Maybe I’m biased. After all, I did spend 20 years shaping the minds of future business leaders as a marketing professor and, to this day, hold a fondness in my heart for new college grads. But as a career consultant examining the most strategic hires small and medium-sized businesses can make, I still believe recruiting soon-to-be (and recent) college graduates is one of the most promising hiring tacks a growing enterprise can put in place.
Colleges still remain a somewhat untapped resource for recruiting, and as unemployment for this sector of the workforce remains high despite our improved economy, there are countless eager and educated graduates looking to make a name for themselves in the workplace.
Why: The Case for New College Grads
Let’s start with the elephant in the room first – and the biggest reason businesses hire new grads: You can recruit and hire new college grads for a fraction of what it would cost for a more experienced jobseeker. Thus, from a purely economic standpoint, it makes strategic sense to recruit new grads.
Other key reasons to recruit new grads?
- Newly educated on the latest best practices;
- High comfort (and use) with latest technologies and social media platforms;
- Can be shaped to company culture;
- Strong collaboration and teamwork skills;
- Starting work-life with energy, ambition, and drive to prove themselves.
How to Recruit College Seniors/Grads
I recommend a 5-step process for recruiting college students and grads.
- Develop Goals/Select Key Employees for Program. Your first step has to be to decide what your recruitment program is going to look like, what it will encompass, and how you will measure costs and success.
For example, you might decide on a two-tier program, where the primary recruiting platform is developing a presence on the campuses of a select group of college and universities; and where the secondary goal is developing a virtual presence on a number of other colleges and universities. It is also extremely important to select the employees who will be the foot soldiers in college talent recruitment; these people are key to building relationships and connecting with potential hires.
- Choose/Review Key Colleges/Universities. If you have no current college recruitment program, start with developing a list of potential colleges. If you have been doing some college recruitment, use this step to review your current list and modify as needed.
Your most important step will be developing the criteria for choosing colleges. Some examples of criteria include: colleges from which you have had past success hiring grads; college alma maters of your best employees; top schools by accreditations or rankings – but remember it is not necessary to go after the top tier schools where you may be competing against the likes of big business or highly popular employers.
- Develop/Build Relationships with Key Colleges/Universities. Once you have your list of recruitment schools, the next step is reaching out and building long-term relationships.
The two core groups you want to develop relationships with are folks in the Career Services Office, as well as key professors in the fields/schools from which you expect to recruit students. These folks – once you have a relationship established – will then help funnel some of the best prospects to your recruitment program. You need the Career Services professionals for the institutional support and the professors for their knowledge/connection to the best and brightest students.
- Connect With Students – on Multiple Platforms. Gone are the days of just attending the career fair or holding information sessions; these are still valuable for face-to-face interactions, but to reach today’s students, you need to reach them via Facebook (Messenger), Instagram, LinkedIn (to a much lesser extent), and by text and virtual hangouts.
Because these recruits are glued to their smartphones, you also need to make certain all aspects of your recruitment process – including the career pages of your website – are completely mobile-friendly and prepped to help you attract the best possible applicants (if you’re unsure of how to make this happen, check out our Career Page Best Practices Checklist).
- Measure Success/Make Adjustments. No program is sustainable without established controls, feedback, and adjustments. You should not only measure success in terms of the goals established in the first step, but also in terms of the costs – both financial and in time invested.
One Final Nugget of Wisdom on Recruiting College Students
One final piece to your college recruitment program should be the development of your internship program and the promotion of it at these same colleges and universities. The internship program then becomes a feeder for recruitment. In addition, you can develop a referral program for both your interns and new grad hires to refer their classmates. Plus, you can hire your interns – when they return to school for their senior year – to act as ambassadors for your company and help further build your awareness and reputation/brand on campus.