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How to Hire the Best Recent Graduates for Your Business

Smart and ready to prove themselves, new grads can infuse fresh thinking and new insight into your company. And they come at an entry-level salary price tag.

A recent study from National Association of Colleges and Universities shows that employers plan to hire only 2.1 percent more new college grads than they hired last year. Still, entrepreneurial companies and startups are sometimes faced with a tough sell to new graduates, who may be looking for glamorous gigs at household-name companies, says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing firm.

Making sure a recent graduate is a good fit for your business can be tricky. Gimbel says there are five ways smaller companies can appeal to newly minted degree-holders.

1. Get out there. Before you can hire them, new grads have to know about you. Target regional colleges and universities with programs in the areas you are hiring for. For example, you might need a management major who is good with numbers or a marketing whiz who can also learn to sell. Call or send an email to the career placement office and let them know the type of job you have open, Gimbel suggests. Those offices will also be able to tell you about college career fairs you might want to attend. Online job listing sites are also a good bet.

When writing your listing, include information about the goals and vision of your company and a sense of its culture, as well as anything that makes it stand out. Do you have an exciting leadership team or a commitment to giving back to the community? Those aspects will both set your company apart and attract the grads who like what you're saying about your firm, says Gimbel.

Related: Tips for Overcoming Early HR Hurdles

2. Sell the sizzle. The job you have might not be the most glamorous one, so you should have a story about why your company is a great place to work, Gimbel says. If your business is in meat packing, for example, it might not sound like the sexiest business, he says. "But if the owner is a Harvard grad, who made a ton of money on Wall Street, who wanted to revolutionize the meat packing industry, that's a different story. That's the story you sell," he says.

3. Emphasize their impact. Employees typically have a greater impact at a small firm than at a large one, Gimbel says. That can be appealing -- instead of performing menial tasks in an entry-level gig at a big company, new grads who opt for smaller firms literally hit the ground running and have a significant impact on the company overall. The opportunity for hands-on learning and making a difference can be very appealing, he says.

4. Plot a career path. One concern that new grads might have about a smaller firm is that there could be limited options for career growth. Quell those fears by discussing the options with interviewees. If you're willing to train employees in new skills or have future expansion plans, share those insights so the prospective employee knows you're serious about his or her career goals, Gimbel says.

5. Lose the attitude. A big turnoff for new grads is the attitude that it's an employers market and that the company doesn't have to sell itself. The truth is that smaller companies can be at a disadvantage when competing with bigger companies that have name recognition and fat benefit packages, but Gimbel says that enthusiastically showing the prospective hire why choosing a startup is a good idea can win over the biggest asset of all -- new talent.

Related: How to Provide More Benefits Without Busting the Bank
 

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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