The ultimate guide to hiring recent college grads
Hiring fresh-out-of-schoolers requires some patience and ingenuity. Try these strategies.
Graduation season is around the corner, and while some almost-grads have jobs lined up, others are hungry for work. (After all, three out of four recent graduates left school without a job.)
But getting your company in front of college graduates—and weeding through the crush of applicants that may be coming your way—takes a special approach.
“Come May, there are two million students who are out there that are unemployed,” says Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, a career coaching service for young people. “It’s a very competitive and oversaturated market.”
Try these tactics to add new blood to your team:
Cultivate your social media presence
If Generation Z is anything, they’re on social media—and all types, from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat to Buzzfeed and Bustle. Your company should be present and active on as many platforms as you can manage, with a consistent message across the board.
“Don’t expect them to come to you,” says Jes Osrow, directory of people and culture for TodayTix. “That’s a big misnomer even for the best companies. You’re missing out if you’re not proactively finding those places where they are.”
If you don’t know where that is, ask. “Talk to your niece or nephew or neighbor or offer an Amazon gift card to anyone under 25 who can tell you how they found their last job,” Osrow says.
Be mindful of company culture
What corporations do in the world matters to Generation Z. “Socially responsible programs are very important to them,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. To the extent that your company is involved in projects and initiatives that help a program or cause, promote it as much as you can.
It’s also important that you know what you’re offering, because recent college grads have their eyes on the prize. “Their parents have generally had a good employment thing,” Osrow says. “It’s the empowerment generation, which is great, but it makes it way more difficult for employers—especially old-school employers—to wrangle the necessary things to entice the top talent in that age group.”
In other words, give them the hard sell. This generation is looking for upward mobility, for companies that invest in them, and they’re also looking at the work-life balance culture. “What I’m hearing more and more is, ‘We don’t mind working hard, we’ll work at 8:00 at night if we have to, but we want to leave at 5 each day to go to the gym or to get home and take care of our family,’” McDonald says. “That’s highly encouraged, especially with technology today. A lot of the work can be done in an hour or two at night if required. We stress that, and that’s a real attractant.”
Target nearby colleges
Form partnerships with campus career centers. Most colleges have career management systems to promote opportunities and can help employers with campus recruiting activities. They can also direct you to campus clubs that may produce good candidates.
You can get even more specific if you desire: The recruiters at MySlumberYard.com target the professors themselves. “We ask them to recruit top-performing students for us,” says Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of the mattress review site. “You’d be surprised by how receptive professors are to gestures from local companies. In 2018, several of our hires were a direct result of professor recommendations.”
Get them talking
Recent college graduates generally have little to no experience interviewing, so they’re probably nervous. You’ll want to approach the interview with more flexibility.
“Set them at ease,” McDonald says. “Spend a little more time on lighter conversation than you would with an experienced person that you’re recruiting. Ask them about some of the off-campus activities that might be on their resume.”
As a bonus, while you’re doing that, you can evaluate the candidate for their soft skills—how they communicate, how they listen, whether they’re able to think critically and problem solve. “You’re going to find that you’re evaluating on the potential of that person, because they don’t have a lot of experience,” McDonald says.
Consider a temporary start
When it comes to hiring college graduates, it’s difficult to know how they’re really going to perform on the job. “Many more companies are starting to test drive their applicants before they give them full-time offers,” Tipograph says. “We’ve seen this with Ivy League students. They’ll start them as an apprentice or on a three- to six-month project base with a stipend or paying hourly.”
This arrangement is useful to both parties: Employers can see how an employee performs in real-time, and employees can get a real sense of a company’s culture and whether it’s a workplace they enjoy and feel they can thrive in.
Contract work can also be attractive to graduates who hope to move on to masters-level education. “Those who plan to attend graduate school or medical school may want to benefit from gaining relevant experience while preparing for admissions,” says Christine Casey-Charter, vice president of business development for HumanEdge. “A year of contract employment in a related field is a tremendous career boost.”