Graduate hiring during COVID-19 and why it has never been more important

Graduate hiring during COVID-19 and why it has never been more important

Graduate hiring during COVID-19 and why it has never been more important

Last September, Options launched its 2020 graduate and placement programme. At the time, we expected it would run as it had each year since we first launched the scheme in Belfast in 2012.

As we now know, nothing is quite what it was in 2019. Like most firms, Options went fully remote at the start of March. The key focus in the first few months of the crisis was to ensure the safety of our employees while moving our entire customer base to working from home during a period of extreme market volatility. Three months on, COVID-19 has impacted all areas of the business, including recruitment.

The “team” has always been a cornerstone of Options’ success, and in particular, building a strong foundation for this team through high-quality graduate recruitment. We believe the curiosity, energy and enthusiasm they bring to the firm each year propels us all forward.

The scheme itself has produced some remarkable stats:

– In our Belfast office, now just shy of 150 people, 72% of the team were first hired as a graduate or placement student;
– 56% of our management ranks, VP level or above, started with the company straight out of college;
– We work really hard at recruitment. In the last 12 months, we have interviewed over 400 graduates, interns and placement students across seven countries.

On this last point, while the programme started in Belfast, it has now expanded to all other offices globally. In 2019, we hired graduates, interns and placement students in New York, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Belfast. In addition to the strong ties we have with Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, we have also built a great partnership with the University of Staffordshire to source and develop network engineering talent.

When assessing if we should continue with the 2020 scheme in the face of COVID-19, and the challenges the remote onboarding of graduates brings, the answer was very simple. In the near-term, we didn’t want to miss out on the inventive spark and fresh thinking graduates and placements bring to the company – something that feels even more important right now.

Longer-term, and as the above stats suggest, many of those hired as graduates are now in senior management and VP-level roles and it’s vital that that pipeline of technical talent is nurtured and maintained. We also wanted to continue to offer students (and our university partners) the opportunity to avail of what is a tremendous vantage point from which to learn financial technology and the financial services industry.

At as result, we have continued to interview, recruit and onboard graduates and placement students despite COVID-19. Last Monday saw our first graduate and placement intake since the start of the crisis with more scheduled for later in the summer and into the Autumn.

So, I want to take this opportunity to welcome those who are started with Options last week. And to those graduate and placement students with offers from us for the coming months, we look forward to seeing you very soon.

Kieran O’Connor
VP People & Operations
University of Limerick Alum

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