In an economic climate described as “one of the most challenging labour market scenarios for young people in recent decades,” researchers found that young people were blighted by low demand, high competition and a new speed of digital recruitment that moves faster than ever before.
Professor Becky Tunstall and Professor Anne Green of the Social Exclusion Unit at the LSE led a team of researchers to recreate the job seeking experiences typically encountered by young people looking for low skilled entry positions in the UK.
Fictional personas of candidates aged 22 to 24 were created to apply for 667 real jobs in three different geographical locations with varying rates of unemployment.
Three applications were sent to each of the 667 selected jobs; two of each batch were allocated the postcodes of deprived areas to test for evidence of postcode discrimination. Over 2,000 applications were sent to a range of jobs adverts for finance assistants, security guards, cleaners, care workers, hotel workers, office assistants and kitchen porters.
Despite widely held belief in postcode discrimination, statistically there was no evidence of candidates being rejected on account of where they lived. In 192 cases the employer showed a preference for one of more of the candidates from the batch of three sent. Young people with good qualifications and appropriate work experience were shown to be shortlisted for interview, regardless of their postcode.
The research highlighted the difficulties that young people faced in today’s job market. As with any economy in a recession, lower demand for labour and a competitive economy creates a problem for those trying to enter the work force – young people are always more vulnerable to unemployment and underemployment.
In this new digital age, a faster paced recruitment process has developed and young people seemed unaware of the speed required to respond to a job posting – a person’s success was almost dependent on their ability to respond to adverts as soon as they were posted. Fast moving and predominantly online, the concept of a closing date was defunct as nearly 30% of jobs advertised on the internet were taken down after a week of being posted. Employers removed job adverts as soon as sufficient applications were received. Vacancies were seen to close to candidates within days and in some cases within hours of being posted online.
Access to internet was key to success. Young people who had no internet access at home or only sporadic internet access were at a severe disadvantage and according to the researchers had “low or zero chance of success” if they did not respond to a job as soon as it was seen.
Young people were found to be reacting to the challenge of finding employment by volunteering, turning to friendship networks to find work and improving their qualifications.
Co-author Anne Green, now Professorial Fellow at Warwick Institute for Employment Research added: “This research provides evidence that employers are not discriminating according to postcode and provides helpful advice for young job seekers to make sure their qualifications and CVs are good, and to apply for jobs as soon as they are advertised.”
The challenges for disadvantaged young people seeking work
Joseph Rowntree Report.