Hiring The Class Of 2021: A Guide For Recruiters

The last time college graduates faced an uncertain job future, it was 2008 and we were staring down at the Great Recession. This time, it’s worse. 

Statistics suggest that the pandemic has left us with a worse labor market than 2008. While some companies like Google, Salesforce, and Amazon decided to forge ahead with remote internships despite the pandemic, there were many like L’Oreal, Indeed, Discovery Inc. and Buzzfeed who had to cancel offers. Hiring freeze was a commonly used term across industries last year.

Now, with the vaccine in play and normalcy looking achievable, there are signs that the freeze has begun to thaw. Monster’s recent Future Of Work report filled out by 3,100 respondents shows that tech hiring is on the rise. 49% of the respondents from the tech industry who took the survey said that they would either backfill existing roles or open up new ones in 2021. 

So, that’s good news! But…

If you’re a tech recruiter hiring in 2021, you know that the playing field has changed. First up, you’re probably looking at a larger talent pool with more graduates vying for the same role than ever before. While a larger funnel is welcome, it also means that your assessment and interview process has to be streamlined and well structured.

Second, you are going to be dealing with altered expectations. The pandemic has changed the definitions of jargons we took for granted – job satisfaction, loyalty, empathy. Employees joining the workforce today expect different things than their predecessors. Our State of Developer Recruitment 2020 report shows that more developers were asking for benefits like health insurance, mental wellness days, and; most importantly, upskilling, before taking up an offer. 

Then there’s the increased focus on skill-based, bias-free hiring practices. Tech hiring has been called out again and again for it’s “boys club” nature, which keeps women and minorities away from leadership roles. As recruiters, the onus is on us to make changes at the grassroot levels (i.e. when hiring early talent) and not give in to age-old practices. 


 Impact of COVID on student hiring - infographic

Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry, we got you!

We went around and asked our favorite recruiters to give us some tips on how to realign the campus hiring process for 2021 and beyond. Here’s what they told us:

1. Be honest about job requirements and the ideal candidate fit

A downturn can cause individual workloads to increase, and might expand other job roles. If you’re still being conscientious with your hiring budget and not doing a lot of lateral hiring, then you might need interns and early hires to take on more work than under normal circumstances. Considering the influx of candidates you might be dealing with, this is the time to be open about your requirements and your company culture.

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2. Hire for skills and ditch those resumes

The class of 2021 will have a gap year on their resumes. So did the class of 2008. Many of them went back to college to enroll in further studies, while others decided to use the time upskill and learn new skills. 

Don’t look for the flaws in the resumes. Look for the skills that would make a developer fit in with your company’s changed business model and outlook. Somebody who invests in themselves and their skills is an asset during changing times, and you’ll be happy to have them on your side through tough times. 

The right tools go a long way in helping you hire the best talent. Especially with campus hiring, where you’re dealing with a large talent pool, manual assessments do not make the cut. Instead, you should look to using platforms that let you send out standardized tests to multiple candidates, and choose the best. Even with interviews, make sure you’re using a platform that has real-time pair-programming and coding features so as to gauge skill levels better. 

3. Talk about upskilling initiatives

On the subject of skills, let’s make it a two-way conversation, please. As important as it is for companies to hire skilled talent, the reverse is equally true, too. Developers at every level are looking for upskilling opportunities, and they would like their employers to understand this. In our annual recruiter survey, we found that 60.7% of our respondents said ‘Company Sponsored Upskilling’ was a must-have benefit for a tech employer. This is what prospective candidates were asking for during the interviews. 

Studies show that 40% of Gen Z professionals prefer learning and growth opportunities over other benefits at the workplace. This is a generation that grew up on YouTube tutorials and podcasts, and had an entire gap year to do nothing but upskill. Do they still want more? Yes! 

So, shine the light on your company’s L&D initiatives and get ready to have some fruitful conversations. 


4. Promote your brand values

A Deloitte survey shows that Gen Z prefers to interact with and work for companies based on their ethics, practices, and social impact. Companies have to go beyond lip service. It’s important to validate your commitment towards society through action. These values, or “karma points”, can help you create a distinct brand identity among all the others vying for the top talent. 

Having a clearly defined employer brand and promoting your core values and benefits also enables you to attract the best candidate fit right from the start, thereby reducing time-to-hire, increasing retention rates, and driving down additional costs of re-recruiting. 

Gen Z is also attracted to brands that promote and foster diversity as we found out. Companies like Salesforce with their equality and inclusion programs have changed the dialogue around D&I, and promoting your company’s efforts will only help you be a part of an important conversation.

5. Get your remote onboarding process organized

This one is a no-brainer, right? And yet, it matters quite a bit. Jamini Pulyadath; HackerEarth’s Senior Manager (Talent Acquisition), recently wrote about the ways in which recruiters can make remote onboarding easier for new employees, and you can adopt some of her tricks for your early hires as well. 

You can also take a page out of our team member Ruehie’s book here. She recently wrote a piece aimed at helping recruiters create a meaningful and engaging virtual onboarding experience for interns and I think this might help you if you’re running an internship program. 


Looking for remote hiring solutions? We got your back!

Bonus: Don’t forget to be empathetic

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review about handling grief in the workplace. What we have been through as a collective is unprecedented, and it’s hurt us all in different ways. The graduating class of 2021 lost the chance to start a life they had been dreaming of, and are worried about getting a late start to their careers. Economists call this phenomenon a ‘failure to launch’, and they say it can have a lasting impact on a generation. 

Empathy is the least we can offer them, and it doesn’t come at a high cost. So, why not bake it into your early talent hiring process, eh?


To know more about how HackerEarth can help you with your campus hiring requirements, do write to us at support@hackerearth.com

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