The BAME job application “boom” explained

Ethnic minority graduates are making more job applications than their white counterparts, is this a sign of growing inclusivity or are they simply battling bias?

The number of job applications made by BAME graduates is rising; is this a sign of inclusion empowerment or a dogged determination to overcome recruitment bias?

BAME graduate job applications vs white figures

The 2020 report by graduate recruitment app, Debut Careers, found that BAME graduates were applying for 45% more positions than white university leavers where Asian and British Asian graduates applied for 26% more and Black graduates 38% more. Do these figures show an end to hiring bias is on the cards or that a hiring gap is holding back BAME graduates from securing their first jobs?

The report’s authors think these figures come from BAME applicants trying to mitigate hiring bias by proactively applying for more jobs. The report also suggests that over-applying for jobs in lieu of industry contacts could also be a factor that reveals they are not securing roles as easily as white university leavers, suggesting hiring bias remains. This is seen in the number of Black males who applied to jobs at a significantly higher rate (75% in 2019) than white males. In 2020, the report found this rate had come down to 40%, yet the fact remains that Black graduates are still failing to secure job roles.

While population sizes must be taken into account, the much lower levels of white male job applications could be down to ideas around privilege, whether conscious or unconscious. The figures support the view that white men don’t need to apply to as many jobs because they are more likely to be interviewed and hired by people who look and sound like them. This, of course, results in the perpetuation of hiring bias across organisations and leaves BAME candidates and women out in the cold.

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

The impact of COVID-19 on the rising numbers of job applications among ethnic-minority graduates cannot be underestimated. BAME communities fared badly under the last economic disaster, namely the 2008 recession where they faced higher unemployment figures as well as lower earning power and self-employment rates, which made pre-existing inequalities even worse.

Considering that BAME people are statistically more likely to be unemployed or in precarious work than their white counterparts, it’s no wonder that BAME graduates are making a determined effort at applying for jobs during this economically unstable period. Their parents, who no doubt remember 2008 clearly, may have encouraged their many applications. In fact, the report’s authors stipulate that parental pressure could be a factor for increased job applications among BAME graduates recently.

Consciousness-raising due to the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement could have also played a part in rising job applications among BAME and especially Black graduates. With businesses increasingly encouraged to show they uphold racial equality and inclusion in their values, BAME candidates may feel more confident about applying for job roles or at least feel empowered about tackling hiring bias and lack of ethnic minority representation in organisations head-on considering the societal shifts BLM has helped enact.

Commenting on the findings, Kim Connor Streich, Marketing Director at Debut said: “The pandemic has seen people from different BAME communities hit the hardest, and with that will come worry and a desire to firm up future prospects. Couple this with a potential feeling that you need to be proactive and apply for more jobs to tackle bias, and you can see why many may be applying for more jobs.

“Many from these different groups may simply be using a proactive approach to tackle bias, both conscious and unconscious. They may find that opportunities which fall into the laps of their white counterparts just aren’t coming their way, so they have to apply for far more jobs before they get the roles they desire.”

While BAME representation within higher education institutions is growing, with the numbers of ethnic-minority students at Cambridge University is at a record high, growing confidence around BAME inclusion is not translating into inclusive graduate recruitment. To overcome the ethnicity hiring gap, especially at the graduate level, D&I minded recruitment companies must make themselves known. At the same time, businesses themselves must remain critical of their hiring practises to cut out bias as and when they see it.

It’s not the responsibility of ethnic minority graduates to change the system; it’s down to organisations themselves to embed diversity and inclusion into the heart of their mission and values to encourage the very brightest and best candidates to apply for roles, regardless of their background.
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