How to Recruit Soon-to-Be College Grads Before It's Too Late
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It’s graduation season, which always produces a flock of young talent ready to join the workforce. But these graduates aren’t necessarily those whom employers should focus on. In fact, companies looking to recruit employees from the Class of 2018 will find it’s slim pickings out there: The best -- even average -- young professionals have already locked down a job.
A 2018 Yello survey of 700 students and recent graduates found that 20 percent of the Class of 2019 already had jobs lined up for after graduation. That doesn’t leave much hope for the Class of 2018.
So, employers need to step up their game if they’re looking to land remaining talent from either graduating class.
Get involved in the classroom.
In their last few years of college, students split their attention between classes and the job search. Needless to say, they’re short on time. This is why employers need to go to them. By finding ways to contribute to students' education on campus, companies get on potential employees’ radars.
“Employers can develop partnerships with faculty to interact in the classroom,” Jason Weingarten, CEO and founder of the Chicago-based talent acquisition platform Yello, said by email. “Then, engage students through content that offers a view inside the company’s culture or potential career paths.”
One way to do this is to create an exercise in which students solve problems your company has faced in the past. Customize the scenario to the class’s curriculum and observe how the students problem-solve. This will give them a taste of what it’s like to work for your organization and give you as the employer a look at students’ skills.
Rely more on tech.
Each new graduating class is more comfortable with technology than the one before. So, employers need to incorporate the latest technologies in their recruiting efforts to access these job candidates.
“College students often miss opportunities to network with recruiters at a career fair because they’re studying for exams or are involved in extracurricular activities,” Jen Mease, recruiting manager of Mountain View, Calif.-based genetic testing and analysis service 23andMe, said via email. “By leaning into technology platforms, recruiters open up new avenues of reaching more students.”
But adopting the latest recruiting and job search apps isn’t the only step students expect. They also want to know that if they accept a job, they’ll have access to first-rate technology.
“[Digital natives] should not be confined to the same old technologies, like spreadsheets, that previous generations have been using to communicate with teams and track projects in the office,” Jay Jamison, said via email. He's senior vice president of strategy and product management at Cambridge, Mass.-based Quick Base, a low-code app creation software. “They expect modern tools, and they have a much more do-it-yourself, empowered mindset.”
Find ways to include company tech into your recruiting material. Provide serious candidates with a demo of your organization’s software and tools. Then ask for their feedback. Find out what excites them about the tech and how they might use it in new ways. This will get them thinking about all they could do and accomplish while working at the company.
Educate rather than sell.
College students are optimistic about their future. They have big dreams and plans for their careers. Because of this, they don’t want to work at just any company; they want to work for one that will help them achieve their goals.
“I have found undergraduates prefer to be educated on an organization, not sold on it by recruiters,” Katie Kocmond, campus recruitment manager at Chicago-based staffing and employment agency Addison Group, told me. “This allows them to come to the conclusion if it is the best fit for them on their own.”
The key is to go beyond traditional recruiting materials like pamphlets. Vivian Maza, chief people officer of Weston, Fla.-based HR software company Ultimate Software, suggested immersing students in the organization itself.
“Invite college students to visit your headquarters for the day and spend time shadowing your employees,” she said via email. “This provides a great experience for the student and sets the foundation for a successful, long-term relationship with your company.”
Stay in contact.
Just because a student has already accepted a job offer doesn’t mean he or she is off the market forever. Graduates may think they want one thing from a job, but after actually working for that company, realize they want something else. When that time comes, you as an employer need to be ready.
After finding out that a talented student already has a job, get that person's contact information anyway. Check in every so often to see how he or she is doing. Find out what this employee has been working on and how he or she is developing.
Be sure to share any new opportunities that have opened up at your headquarters. This will let a desirable former candidate know that the door is still open to come work at your organization, should he or she find out that that first choice didn’t pan out.