Are you planning on hiring this spring? There are a lot of great reasons to add a new college graduate to your workplace mix. From their energy and enthusiasm, to their new ideas and recent history of learning, to their comfort with technology and social media, recent college graduates can provide many benefits to companies. And since they’re new to the workforce, you can access the best candidates first, to create long-term employee assets at a lower salary cost.
Job search engine company, Simply Hired, has compiled a list of best practices and strategies for targeting this unique group of candidates, supported by insights from the company's recent survey
of students graduating from college this year.
Here are 10 ways you can engage, recruit and hire top talent from the new class of college graduates.
1. Post jobs for new graduates on the Web
Once you’ve determined you have the ability to hire a new grad, the first step is to post the job opening online. Sounds simple, right? Yet, not every company is taking full advantage of the fact that college student job seekers do the majority of their job searching on the Web. Posting jobs online is the easiest way to reach this key audience. Costly and time-consuming direct recruiting efforts on college campuses are no longer the only way to target new grads.
- Make a great impression. Just like your products or services reinforce your company brand, your job postings and company career page convey your employer brand to potential candidates. With new job seekers who lack professional experience, information about company culture is especially important. The type of employee who will be a good fit in a startup tech firm or advertising agency will probably be different from those who would be a good fit at a manufacturing plant or an accounting firm. The tone of your writing in the job posting and career page should catch the attention of the type of new grad you’d want to hire.
- Expand your reach. When you post on just your company website, you limit the number of candidates who see your jobs. There are so many job boards and company career sites that many job seekers gravitate to aggregators, which collect jobs from all over the Internet in a single, easily-searched location. By posting in multiple places, it’s more likely that your job will surface on a job search engine, significantly increasing the visibility of your jobs. In our survey of this year’s college graduates, the majority (49%) are using job search engines as their primary method for job search. Other methods include company websites (12%), job boards (11%), and career centers or career fairs (9%).
- Go beyond the description. Get in the mindset of the ideal candidate and highlight job qualities that would motivate this person to apply. Is your company known for its industry leadership, challenging problem solving, or fascinating market research? Provide an inside look at these selling points to capture the interest of college students who may know little about your company and industry. You can use video or testimonials to share a behind-the-scenes look at what a real day is like on the job. With little real-world professional experience, these glimpses of the inner workings of a company are most valuable to new college graduate job seekers.
2. Use social networks and mobile to reach candidates
Nine out of ten job seekers have at least one social media profile, and college students are one of the most socially engaged groups out there. By having a social media presence, recruiters can capitalize on the time thousands of new graduate job seekers are already spending on social networks.
- Make it personal. Students are eager to interact with real people from the organization, so consider creating a Twitter handle specifically for your company recruiter by name (e.g., @SHRecruiterJen). It’s an easy way to separate yourself from the sea of impersonal job postings and company-named Twitter aliases. Bring the interaction to the next level by scheduling a Q&A Twitter chat with college students, where they can ask questions and receive real-time answers from employees at the company. Or, create a video (no fancy editing necessary) following a day in the life of an entry-level company employee to post on YouTube.
- Mobile is a must. Students often spend more of their online time using a mobile device instead of a computer, so make sure your job postings are mobile-friendly. Studies show that 77% of job seekers use mobile job search, and companies are capitalizing on the trend by ensuring their jobs are viewable and shareable via mobile. For example, mobile traffic to Simply Hired doubled after the launch of the company's mobile site (m.simplyhired.com), and continues to be a major source of traffic.
3. Write a clear job description
In addition to a compelling description and view of your company culture, a clear job posting makes it easy for college students to understand what the position actually entails. Follow these guidelines to get your point across:
- Keep the language simple. College students won’t know industry jargon and have less professional understanding of the occupation. Simple, clear wording will help get your message across quickly and effectively. Avoid abbreviations that won’t be easily recognizable to novices in your industry.
- Begin new lines with action words (verbs) when possible. This helps keep the post engaging and focuses the reader’s attention on each task or responsibility.
- Avoid generalities. Overused terms with little substance don’t help new job seekers understand what makes your job different from other jobs. Be as specific as possible about the job requirements. For example, instead of “communication skills,” describe the requirement as “must present and explain new processes to clients.”
- Organize the elements of the posting to break down the key components:
* Position overview – describe goals and responsibilities
* Required qualifications – list skills or traits necessary
* Other important information – include department, type of pay (hourly or salary), specific location, and anything else relevant to the position
* Short description of your organization – direct job seekers back to your website to learn more
* Application instructions - list all the components necessary for the application (resume, cover letter, references, writing samples, etc.)
4. Focus on long-term growth opportunities
Career development within the organization is a powerful incentive for potential new grad employees. When you demonstrate an investment in their professional development, they feel valued at the company. Mentoring programs and advancement opportunities are important to highlight early in the process, as gaining valuable job experience is a priority for these new members of the workforce.
In the SimplyHired.com survey, new college graduates cited job security as their top priority for a future employer. In an uncertain job market, a stable job with growth is most attractive to candidates who entered college during the recession. Salary and healthcare and other benefits were also of high importance to new college grad job seekers, followed by company culture and perks.
5. "Try before you buy” through internship programs
Internships do more than just fill an important support role on a team. Companies should also use internships to scout for top talent. If you hire a star intern, you’ll have a potential future employee who is a tested fit with the organization before that person hits the job market. Internships also give students an opportunity to explore a career before graduation, so they’ll have familiarity with the industry and be prepared for what the job description entails. Begin the conversation about career opportunities early, before the student has completed the internship. If there’s a mutual fit with your organization, be sure to outline the potential career path and stay in touch with the student.
