How to Attract and Hire Recent College Graduates

At the height of summer, when college graduates might be sitting on the beach and soaking up the sun, many are pounding the pavement looking for their first post-college job. This year’s graduating class began college at the height of one of the worst recessions in recent history, and are emerging to find a very different job market than their parents experienced at their age. And because of that, their priorities have shifted.

Today’s new grads aren’t looking for big bucks (many are making less than they would have in previous years)—they’re after security and stability, things that have been in short supply during the rocky economic times of recent years. Some of these graduates are looking to more established firms, like Google, for opportunities, but the majority would prefer working for a small- to mid-sized firm. And with employers looking to recent grads as replacement hires to combat attrition, there was never a better time to infuse some fresh blood into your ranks.

Here are a few ways you can attract, hire, and retain new college graduates.

Get social. Like other applicants, college students are doing much of their job search on the web and through social media, particularly LinkedIn. Find out where your audience is, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other medium, and build a presence there. You’ll want to assign an internal resource to monitor your media, post jobs, and field questions, so applicants don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Build your brand. While you’re establishing a social media presence, you should also be building and promoting your employer brand. Think about what makes your workplace special, and use your branding channels to communicate this, whether through job postings, videos, blogs, Tweets, direct email, or job fairs. For larger organizations, online career centers are an efficient and colorful way to sell the benefits of working for your company, while promoting multiple opportunities and capturing applications.

Look beyond the resume. Because new grads are not as experienced as seasoned hires, you need a few more tools in your arsenal when it comes to evaluating candidates. Try behavioral interviewing techniques to see what makes the candidate tick. It’s also a helpful way of gauging transferable skills. You can also have potential peers within the organization sit with the candidate and walk him or her through the job specs in order to measure interest. Assessment tools might also be helpful in validating your interviewing findings and zeroing in on the right fit for your company.

Take a trial run. If you’re on the fence about a candidate, or want to see how he or she might perform day-to-day, consider offering internship or part-time opportunities. The upfront costs are lower (especially if the student is still in school and looking for college credit), and both you and the candidate have a no-fuss method of determining if you are a match. Keep in mind, colleges may have specific guidelines regarding for-credit internships, so be sure to check with the school’s career center before launching an internship program.

Ease the transition. A formal onboarding program is an effective way of integrating new hires into your company’s fold, and setting expectations and boundaries, especially for new hires who’ve had little professional work experience. Simple gestures, like taking your new employee to lunch the first week, can go a long way to ease the transition from college to the real world. The key to a successful onboarding effort is having an internal team responsible and accountable for specific tasks, such as benefits, payroll, and training, so your new hire feels included and does not fall through the cracks and eventually quit.

Train early and often. Once you’ve hired and onboarded your new college graduate, it’s important to train, train, and train some more. College grads may bring a plethora of knowledge and skills with them, but they won’t have the practical experience necessary to get the job done, unless you guide them. Training programs don’t have to be very formal, but there should be benchmarks for success so you know your trainee is learning necessary skills. Be sure to revisit your training programs periodically, so skillsets don’t become stale. The more your employees know, the more your company can grow.

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