Strategies for recruiting STEM graduates
As the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — continue to grow at a rate much faster than the average growth rate of other professions, the intense demand for STEM graduates grows along with them.
Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows companies of all sizes respond to this competition by stepping up their recruitment of STEM college graduates through tactics such as:
- Establishing internships and co-ops well before senior year
- Recruiting throughout the entire academic year
- Sponsoring campus events to gain the inside lane on student recruitment
“We have more employers on campus and they’re here more often and they’re here earlier,” says CERI Director Phillip D. Gardner, Ph.D. “Even the small companies are more active in the internship and co-op space.”
“There just aren’t enough graduates out there to fill the roles companies are hiring for. The flow of graduates is not as good as the flow of positions,” says Katie Essman, regional president of staffing firm Robert Half.
So how can small companies compete in such a tight stem labor market? Here are a few ideas:
Recent grads prefer smaller companies
When it comes to recruiting STEM graduates, small-businesses and startups may have an edge over big companies. Fewer than 20% of recent graduates want to work for a large organization, according to an Accenture Strategy college graduate employment study.
However, the number of recent grads who prefer to work for a large company has increased from previous years, so small businesses need to be aware of the factors motivating these grads in order to remain competitive. Chief among these factors are competitive compensation, formal training programs, and challenging, meaningful work.
Know your local recruiting market
While national trends are informative, local market conditions also influence graduate hiring. Organizations that lack the bandwidth to do recruitment research can reach out to a specialized staffing service, Essman says.
“The market is vastly different than it was even a year ago,” she says. “Whether you do your own hiring or use a service, reach out for advice on salary trends, what people are looking for, and to find out what you can do to make your role more attractive.”
Student recruiting tips
To compete effectively for recent STEM graduates, try these tips:
1. Make every job posting an advertisement
A well-written job description presents an opportunity to sell both the position and the organization, so be descriptive about why your company is a great place to work.
“Include a paragraph on the vision of your organization at the top of the page,” says Sam McIntire, founder of the Deskbright online learning platform. “This will orient readers to your management philosophy while emphasizing the fact that you care deeply about the business’ global impact.”
In the skills and responsibilities sections, highlight the soft skills your company values in outstanding employees, including a passion for your mission and enthusiasm for making a positive impact in the world, he says.
Location and work-life balance are two important selling points in the job description, especially for recent grads. “The temperature here in Colorado is 75 and if I were a recent grad, I’d love to leave the office at 3 and go mountain biking,” Essman says. “So, a flexible schedule and a quick exit on Fridays would be fantastic to include in your job posting.”
2. Include your mission on your website
Recent grads care about company purpose and opportunities to do actual good. To appeal to millennial and Gen Z STEM graduates, put a mission statement on your website emphasizing why your company is in business rather than what it does, McIntire says.
Focus your employer brand messaging on the core set of values and beliefs that motivate employees to go to work every day, rather than the products and services that your organization offers.
“Google, for example, is an excellent case study in messaging done right. Rather than advertising a search engine that will help you browse the web, they explain why search matters: because everyone around the world deserves access to useful information,” McIntire says.
3. Create a social atmosphere
Younger workers want great employment experiences, says Judy Fisher, director of career services at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. “If you have social groups that get together or groups based on gender or activities, that will help them,” she says.
One employer that recruited at Harvey Mudd used poker to differentiate itself. “They had a poker championship once a year where they pulled people in from all their affiliates,” Fisher says.
4. Send alumni back to campus
Since studies show that recent college grads tend to hold some negative stereotypes of older workers, it can help to bring a younger employees with you to campus for recruitment events. Even better if you can match fresh alumni to college career fairs where they’re likely to know students. Finally, offer incentives for referring potential hires to help young employees feel extra motivated.
5. Consider less polished applicants
STEM graduates are in short supply, but there are always some candidates that don’t make it past the first round of interviews due to a lack of polish and social skills, says Gardner. “Companies ignore them and they sit,” he says. Those students, when paired with the right mentor, can pick up soft skills on the job.
Other groups that employers sometimes overlook include chemistry, physics, and biology majors who anticipated moving on to graduate or professional schools but didn’t make the cut. “They’re out there with no lab or pre-professional work experience and those are smart kids,” Gardner says. Companies with time to devote to on-the-job training will find they make great hires.
Calculate your recruitment strategy
Much like the STEM graduates you’re hoping to hire, you need to be calculating, precise and thorough in planning your recruitment strategy. This means staying informed about what’s motivating recent grads and how to most effectively reach them. To get started, sign up for Monster Hiring Solutions where you’ll receive expert recruiting advice and the latest hiring trends.