Students are eager to participate in internship programs, and most candidates will enter the workforce with relevant training through internship experience. Of students surveyed by SimplyHired.com, 68% of this year’s college graduates have had one or more internships. Be sure to follow your state’s laws and regulations regarding intern employees, and consult with the intern’s college career center, as the number of hours required for credit programs vary by school.
6. Demonstrate how your company makes a difference
With a recent history of learning, most college students want to do something meaningful in their first real job. During the recruiting and interview process, this is your opportunity to show how they can make a difference at your company.
The best employees are ones who are passionate about your company and will come to work every day excited about what they do. Believing in a company’s mission and liking one’s coworkers are the two main reasons people stay. Be honest about your company’s strength and weaknesses, as well as the advantages of becoming a member of your company’s team. Is it your organization’s flexible, creative atmosphere? The opportunity to do cutting-edge work? The ability to make major contributions to the community? Consider why someone would want to come work for you. These should all be conveyed in the job posting, career page, and social media outreach.
In an interview, you have the unique opportunity to actually show a candidate what it’s like to be a part of the team. Here are a few ideas for sharing the workplace experience with a new grad candidate:
- Peer interviews. Schedule several short interviews with members of other departments who are in a similar age and experience range with the candidate. A peer sharing inspiration directly with a candidate makes a strong impact.
- Sitting in. If time permits, invite the candidate to sit in on a client call or a brainstorm meeting. This demonstrates the company’s interest in the candidate and gives a more enhanced picture of the company and position.
- Shadowing. You may wish to invite candidates to shadow a senior employee, once they’ve made it further in the interview process. Consider this a mini-internship, where the grads have an hour to ask questions and learn hands-on from an internal leader.
7. Go beyond local college recruiting
Our survey of college students revealed that 77% of new graduates would be willing to relocate for their first job - and a significant 29% would be willing to move anywhere. Geographic location has become less of a determining factor, especially with the ease of online communication. Recruiters can easily use free services like Skype to conduct a virtual interview with students based in other areas. New graduates are willing to move for the right job, so don’t immediately discount a qualified candidate from outside your state or region.
Instead of focusing your candidate search on the closest physical college and relying on costly career fairs, replace or supplement on-campus recruiting with virtual visits. Offer students a live chat or other online means to communicate with recruiting managers or other company representatives, who can share what it is like to work in your company at a specific job.
On-campus referrals are another cost-effective way to use a college to assist with recruiting efforts. Check with professors, faculty, and career counselors for recommendations, especially if you or someone within the organization has a connection back to the college. Don’t just wait for candidates to come to you: ask your colleagues, family members, friends, business suppliers, and partners if they know any talented college students or new graduates.
8. Start looking for new grads to hire between January and April, but don’t stop there…
When asked when they started their job hunt, most of the new grads for this year began searching in the three to six month range prior to graduation. This roughly translates to the January to April time period, which is convenient for companies planning their hiring budgets at the end of the previous year. However, this is only the start of the search process, which takes time for many students. Of the students surveyed, only 20% had a job secured for after graduation at the time of the survey, which took place in March/April. Thus, we can safely assume that the majority of college graduates will still be searching for employment upon graduation.
For employers, this means that now is the time to engage with these candidates. If you haven’t started searching, do so now. For many students, their search is now building momentum, so there’s a huge opportunity to reach this group. Many students are spending time researching a range of opportunities and companies, and will continue to apply for positions throughout the year. Don’t miss out on a great potential hire just because you didn’t start recruiting earlier in the year – there are still plenty of college grads seeking the right fit for their first job.
9. Choose passion over experience
Interviewing candidates with little to no professional work experience presents a challenge for recruiters. How do you find out whether a new grad will be able to successfully transition skills and experience from school to the workplace?
Try this simple recruiting strategy – find out what the candidate is passionate about. A longtime passion, whether it’s a musical instrument or a volunteer cause, shows dedication and commitment. These traits often translate to passionate employees, who will be dedicated to their success within your company. For example, a recruiter at a popular technology startup described a recent successful hire that was a new college graduate with little work experience. The thing that stood out? His leadership of his college comedy improv group, and several comedy training workshops he had attended each summer. The recruiter recognized the candidate’s longtime commitment to a passion and desire to learn and grow within the specialization, which proved successful for the employee now in a client services position.
Another similar strategy is to ask, “What is something you could teach me as an expert on the subject?” This allows you to learn something that interests the candidates – from a species of bird to a rare Olympic sport – and more importantly, see how they communicate that knowledge to another person. These passions and personal interests often give valuable insights in to the candidate’s way of thinking.
10. Be prepared to help new hires succeed in the role
A new graduate adds many positive qualities to the workplace, but without the proper support, the new employee lacks the experience required to work independently. Be prepared to help the new grads as they start working: an orientation process with proper training and development is crucial.
- Have a clear and specific picture of the ideal college hire. Work with hiring managers to identify specific core competencies and personality traits, and ensure the employee is in the right role. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a new grad for an entry-level position that is actually best filled by a more experienced candidate.
- Prepare your team. With the right supervisory support, a new graduate hire can truly excel in the role. Ensure that the team has the people resources to assist the hire with the transition to working full-time.
- Training is key. Implement orientation and training programs to bring your new hire up to speed. From hands-on training cross-functionally with other departments, to spending a day off-site observing manufacturing processes, this training will be invaluable to your long-term investment with new college graduate employees.