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Careers Guide

Autumn and the new normal for student recruitment

Remember when you thought this pandemic would only be going on for a couple of weeks? Us too! Yet here we are, with September just around the corner, and most in-person events postponed until 2021. 


With unprecedented changes, new habits, rituals and learnings, we’re now heading into the new academic year and student recruitment cycle with a few less goodie bags, pens and travel tickets. 

Whilst some of us are breathing a sigh of relief (yes, no 5am trains this year!), many other early careers professionals are rightly wondering how it’s all going to work. In person events, recruitment fairs and work experience days provide young people with powerful tools for their future. They encourage low level interaction, allow students to meet face to face with future mentors and peers, and walk away feeling genuinely inspired. 

But at least for now, things must diversify, so we wanted to share some hints and tips from across the sector on how to fill the void. 

Online events 

According to some analysts, there has been more adoption of digital tools since March than in the last five years. Crazy right? You’ve heard it from us before but this means that engaging students through meaningful, online activities this autumn will be crucial to retaining an interest in your roles. 

Online learning

In previous years, on-campus or in school presence is typically your bread and butter for autumn recruitment. It’s about students learning about your values and feeling these in person. Whilst there’s no quick fix here, you can still replicate many elements online, and generate meaningful interest too. 

Students are juggling a lot right now, so you’ll want any online events to be simple, accessible and speak directly to young people in a dialogue they understand.

The internet is booming with online resources, so focusing your work experience day or application masterclass specifically on your roles and what your company can offer is likely to work best. 


Then there’s geography to consider. It’s expected that specific cohorts of students will decide to live and study closer to home this year. A new normal for student recruitment could therefore focus on smaller, more authentic industry events that link to target regions.  

At Uptree, we’ve always favoured work experience opportunities and recruitment strategies that link to office locations. These allow for focused, targeted outreach, and provide a tangible and accessible next step for students, which is particularly important when considering social mobility

Student-led flexibility 

This autumn's recruiting season is going to be the most atypical all early careers teams have ever experienced. QS’s CEO has already stated that the global higher ed sector should aim to be flexible on application deadlines and delay start dates if needed. 

Student flexibility

This increased flexibility is also likely to present itself in recruitment and outreach. Maybe pre-pandemic, you selected students from a small pool of targeted schools and universities. Budgets around travel and resources could have prevented you from growing this network further.  

But now, with more time and flexibility, you can broaden your core list.

It’s good to recognise that qualified talent exists everywhere online.

When you do connect, do so personally and proactively, as communication is going to be key for the months ahead. 

Remain flexible when it comes to delivering updates too. If you have a role with a delayed start date, let candidates know about their next steps as early as possible, as this will inadvertently offer them support. It will also help you to build quality connections and keep your talent pool warm, despite the lack of in person events. 


And lastly, brand has never been more important. It used to be that individuals would only hear about your company through word and mouth, but this autumn (and without a fancy office to walk around) it is your brand that will make the meaningful and lasting impression. 

A tip from us is to keep your website presence up to date.

Complement your roles and pages with interesting and inspirational testimonials from recent interns, grads or apprentices.

Encourage or create an online ambassador network, who can share knowledge and ideas with anybody looking to apply.

In addition, personalise your brand. If you're running online events, have a think about your target audience. Are you looking to take positive action to employ more females into your roles? Then it might be useful to run a ‘Women in STEM’ panel, for example. 

And finally, think about the details. You might not be able to give away freebies this year, but you can definitely write branded thank you notes, a follow up with interview guidance, or proactively arrange a touch base a few weeks after your recruitment drive. These are all ways to convey culture and values in the absence of traditional careers fairs and in-office settings. 

Final thoughts

Covid 19 has created a new world order that requires a shift in perspective and thinking. As we enter a new, evolving way of doing things in early careers, one thing remains consistent. – recruitment teams must continue to provide opportunities for young people and young people will continue to want to work for organisations that show they care. 

Final thoughts

If you would like help or support with running online events, broadening your early careers outreach in schools, or simply chatting to us more about the ways we can engage your business with our brightest talent, then please get in touch at