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Candidate experience is not a passing craze: a round-up of views on Graduate Recruitment from the ISE Student Recruitment Showcase

January 31, 2018


Last week, PSI Talent Measurement sponsored the annual recruitment conference hosted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) in London, UK.

In attendance were hundreds of graduate recruiters and HR professionals from across a wide range of industries. In the exhibition area were a myriad of talent management suppliers showcasing their latest products and services (PSI Talent Measurement included). It was a fantastic place to network and learn about some of the great current innovations in our field.

The keynote speeches also revealed some interesting figures around the state of the graduate market. For example, £72 million was invested into UK graduate recruitment in 2017. The average time to hire has reduced from 11 weeks (2016) to 8 weeks (2017). This suggests much of that investment may have gone into processing candidates more efficiently. One mechanism by which organizations are achieving more efficiency is video interviewing; this technique now covers more than 50% of the graduate recruitment market in the UK.

Apprenticeships grew year-on-year by 13%, despite the number of young people in the UK reducing (due to low birth rates in the early 90s). This certainly has no bearing on university Careers department activities; just over 90% of them still organize careers fairs, and have seen an approximate 20% increase (year-on-year) in targeted student engagement activity (highly linked to the social mobility agenda).

During a Q&A at the end of the first keynote, Stephen Isherwood (Chief Executive of ISE) was asked “If you could tell us your New Years’ resolution for graduate recruitment, what would it be?” The answer seemed to predict the tone for many of the following presentations throughout the day. “I’d want to focus more on the candidate experience” was the response.

This topic dominated many of the supplier presentations in one of the breakout rooms. It also clearly resonated with the delegates at PSI’s speaking slot at the end of the day. Alongside Philippa Riley (PSI’s International R&D Director), I asked the crowd (via interactive poll) to tell us their most significant considerations when deciding on the assessment tools they wanted to use in a campaign. The top response, from 86 votes, was around ensuring a “positive candidate experience” (29%), closely followed by “identifying the right talent” (23%). Third came “fairness and diversity” (22%), above “cost” (14%), “branding” (4%) and “time to hire” (4%).

This did not surprise me at all. Recruiters are more aware than ever of the tangible commercial impact from the candidate experience (see Virgin Media’s 2014 case study, one of the most insightful examples), and they want to get it right. Throughout the day, many suppliers were showcasing their video interviewing products, virtual reality environments/headsets and Games Based Assessment tools which address the precise issue of candidate experience, meanwhile expertly justifying their impact through practical examples.

The takeaway for me though, which I emphasized during PSI’s talk, was that the emphasis on candidate experience must coincide with identifying the right talent. Our delegates demonstrated this by barely voting for “uniqueness” (1%) as something they want in their recruitment process; this suggests to me that the candidate experience is not viewed as a passing craze by any industry.

This is something of which we remind ourselves frequently at PSI. While we are experimenting with new methods of assessment (such as escape rooms and micro-simulations), we are very conscious of the need to validate our methods to prove they are not just a gimmick, but they genuinely predict performance as well.

Jordon Jones


Jordon Jones is a Senior Consultant at PSI Talent Measurement.

Click here to learn more about PSI's Talent Measurement solutions.

Silvana Andrade is the Digital Marketing Manager at PSI Services, International.