina Rüdiger, Chief Community Officer, CIPD

After CIPD’s Recruitment Conference earlier this month; Katerina Rüdiger, Chief Community Officer, CIPD, explains the challenges and opportunities for HR Professionals in youth recruitment.

What do you think are the main challenges facing HR professionals when they are recruiting young people for entry level jobs?

The most basic challenge is that while there are lots of unemployed young people looking for work, there is a fundamental mismatch because many of them they don’t know where to look for work and how to apply for jobs. Many young people have no idea about the breadth of jobs that are available out there. So we would say to employers to make the effort to go and recruit where young people are and to use social media. From my perspective it’s as much a lack of young people knowing how to “apply”, as a lack of opportunities. I think there is also another mismatch as young people find it difficult to sell themselves in the recruitment process that currently exist. Without work experience it’s hard for them to articulate their skills in the standard application format. If they don’t have work experience their CVs can often look very similar. HR managers need to learn how to ask the right questions and help young people to draw out and show their potential. This can be done by moving away from competency-based questions and towards strength-based interview techniques. Finally I think there is a big challenge about convincing the wider organisation that this is important. HR managers need to get line managers on side before recruitment to make sure there is not a mismatch of expectation and that they understand that it may take a young person in an entry level role a bit of time to “hit the ground running”.  They need to expect that the young person may need more direction and management initially. Part of this is also about designing jobs that are truly entry level within businesses.

At the conference, we heard a lot about how technology is changing HR processes. How do you think can technology help businesses to recruit young people more effectively?

As I’ve said before, it’s about going to where the young people are. Young people are using social media so it makes sense to use that platform to raise your companies profile among young people and tell them about the opportunities available. Some companies are also now using technology to make recruitment more youth-friendly, asking for video clips instead of CVs. This kind of innovation is very encouraging and many are saying this method gives them a better feel for the person and their potential than a standard CV. Apps are also being developed to help young people to understand how to map out their experiences beyond work and present their skills. O2 has done a lot of work in this area. On all levels I think technology is providing ways for businesses to recruit young people more effectively.

The conference was an ideal opportunity for people working in recruitment to network and hear about best practice in this area. What do you think are the most effective ways to share best practice for youth recruitment among HR professionals?

Well firstly I’d say CIPD events! It’s very useful to bring people together in forums, roundtables and workshops so they have an opportunity to talk through the challenges they are facing, many of which are similar across different sectors. Case studies are also very important as many employers want to be able to make these changes but it’s about helping them to do it and showing them examples of companies who have done it successfully. It is also about making sure your guides and toolkits are very practical and focused on implementation. I think organisations like CIPD and Business in the Community play a valuable role in distributing best practice and providing these kinds of opportunities to network.

In youth recruitment often employers are looking for potential rather than experience – how can recruitment processes measure potential?

As I’ve said before, a lot of this is about training interviewers and line managers in techniques which help to uncover the skills and potential a young person has through the questions they ask. We need to move away from competencies and towards strengths, skills and behaviours. This means recognising broader kinds of experience. At the moment CIPD is working on promoting volunteering as an important source of experience for recruiters to draw on when they are looking for new employees. We are promoting alternatives to offering just work experience to young people as they need to find activities that demonstrate a candidate’s attitude and resilience. Recruiters also need to really think about what they are actually asking from young people. They need to get better at identifying what they are looking for and translating that into job descriptions and specifications in a way that is meaningful.

With responsibility for skills now being placed on the employer through the changes to apprenticeships, how does this affect recruitment? Employers are now recruiting people who will go on to learn in their businesses – how can recruiters identify future students as well as future employees? How can managers ensure that young people continue to grow and develop in their roles?

While the apprenticeship levy incentivises companies to employ more young people, the big challenges will be surrounding implementation and ensuring quality of apprenticeships. Businesses will need to think about how apprentices fit into their company and make sure they are creating appropriate entry level roles for them with learning opportunities. It is very important for businesses to think about how their apprentices will be supported - who will be doing the mentoring, who will be managing the apprentice? This is vital to make sure young apprentices get a quality experience of progressing in the business. Businesses need to think about how this will fit into their wider workforce planning.

Katerina Rüdiger

Katerina is the CIPD’s Chief Community Officer. She develops and manages the delivery of the CIPD’s strategy towards its volunteer workforce, community affairs, corporate social responsibility activities and the voluntary sector. She leads on driving the CIPD’s presence in the charitable space and delivery on the CIPD’s purpose of championing better work and working lives. Her department runs the CIPD’s volunteering programmes, including the Steps Ahead mentoring programme, which matches HR volunteers with jobseekers for face to face mentoring around labour market access and employability skills. Previously, Katerina headed up the CIPD’s policy campaigns department and led on the CIPD’s work on youth unemployment, developing the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme.