May 2, 2022


College Graduate Hiring: A Step-by-Step Guide

College Graduate Hiring: A Step-by-Step Guide

In recruitment, as with most things in life, there are no guarantees—especially when your job candidates are recent college undergraduates.

Some make the transition into a new 9-to-5 seamlessly and contribute in a short amount of time. Some struggle to meet the demands of their role—and move on quickly. 

But sourcing and identifying great talent for your important entry-level roles shouldn’t have to feel like a roll of the dice. With a recruiting and assessment strategy focused more on competencies and potential than bulletpoints on a resume and referrals, you can:  

  • Improve the chances that great candidates find and strongly consider your company 
  • More effectively gauge whether they’ll be a good fit for the job, regardless of what’s on their resume
  • And motivate them to stick around a while  

In this guide, we’ll share our ideas on how to check all three boxes as you evaluate new talent in 2022.

Tips on How to Recruit Recent College Graduates

How might you better position your company so talented newly-minted college graduates are motivated to apply? Here are a few ideas:

Implement feedback from recent college grad hires  

If you hired recent college graduates in the past few years, you have a built-in focus group worth consulting. Specifically, ask these employees what it was about your company’s benefits or mission that won them over. How did they first hear about you (word of mouth? social media? job board?) and what messaging impacted their decision to apply the most?

Using what you learn from this exercise, consider front-loading the benefits your new college grad applicants are likely to value the most in your job descriptions. On your company careers page, include quotes from other recently graduated employees lauding your 401(k)-matching program, your healthcare benefits, and any student loan repayment benefits you might offer.  

Don’t just focus on four-year colleges and universities 

According to 2020 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 66% of undergraduate students in 2019 attended four-year institutions and 34% attended two-year institutions. So if you’re only targeting students from the former group, you’re passing over a full third of the available new talent on the market. Whether you cast your recruiting net nation-wide, regionally, or locally, make a point to reach out to trade schools and community colleges as well.

Go beyond the usual job boards

Don’t just post to your careers page and typical job boards like Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder. Target entry-level-specific boards such as ScoutedCollege Recruiter, and Entry Level Jobs that cater vocational content and advice to college students and recent grads.  

Also, make use of your LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts to get the word out. Having a strong social media presence helps ensure you’re reaching college seniors who might not be actively looking for their first job yet (and who aren’t on any job boards as a result), but who might be enticed to learn more.

Don’t wait too long to advertise job openings 

Though new college graduates aren’t generally available to start working full-time until the summer after graduation, many of them start seriously hunting for their first “real job” during the fall semester before they graduate. Keep that in mind as you time your get-the-word-out campaign. 

Tips on Assessment and Hiring 

Attracting great candidates is step one. The next challenge is identifying those with the most potential as effectively and efficiently as possible, both in the application and the interview process. Here are our tips for finding the cream of the crop. 

Lean hard on competency-based hiring assessments to gauge job fit and potential 

Pre-employment assessments are a consistently effective method for weeding out candidates who aren’t a good fit and graduating strong contenders to the next stage in the process. Assessments focused on objectively measuring whether candidates have the competencies most relevant to job success now—and the ability to learn quickly on the job—are especially valuable when the candidates in question don’t have a lot of work history under their belts.

Cognitive ability assessments measure a candidate’s ability to learn, adapt, solve problems, and process complex ideas. Personality assessments provide insight into qualities like a candidate’s interpersonal preferences, temperament, and reliability. And motivation assessments gauge a candidate’s work-related interests, to determine how likely they are to enjoy the job.

Not only can using these potential-identifying tools help you find candidates likely to succeed in a particular role, you’re likely to reduce your time-to-hire as well. 

Use structured interviews to better predict future performance—and reduce bias 

In structured interviews, the hiring team asks the same set number and order of questions of every candidate, and they use the same criteria for judging every candidate too. Structured interviews have been shown to predict 26% of an employee’s actual on-the-job performance, compared to a mere 14% in unstructured interviews. With recent grads having little job experience from which to predict performance, this can be a huge boon to your hiring team. 

Structured interviews don’t just help your organization get actionable results, they’re also fairer to the interviewees. Giving everyone the same battery of questions and setting clear criteria ahead of time reduces the possibility of making gut choices that allow for latent biases, such as assuming a younger candidate wouldn’t be able to work well with senior staff. It also opens up opportunities for more diversity throughout the interview process and in your workplace.  

Ask situational questions instead of experience-based questions 

You’re probably used to asking applicants behavioral questions that ask them to describe a time they did something or dealt with a problem in a previous job. For example: “Describe a time when you had to mediate a disagreement between two co-workers” or “How have you juggled multiple client accounts at once in the past?”  

Experience-based questions can reap interesting insights, for sure. But for an entry-level position, you may want to tweak these questions because of recent graduates’ limited (or non-existent) work experience.  

Enter situational questions, that propose a hypothetical situation and then ask the applicant how they would respond to it. For example:  

  • You’re working on a project that has a fast-approaching deadline when you realize that you made an early mistake which undoes all of your work. What would you do? 
  • If you knew a superior was wrong about something important but they refused to back down, how would you solve this disagreement? 
  • What would you do if the workload and hours at your job were getting to be too much for you to sustain? 

Any college grad can answer these, regardless of experience, and give you a window into how they’d perform in the job.  

Tips on Onboarding and Training 

These days, the employee that starts at a company right out of college and sticks around their entire career is a true anomaly: according to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker has more than 12 jobs in their career.  

That said, if you provide people starting their first post-college job with a solid onboarding and professional development experience, you can boost your chances of keeping them around longer than the norm. Here are a few strategies to consider: 

Create clear expectations and three months’ worth of goals 

Recent graduates will likely be anxious about doing the wrong thing and asking too many questions. Sharing a list of 30, 60, and 90 day goals can be a source of comfort in the nerve-wracking first few weeks on the job. 

Make sure new hires understand the full value of their benefits 

Many new college grads have been on their parents’ healthcare plans their whole life, oblivious to the meaning of deductibles, premiums, and co-pays and the difference between great benefits and so-so benefits.  

So, if you do offer great benefits, explain how they compare to the norm. If you offer HRAs, HSAs, or FSAs to offset the cost of care, make sure all your employees understand how and why to take full advantage. And if your organization offers a 401(k) match, encourage them to take advantage of this “free money.”  

Encourage managers to err on the side over-communicating 

Some studies claim that younger workers expect more attention from management than other groups, and thrive on face-to-face interactions, whether in-person or over Zoom. Keep this in mind as you work with your managers to create an onboarding experience that keeps this group feeling engaged, appreciated, and challenged.


Every year, millions of new job candidates enter the market, ready to take on a new challenge. With a strong focus on strategic company branding, and a commitment to objective evaluation methods focused on identifying potential and job fit, you’ll be able to identify the superstars and hidden gems that’ll drive your company forward for years to come.

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