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Businesses must do more on social mobility

Graduates are reluctant to join organisations not addressing social mobility and are put off by bad interview experiences and lack of transparency around pay

More than a third of young people (35%) in the UK would reject a business if they perceived the workforce to be made up of predominantly middle- and upper-class employees, according to research from graduate recruitment app Debut.

Its report, 'Working with class: The state of social immobility in graduate recruitment', which surveyed 2,000 graduates, found that almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) did not think businesses are doing enough to hire people from diverse backgrounds.

Many also expressed dissatisfaction with the recruitment process, with 66% saying they felt the need to change who they are, including their appearance, to make a good impression at an interview.

The research also suggested that businesses need to be more transparent about pay. More than two-thirds (67%) said they would be put off applying for a job that isn’t immediately transparent about salary. This could be because some people need a clear number to plan their living expenses, the research stated.

These findings correlate with a recent report from the Social Mobility Commission, which found that those from better-off backgrounds are 80% more likely to be in a professional job than their working-class peers. Poor social mobility and workplace discrimination is estimated to cost the UK economy £270 billion each year.

“This a huge problem, and it's multilayered," James Bennett, CEO of Debut, told HR magazine. "There are processes that employers have embedded to try and make the application process fairer, but what about the talented young people who aren't applying for roles or graduate schemes because they can't see themselves as a fit for the organisation? How do you get to that hidden majority who did not go to private school? Employers need to think about how they can reach them.”

Bennett added that addressing social mobility is vital to attracting the next generation of talent: “Younger generations are arguably far more clued up than previous generations were on social issues. Considering they've lived through a financial crash and a great deal of change politically this isn't surprising.

"Even in a time of high employment it's important to remember that the job market can still produce a lot of anxiety, especially for young people. Employers have a huge task ahead of them.”

Charlotte Leer, emerging talent recruitment manager UK at HSBC, said that businesses must do more to tackle bias within the application process. As this timely report shows the scale of this issue is vast. However, all businesses should be taking steps to address this,” she said.

“For example, we’ve taken the bold decision to focus on a strengths- behaviours- and values-based approach. This enables all candidates to present themselves as they are, rather than how we would like them to be, while also removing the filters and biases arising from a CV-driven approach.”