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Class of '21 Part 3: Upping the energy in your online graduate recruitment journey

Class of ’21 are a unique breed of candidates, shaped by their experiences of the digital world and COVID-19’s career and academic curtailing influence. In part 3 of our Class of ’21 series, Nia Exon continues her exploration of strategies to attract this unique young talent.

Read part one (hyperlink)

Read part two (hyperlink)

In part two of this series we went over how graduate recruiters can use social media, digital attraction and virtual careers fairs to make appealing overtures to fresh graduate talent, also known as the Class of ’21.

Once you’ve piqued interest, or secured an application, what next? How to continue to adapt your processes to appeal in a wholly online environment?

Luckily, there’s other ways to appeal to this generation as you move through the candidate journey. Let’s look at what you can achieve virtually.

Self-selection questionnaires and course/job scheme matchers

More and more graduate recruiters are introducing self-selection tools such as mini questionnaires which have the power to offer honest insights of what a graduate scheme could entail for new recruits.

This approach to data gathering can help you capture very personal and often hard-to-reach views and thoughts of the applicants. It’s all about the graduate’s unique approach to the questions and dilemmas posed to them in these subtle tests that highlight their individual qualities. It’s also a cost-effective way to allow candidates to self-select out of a process that they aren’t right for.

Another helpful tool is a course/job scheme matcher, where graduates can click on their type of degree course and then be shown grad scheme routes which match their specialism.

The Class of ‘21 are likely to be graduating at a time of economic downturn and its likely volumes of applications, per graduate scheme place, will increase dramatically. You must react smart and move fast by integrating process screening mechanisms, such as self-selection and course/job scheme matchers to manage candidate volume.

Video interviews and situational judgment tests

These are excellent ways to screen high volumes of applicants, test motivations for applying and immerse graduates in the nuances of your organisation. Graduate recruiters and employers need to be aware of diversity pitfalls such as unconscious bias when it comes to video interviewing. Penna has supported clients with this by designing recruitment and interview skills training via e-learning platforms.

Situational judgement tests may well evolve in the future to reflect the working world post-Covid-19. For example, graduates may be asked to immerse themselves in situations such as, ‘you are asked to attend a virtual client meeting at the last minute in place of a sick colleague. You’ve never met the client. How do you prepare?’

The Class of ‘21 will have a chance to demonstrate their strengths and potential here. It’s highly likely that they have had to navigate difficult virtual meetings already during Lockdown with friends, family and even their lecturers/tutors

Make your interviews work within the life experiences ’21 candidates have been through of late. You’ll reap the benefits.

Assessment centre and interview

What does good look like? Is your competency framework up to date, given the skills sets needed after the Covid-19 crisis? Qualities such as resilience in the face of disruption, showing initiative, dealing with complexity, commerciality, leadership and digital communication skills are likely to be higher up the wish list.

Who will impress you? Is it the graduate who organised a neighbourhood singalong during the Thursday night ‘big clap?’ Maybe it’s the graduate who volunteered to serve free sandwiches to NHS workers whilst studying or the graduate who taught three elderly relatives to use Zoom and organised a weekly family quiz. The Class of ‘21 has a unique story to tell and graduate employers have a unique opportunity to harness their skills.

The Class of ‘21 are much less likely to have physically met someone from a graduate employer. They would probably enjoy a tour, so show them around! The assessment centre and interview stages can be fantastic leverage to offer that virtually. Open your doors and give someone a genuine scope of your EVP by making use of video and VR solutions.

We support all aspects of virtual assessment centre design and delivery including; exercise design for a virtual environment (including video, written and group exercises), platform interface, logistics (marking guides and hiring manager training), demos and secure distribution of documents and candidate communications.

Offers, acceptances and onboarding

A lot can happen in the nine months leading up to a September scheme start date. To maximise the return on investment, graduate employers need to continue communication with their intake for 2021 and measure the response where possible.

This will ensure that on Day 1, graduates feel valued and engaged with your brand and you won’t have candidates dropping out of your scheme ahead of start.


The Class of ‘21 have been through experiences which previous years won’t have. Let’s harness the skills they have developed during the Covid-19 crisis and give them the opportunity to shine throughout the graduate recruitment process.

Having a well-planned procedure which is ‘virtual environment ready’ is key to identifying and selecting the right graduate talent for your organisation.

What are your thoughts on the Class of ‘21 and how, as graduate recruiters and employers, we can harness their skills? Join the talk, contribute to the conversation. #classof21 #wearePenna

Want to find out more?

Ready to reach out? Write to Nia Exon, our Business Development Director, at

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Class of '21 Part 2: Making a splash on social and victory in virtual careers fairs