From Bradford to Bristol on a mystery shopper tour

As part of Responsible Business Week and Business in the Community’s Future Proof campaign, backed by the City & Guilds Group, we’ve been travelling across the UK bringing together groups of young people to assess the accessibility of companies’ recruitment processes and their websites. This work continues our national study through which more than 75 companies’ recruitment processes have been “mystery shopped” by young people.

From an overuse of industry jargon to unclear job descriptions missing out key details, our “mystery shopping” has thrown up some interesting findings. Most significantly we found that two thirds (66%) of the young people who assessed the companies’ vacancies said they didn’t actually understand the roles they would be applying for.  

To continue our work, this week we ran workshops in Bristol, Bradford and Manchester – here’s how we got on! 


We started the week in Bristol, running our first ever workshop in the area, kindly hosted by Filwood Community Centre, where we invited a group of young people aged between 17-25,  to review the recruitment processes of local businesses. Despite being one of the UK’s largest economic centres, with around 17,500 businesses, Bristol’s youth unemployment rate (16-24) is still higher than the UK average at 15.2%.

With one young woman keen to start her own business, the young people had high ambitions and lots of advice for employers. One website was praised for making the company “feel friendly and like you’re making a difference”. But there was also a strong call for job descriptions to outline practical day to day responsibilities with one participant saying: “If I was applying I'm not sure I'd really know what to expect from the job on a daily basis, which would put me off.”


The next day we were up in Bradford at Yorkshire Water running our third workshop in the area with students, apprentices and young people looking for work. Despite being from a range of employment backgrounds, the young people had lots to say to each other, valuing the opportunity to network.

One thing that came out of the discussions was the need for job descriptions to include key details as one young person explained “there are so many opportunities out there, knowing important details, such as salary, would help with making a decision about a role.” The young participants also stressed the importance of offering opportunities to grow in an organisation saying one role “isn’t very appealing to younger people, no progression opportunities mentioned, no training mentioned – it seems like a role you would apply for if you are just looking for any job.”


Finally we finished the week in Manchester, holding our final mystery shopper at Barclays RISE, a new hub in the city for start-ups companies and small businesses. The young people who joined us were from Greater Manchester Talent Match, a Big Lottery-funded programme offering long-term support to young people looking for employment in the area.

The young people were quick to start assessing companies and their online recruitment processes. One common problem they identified was the poor designs of the recruitment websites. In one particularly frustrating case you had to register on the site before you could even see the requirements you needed for the job. At time they also found it difficult to actually find the jobs concluding that “it’s better to have a page just for entry level apprenticeships or jobs”.

Over the past week, we’ve met some great young people and gathered some really useful feedback for employers. Here are our top insights for employers:

  1. Add more practical details about the role and day to day responsibilities – this allows applicants to make a more informed decision about whether they want to invest the time in applying.

  2. Make it easier to find and apply for entry level roles – long winded user journeys that include clicking lots of links and registering before you can see the job descriptions and criteria are just difficult and unhelpful. 

  3. Ditch the jargon – it just puts young people off and makes them question whether they have enough knowledge and industry experience to apply for the role.

  4. If the role is entry level make sure you say so – too many jobs are not explicit about whether a role is entry level this leave young people unsure about whether they can apply.

  5. Mention future progression and training opportunities – Young people want to know whether there’s a future career path at your company.

For more tips download our new employer guide to updating your recruitment process.