‘Netpotism’: graduate jobs market risks becoming a ‘closed shop’, warns firm

A survey of HR managers suggests the majority are turning to their personal digital networks to source graduate talent

Employers need to do more to break the trend of ‘netpotism’, or nepotism driven by online networks, according to research commissioned by an online career community for young graduates.

A Savanta survey of nearly 1,000 current students and recent graduates and more than 500 human resource managers, commissioned by Handshake, suggests ‘netpotism’ is a growing force in the graduate jobs market.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of HR bosses say they rely more on existing online connections and professional networks, such as LinkedIn.

The survey suggests that more than one in four (28%) employers prefer to hire graduate candidates they already know. The majority (57%) say they are more reliant on word of mouth recommendations because of the pandemic.

Three in 10 asked colleagues to suggest recent graduates or students for positions during the pandemic, the figures suggest, while 17% turned to family members for recommendations.

Handshake – which comprises a community of 17 million students across the UK and US – warned the graduate jobs market “risks becoming a closed shop following COVID-19”. Two-thirds of HR managers said they intend to conduct more of the recruitment process online in future; a trend Handshake said would increase the rise of ‘netpotism’.

“There’s a huge amount of talent out there that faces disproportionate barriers”
Dimitar Stanimiroff, Handshake

A third of students and graduates (33%) think job applications and interviews are biased towards people who have existing connections, while 15% feel excluded from job opportunities due to their background.

Encouragingly, 48% of students and recent graduates score their experiences with university careers services at 80% or above, but around one in five (18%) felt their university doesn’t do enough to facilitate useful connections with employers.

Handshake says Early Career Networks could help establish useful career links for disadvantaged students. The organisation also recommends universities provide students with more support with video interviews to help the one in four (24%) who feel under-confident in this area.

Dimitar Stanimiroff, from Handshake, said of the findings: “The increasing use of technology as part of the applications and hiring process has the potential to really help out both businesses and those starting out in their career.

“But it also presents a very real danger of supplementing one set of closed networks like over-reliance on word of mouth, for another set, via online professional social networks that rely on existing connections. All of this means a less diverse pool of applicants to draw from.

“At a particularly complicated time to be entering the jobs market, businesses, university careers services and tech providers need to be pulling together to make the hiring process as smart as possible. There’s a huge amount of talent out there that faces disproportionate barriers.”


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