Social Mobility And Economic Growth Hindered By Word Of Mouth Recruitment

Assistant Director at UKCES, Moira McKerracher, said: “Although it’s probably unrealistic to expect people to stop helping their children, Mr Caan raises an important point. Our research shows that the most common way for people to get a job is now word of mouth. That might be cheap, but it’s got a lot of disadvantages. It relies on people having social and professional networks – a ‘grapevine’ – which young people often don’t have. When they do, it’s often through their parents. And it narrows down the potential pool of talent for employers, who could be missing out on some fantastic staff.

“Using services like Universal Jobmatch (, advertising in the local paper, online and using social media or recruitment agencies can be very cost-effective ways of ensuring employers get access to the widest possible pool of talent, and young people are given a fair chance of a job.”

Scaling the Youth Employment Challenge, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, notes that word of mouth is now the most common way of getting a job, with 29 per cent of employers using it to recruit compared to 24 per cent two years ago. There has been a corresponding drop in the number of employers formally advertising vacancies. It also finds that the major reason employers reject job applications from young people is because they lack experience, yet only one in four (27 per cent) actually offer work experience.

The report also finds that even young people with a job are frequently under-employed, with one in five wanting to work more hours. A disproportionate amount of youth employment is in low-skill, low-pay jobs with little training and few opportunities for progression. It calls on employers to do more to help young people into work – for example, by providing work experience, mentoring, apprenticeships, traineeships and entry-level jobs.