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Hiring recent college graduates

9/25/2006

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By Aaron Green

Although the local media have reported on an exodus of Massachusetts workers, the area welcomes a substantial number of recent college graduates each year.

Recent graduates are attracted to the Boston area by its social outlets, cultural offerings, sports teams and universities. These recent grads cope with Boston's high cost of living by renting apartments with multiple roommates, moving back home to live with family, or working a second job.

For qualified recent graduates there are plenty of job opportunities. In its annual survey, CareerBuilder.com reports that seventy percent of hiring managers say they plan to recruit recent college graduates this year, up from sixty-two percent in 2005. Nearly one in five hiring managers expects to hire more recent college graduates this year than last year and one in four plans to increase starting salaries.

The result is a competitive hiring environment for recent graduates. But today's graduates are motivated by different factors than those from even a few years ago.

As we head into the fall recruiting season once again, here are six tips to help you successfully hire the graduates you want:

  • Don't Just Offer a Job, Offer a Career Path - Most recent college graduates state that their number one priority is to find a job with growth potential. They don't mind performing a job that is "beneath them" if they can see a promising path ahead. Many graduates just want to get their foot in the door and have the opportunity to prove themselves. Accordingly, when interviewing for their first real job, many will accept entry level positions in the hopes that they will receive the training and experience that they need in order to move into more appealing positions. As an employer presenting a job opportunity, it's important to outline and sell the career path that your company offers beyond the entry-level job.
  • Highlight Your Company's Social Responsibility and Culture - In addition to growth opportunities, today's recent college graduates are looking for jobs at companies that "do good." Many graduates cite an interest in non-profit organizations or in corporations with reputations for "giving back." When interviewing recent graduates, take the time to explain your company's outreach efforts and community support philosophies. Company cultures that are supportive of employees' involvement in charitable causes win high marks with today's college graduates

  • Expect a Lack of Interview Experience - When you are interviewing a recent college graduate, it is important to keep in mind that the candidate may not have spent much time in a business environment or on job interviews. Fortunately, you are not hiring someone for his or her interview skills. I'm not suggesting you drop all your expectations of professionalism, but instead make it your goal to hire someone who will be a good culture fit for your organization, not simply someone who has highly-polished interview skills.

  • Take an Interest in Internships - Many students graduate from college having completed internships or some career-oriented summer work. An internship can be a great indicator of aptitude for a particular career path and can provide information helping you to assess whether or not the person is a culture fit for your organization. For instance, someone who assisted in alumni fundraising telethons might be suited for a sales career. Also look beyond the actual experience of the internship and try to determine why the candidate chose that particular internship opportunity over another: this exercise will provide you with insight into the candidate's aptitude for various jobs. Not all internships are created equal; some are required for class credit while others are undertaken through the student's own initiative. And remember to gauge the quality of the internship experience by asking questions about the work performed in the internship, including specific projects.

  • Money Talks - Don't lose your top candidates to money where you can help it. Once you've decided you really want a candidate, find out what salary you'll have to offer the candidate to accept your offer now. In other words, if you want the candidate to stop their job search and accept your offer, find out this number before you make the offer.

  • Prove It - Find out what factors are important to the candidate and explain how your organization and/or the position fit in with these important factors. To do this effectively, you'll have to take the extra step of proving it to the candidate. For example, if nonprofit support is important to someone, show them thank you letters, pictures or plaques from benefiting organizations. If rapid advancement is key, let them talk to someone who just got promoted. Show them training material if you think it will help. Use testimonials as well. Remember you are selling the company and the position, so don't be modest.

Try implementing these six tips when hiring recent college graduates and you should see measurable results.

Aaron Green, president and founder of Professional Staffing Group, is a member of NEHRA [www.nehra.com] and its diversity committee. He is also a member of the board of directors of the American Staffing Association. Green can be reached at agreen@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

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