November 1, 2022

What Do We Expect From Young Job Seekers?

Good employers have high expectations. But often the bar seems a little too high.

The 400,000 young Canadians currently seeking work understand that formal job requirements and rigorous HR assessments are all part of the hiring process. Employers can’t simply toss aside established vetting practices and hope for the best. 

Still, many young people feel they face unnecessary barriers to employment — including what they perceive as obstacles within employers’ recruitment practices. So, at a time when organizations are having trouble attracting the young talent they need, it’s worth taking a closer look at what those obstacles are. We asked Angela Simo Brown, MyStartr’s Executive Director, for her perspective. 

Q: Are hiring criteria too strict for junior and entry-level jobs?  

Angela: At MyStartr, rule number one is don’t generalize — look at the data. And when it comes to gauging barriers to employment, we believe the best source of insights is young people themselves. What they’ve told us is really illuminating.

For example, 37% of young job seekers say they’ve been unable to pursue an opportunity because of the total hours per week or how shifts are scheduled.

Obviously, you need timetables to keep teams and systems working efficiently. But many progressive employers are finding that the schedules everyone assumed were written in stone have just been carried on from year to year without any kind of review. And if scheduling is so rigid that it excludes promising employees — or discourages them from even applying — it’s time to rethink how hours are structured and allocated. 

Q: What other criteria are being reconsidered by employers?  

A: Among the young people we’ve surveyed, 29% have had to forego an opportunity because travelling to the employer’s location was too difficult. 

Of course, companies can’t just up and move. They choose their locations with care, especially if they operate retail networks, distribution centres or manufacturing plants. But a bit of flexibility — for instance, adjusting shift hours to better fit available transit service, or offering jobs in alternative retail or restaurant locations — could help attract a wider range of young employees.  

Q: What about expectations around schooling and experience? 

A: Many young people are frustrated by seemingly inflexible criteria in these areas. Nearly 30% say they’ve missed out on jobs because they didn’t meet the exact education requirements. And 24% have been disqualified by their lack of “related” work experience. 

Now many employers are starting to question whether all such criteria are realistic or even necessary. Or do they just reflect traditional practices that no longer match current realities? For instance, how much schooling or experience is really needed for an entry-level position that involves basic skills and in fact provides on-the-job training?

Employers have valid reasons for defining specific job criteria. But in a fast-changing employment marketplace — as young people struggle even to be recognized, let alone land a job — it’s time to reassess all steps in the recruitment process, from overly detailed job descriptions, to complex application forms, to daunting rounds of interviews. Otherwise, many strong candidates may never get a chance to show what they can do. And employers may never benefit from their tremendous potential.

Q: How is MyStartr is working to close the expectations gap?

A: Our efforts to advance youth employment in Canada are grounded in the dialogue we’ve built with young job seekers as we try to understand the obstacles that prevent them from connecting with prospective employers, and vice versa. 

We’ve just released Erasing the Barriers: Youth Employment Insights Report 2022, which I recommend to all employers hoping to deepen engagement with young job seekers — and indeed to anyone who cares about the role of youth in building a stronger and more prosperous economy.

Angela Simo Brown

Executive Director, MyStartr

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