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How Virgin Media O2 uses blind recruiting to close the experience gap

Virgin Media O2 has committed to creating 200 apprenticeship, graduate and intern roles this year

Blind recruiting is proving useful for inclusively attracting people to Virgin Media O2’s apprenticeship schemes and entry-level roles, according to Karen Handley, the business’ head of future careers.

The strategy of looking at a candidate’s skills, instead of their work experience, is especially important in light of the experience gap exposed by the business’ latest research findings: 74% of 25-to-34-year-olds have been rejected from an entry-level role for not having enough experience.

Speaking to HR magazine, Handley says: “For us, it was quite a basic thing: we don't need to see certain information.

Read more: Mid-market business turns to apprenticeships

“We've been doing blind recruitment for a number of years. It’s about putting inclusivity into action.

“We ask for the minimum criteria that the government sets for apprenticeships, and we scrutinise our retraining providers to do the same. It has made a massive difference.

“It is hard. It takes time. But our results show that it's worthwhile. We have 93% engagement from our future careers cohorts, and 98% are proud to work for us.

“Other tools we use to support candidates include giving personalised feedback, putting coaching calls in, making sure we describe what roles are, and welcoming questions.”

Read more: Apprenticeship week | How Circle Health Group uses apprenticeships to cure talent shortages

The team at Virgin Media O2 does not ask potential apprentices for CVs, and it does not require prior work experience for any of its apprenticeship, graduate or internship roles.

Instead, the business’ recruitment process focuses on assessing candidates’ skills, strengths and motivations.

How can HR get other businesspeople on side with this kind of blind recruitment strategy? Make them feel part of the journey, Handley argues.

“For a line manager who’s used to looking at CVs, it might be a bit of a comfort blanket. Bring that manager on the journey, and showcase the difference that blind recruiting makes.”

Virgin Media O2 has committed to creating 200 apprenticeship, graduate and intern roles in 2024. Once entry-level candidates are recruited, they can elect to join the business’ future careers committee, which is exclusively for apprentices, interns and graduates. The group consults on application forms and processes. It also organises induction days for the next intake.

“The apprenticeship levy has enabled us to offer a broader range of apprenticeships – over 30 different types,” Handley explains. She encouraged HR leaders to take advantage of government-funded initiatives for apprenticeships, describing them as “a great way to support reskilling and upskilling”.