June 2, 2021

Mark Rader

How to Recruit and Hire the Best Recent College Graduates on the Market

How to Recruit and Hire the Best Recent College Graduates on the Market
Mark Rader

In recruitment, as with most things in life, there are no guarantees—especially when your job candidates are recent college grads. Some make the transition into a 9-to-5 seamlessly and contribute immediately. Some struggle and move on quickly.  

But finding great young talent* to fill important entry-level roles isn’t a total roll of the dice. With the right mindset, strategy, and tools when you hire college grads, you can:  

  • Improve the chances that great candidates find and consider your company 
  • More effectively gauge whether they have what it takes during the hiring process 
  • And motivate them to stick around a while  

In this guide, we’ll show you how to recruit college graduates with tactics that cover all three. But first, let’s look at what makes Gen Z candidates tick.   

Generation Z by The Numbers 

Here are a few insights about Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2015) that may help you fine-tune how you hire recent college graduates:  

They likely identify as self-motivated and hard-working 

Seventy-six percent of recent grads consider themselves responsible for driving their own career. Fifty-eight percent said that they’d work nights and weekends for higher pay, compared to 45% of Millennials and 40% of Gen X and Baby Boomers. Only 38% of Gen Z respondents said they care about work-life balance.

They’re more practical about money and benefits than you might think 

According to Concordia University at St. Paul, 70% of Gen Z workers identify health insurance as their top motivator. And despite their young age, Gen Z workers save for retirement much earlier than expected, use apps to save up emergency funds, and are careful with their money overall. One commonly-held theory: this was the generation that grew up during the housing crisis and The Great Recession, and saw their parents struggle. As a result, they’re more security-focused than you’d expect.

They’re tech-savvy but still appreciate a personal touch 

You would expect widespread digital literacy from a generation that’s never known a world without the Internet. With 96% owning a smartphone, you’d be right. But, even so, when it comes to communicating with a potential manager, 83% of them prefer in-person communication. 

Tips on How to Recruit Recent College Graduates

Now that we’ve looked at some of the main priorities and concerns of Gen Z, let’s dig into some strategies for appealing to them in your recruiting efforts. 

Ask your current Gen Z employees for their perspective 

Want a better sense of how to recruit college graduates? Know what they’re looking for. Start by asking your employees only a year or two out of school what their job search experience was like—at your company and under previous employers. 

Specifically, ask them which recent job-hunting trends are becoming widespread among people their age, which social media channels are gaining traction, and what they would have liked to have seen your company—or organizations in general—mention in job postings or in interviews.  

Highlight the benefits that Gen Z prioritizes most in your job descriptions 

With the insights you’ve gathered from big-picture stats and internal conversations, consider highlighting the benefits in your job descriptions that your new college grad applicants are likely to value the most. On your company careers page, consider including quotes from other young employees lauding your 401(k) matching program, your healthcare benefits, and any student loan repayment benefits you might offer.

Choose online job boards with the most Gen Z visibility 

Go beyond posting to your careers page and typical job boards like Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder when recruiting graduates. Also target entry-level-specific boards such as Scouted, Zippia, 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 young people 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 a good-sized candidate pool is step one. The next challenge is identifying those with the most potential as effectively and efficiently as possible, both in the application and in the interview process. Here are our tips for finding the cream of the crop. 

Lean hard on 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 the rest to the next stage in the process. And they’re especially valuable when the candidates in question don’t have a lot of work experience under their belts to measure them by.  

Cognitive ability tests assess a candidate’s ability to learn, adapt, solve problems, and process complex ideas. Personality tests provide insight into qualities like a candidate’s interpersonal preferences, temperament, and reliability. And motivation tests gauge a candidate’s work-related interests.  

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 is a boon to the 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, these kinds of questions may not be as fruitful, 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 2019 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker has more than 12 jobs in their career.  

That said, if you provide new young hires with a solid onboarding and training 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, asking too many questions, and so on. Clear parameters and 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 Gen Z hires understand the full value of their benefits 

Most 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 your financially-savvy Gen Z 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 

Regular meetings are a good way to take the pulse of your young hires, but impromptu check-ins are also great for Gen Z employees, who actually expect more attention from management and thrive on face-to-face interactions, whether in-person or over Zoom.  

In summary, if you’re hoping to snag some of the best young talent available in today’s job market, make sure to be thoughtful about how you describe your positions, expand your reach beyond the usual job boards and fairs, lean on data and interviewing best practices whenever possible, and don’t take your foot off the gas once they’ve signed on. Hope this was helpful—and good luck out there! 

*We realize not all recent college grads are 21-23 year olds, but for the sake of simplicity, we’re focusing on the large percentage that are.  

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