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15 minutes

Actionable advice from leading industry speakers at the Illuminate Conference

20 October, 2022

Our Illuminate Conference, held on 21st September at The View in London, was an opportunity to hear from leading early talent experts, our keynote speaker Dame Kelly Holmes, and gain insights from graduates to develop the very best hiring strategy. 

As an industry wide DEIB event, the Illuminate Conference welcomed over 200 early talent professionals from across a range of industries. We heard from a panel of leading speakers who all contributed to a range of discussions - from diversity & inclusion, social mobility, and accessibility, to how to best engage Gen Z and diverse technology talent.

We were also joined by an incredible panel of Bright Network members, who gave detailed, personal insights which are imperative to supporting employer’s hiring strategies. To listen to the full panel discussion, you can find it here.

Here is a recap of the advice from our speakers which includes actionable tips ready to implement into any organisation: 

Best practices when recruiting for social mobility  

James Gordanifar, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at WTW, shared insights into the lessons he’s learnt whilst recruiting for social mobility. Using his experience, James’ talk centres around the challenges faced in early talent, and how to combat these challenges moving forward in your strategy. 

  1. Hiring for potential

According to James, the process of hiring candidates has changed - so what has worked previously may not work now. James believes the most predictive way to a successful hiring process is through a mixture of cognitive and structured interview/assessments. No longer can we assess based on just academics, universities or experience - instead, hiring for potential is the way forward.

  1. Academic attainment

There are many arguments for and against academic attainment, says James. He suggests that despite the UK being further ahead than other markets in removing academic entry requirements, it may not always be the answer. For some roles, there may be a direct correlation in academics and success - roles that require passing exams, for example. However, the most important way to attain talent is to support them throughout the process. From interview to onboarding and beyond, candidates need to be supported from the outset.

  1. The environment you create

Ensuring your candidates feel supported starts with communication, says James. Candidates are perceptive to genuine support, so ensure your social media posts, webinars and events, and general language are in line with how you hire for social mobility. 

Understanding the assignment: Engaging Gen Z 

Tamhid Chowdbury, Senior Account Director at M&CSaatchi, believes there’s an untapped talent pool in Gen Z

  1. Show and Tell 

Tamid highlights the importance of engaging Gen Z as “they’re the future of our workforce, so it's important to attract and retain them effectively”. Ultimately, Gen Z are looking for the same values as other generations. One way Tamid suggests is for organisations to share the story around campaigns, such as diversity, to really highlight the company’s values and true intentions. 

  1. Respect the process

Process can be as important as the outcome - initiatives and campaigns don’t need to be fully fleshed out, but organisations need to at least show a plan of being value driven. 

  1. Be values orientated 

Research by Fond in 2018 found most employees don’t know what their corporate values are. “Gen Z are in tune with organisations and know if they are values driven” says Tamid and recommends employers should shout about their values in their company communications. 

Ensuring accessibility in the workplace 

Jon Sawford, Director of Services & Operations at Whizz-Kidz gave advice and top tips for employers on implementing accessibility - provided directly from their focus group of young wheelchair users. During the interview and onboarding process, Jon believes that being an ‘accessible employer’ comes with being as transparent as possible and has given these top tips for organisations:  

  • On a job application, provide as much information as possible for the candidate - make sure they’re aware of the accessibility of the building, facilities and surrounding areas, as well as the nearest accessible transport links. 
  • During the interview, Jon suggests asking the candidate whether they would be supported by extending the length of the interview. This can accommodate candidates that require more time during the interview process. 
  • Ensure your organisation has accommodations for wheelchair users by providing accessible desks and whiteboards, as well as appropriate fire precautions.
  • Always ask - the best way to ensure your organisation is accessible for all is to ask the candidate what accommodations can be made to ensure they’re enabled and included. 

Building strategies across multiple markets 

Ben Triggs, International Expansion Director at Bright Network, took a deep-dive into international strategies and how to collaborate with partners globally - using recommendations after the German launch of Bright Network earlier this year. 

In his talk, Ben recommended: 

  • Offer internships abroad - As a two pronged approach, graduates with international experience are going to be able to adapt best to the new working world. Employers will be able to attract better talent if they can be flexible about the location of starting.
  • Facilitate international experience - This is more attractive for graduates applying as they gain wider experience, and ultimately are more valuable to the business. From our insights, 84% of those who worked abroad felt it prepared them for their jobs.
  • Coordination of your opportunities - Make sure to look into the dates of your opportunities going live and whether they can be coordinated in key markets. Is the language around roles similar between markets? How and to who is progress being reported? 
  • Data points - Collection of data across europe isn’t standardised - think about the legal, cultural, business focuses and historical data in your business. 
  • D&I strategies - Development of D&I globally isn’t as advanced as the UK, but women in STEM is big of the agenda across Europe. Although, the collection of data is difficult - particularly for Sexuality and Ethnicity data sets. This is certainly an opportunity to look into as 75% of organisations said D&I is a priority. 

Talking about Diversity & Inclusion 

One of the main themes throughout the conference was Diversity and Inclusion. Here are the key points from our speakers: 

Driving diversity and closing the digital skills gaps in technology teams

James Uffindell and Tara McKay focused on diversity in the technology space in their talk. The main challenges in hiring diverse talent in technology is due to a digital skills gap - which costs the UK economy £141 billion over 10 years. There is also a lack of diversity and representation, with only 2% of the UK tech workforce is Black Heritage and just 13% of UK tech directors are female. 

James and Tara demonstrate how Bright Network Technology Academy is tackling these challenges by equipping diverse talent with the skills, training and insights to become the future of technology change-makers. Taking consultants through a 12 week bootcamp and deploying them into leading employers, they’ve brought together cohorts of 66% ethnic minority, 50% female, 80% state-educated, 12% LGBTQIA+ and 76% STEM. 

If you’d like more information on Bright Network Technology, check it out here: 

Managing D&I in Screening and Selection 

Martin Kavanagh, Head of Assessment at Amberjack, talked us through how to manage D&I in Screening and Selection, providing actionable takeaways from their learnings of the process. 

Make assessment design inclusive

  • Build as blended assessments from first principles by gathering as much data on a candidate as possible to ensure a robust assessment. 
  • Design processes with accessibility experts, such as experts in neurodiversity.
  • Think carefully about candidate communications and practise materials to support candidates through the process. 
  • Ensure authentic representation - “as this will keep candidates in roles for longer which is what they’re looking for”.

Constantly monitor performance and take corrective action 

  • Utilise data to monitor, for example where candidates drop off in the application process, and amend where necessary

Using data to inform Diversity Recruitment Hiring 

Making full use of data when building a diverse team was the talk focus for Alissa Garland, Early Careers Recruiter and Internship Programme Manager at Bloomberg LP. Alissa’s talk encouraged our attendees to use data to inform their D&I hiring within their ATS system - particularly for top of the funnel attraction. 

Alissa used an example of how data supported their campus strategy at Bloomberg LP. The data they collected showed a good level of candidates at the top of their funnel, but showed a real drop off in offers which happened in the first in-person interview process. Using the data, Bloomberg Launch was created as an initiative to prepare candidates who are underrepresented in the industry to be more successful in the interview process. It allowed candidates to be more confident through the process, and resulted in 110 hires. Without data, “it would’ve been more challenging to identify this as an issue”.

Calling for Change 

Bob Athwal from SkyScanner focused his talk on calling for change within early talent. From an underrepresented background himself, Bob highlights the significant factors of why progress to D&I can be slow, and ways employers can truly support change: 

  • Recruiting the same people, from the same universities and the same backgrounds, will always yield the same results and prevent new ideas.
  • If there is no representation in the organisation, candidates lack the confidence to succeed. 
  • There must be a wrap-around of support for candidates from low socio-economic backgrounds - from attraction and selection, to role modelling, and support for their belonging. 
  • Change comes from education - make sure D&I and social mobility strategies are top priority within your organisation.


Our main conference room and breakout room recordings are all available to watch now. If you’d like access to these sessions, get in touch with us at