5 Tips for Recruiting Students & Recent Grads

Recruiting candidates straight out of school is a great way to fill your entry-level roles with bright young employees willing to learn and grow right along with your company. However, appealing to younger candidates is certainly a bit more complex in today’s “wired” world.

gradsThere are now more than 39 million students and recent graduates maintaining profiles on LinkedIn. This demographic is also the fastest growing consumer and workforce demographic, so bringing them in as employees will help you appeal to them as clients/customers.

Current students and recent grads are more “connected” than previous generation, so recruiting them requires an approach that’s distinctly more relationship-focused. In other words, recruiters need to be looking at the plethora of online recruitment tools at their disposal to court prospects and build relationships with them. Here are some approaches to help your organization to build a successful student recruiting strategy.

1. Develop & Emphasize Your Company’s Culture

Being proud to emphasize your company’s culture when attracting talented candidates requires, above all, that you develop and maintain that culture. Indeed, students and recent graduates looking for exciting career opportunities tend to weigh your company’s culture against their own values and lifestyle.

Many younger candidates are looking for an environment that fosters their creativity. While the free sushi, scooters, and beanbags might have a certain attraction (if you’re Google, and you’re able to offer such things), most candidates value a work environment that challenges them and offers opportunities for career advancement.

In fact, according to a recent survey of 6,000 student or recent grads on LinkedIn, students and recent grads appear to be most motivated by (1) excellent compensation and benefits, (2) a challenging work environment within their “career path”, and (3) the opportunity to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

2. Take a Targeted Approach

Just as students and recent grads are sensitive to (or concerned with) how compatible your company’s culture is with their values, they also tend to respond to opportunities that suit their personal goals or unique set of skills. So when recruiting these potential candidates, you need to target your recruiting efforts toward where they are in their lives, and what they want out of their first entry-level gig.

Students and recent grads highly value being approached directly, as opposed to through a third-party consultant or, worse yet, a blanket-marketing campaign. According to students at a recent Annual Graduate Recruitment Conference in Liverpool, “the companies that took the time to build a personal rapport from the outset were the ones that appealed to them the most.”

In fact, TripAdvisor set a great example of this targeted approach in motion before a recent recruiting event at MIT. Using LinkedIn as their recruiting tool, they invited select students to meet recruiters at a specific time and place at the event. When the students arrived, they were piled into vehicles and taken to lunch with TripAdvisor’s CEO. Regardless of whether or not these students went on the work for TripAdvisor, the company’s unique approach will undoubtedly resonate with these lucky students for years to come.

3. Engage Your Prospects Year Round

With more and more companies looking to recruit students and recent graduates, it’s more important than ever to engage prospects year-round. Establishing relationships before graduation, as well as during the school year, especially if you’re looking for summer employees or interns, will help you add talented, energetic new employees to your team.

Intel, for example, has found a creative way to spark online conversations with potential graduate candidates through the Intel Student Lounge. This LinkedIn group gives students, recent graduates, and employers an objective space to exchange advice on pursuing careers in IT. While this provides students and graduates with a valuable informational resource, it also gives Intel a rich talent pool to tap at their convenience.

4. Offer Work-Life Balance

According to the LinkedIn Talent blog, the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance is the most important factor for students and recent grads when selecting an employer. While students and grads want to find work that they’re passionate about and that challenges them, not many will be looking to jump right into working 60-hour weeks immediately after completing a rigorous degree program.

With the number of technological tools at our disposal to improve work efficiency, more and more employees are looking for increased flexibility in the set hours they’re actually required to show up in-person. Unfortunately, estimates suggest that less than 10 percent of employers currently offer formal flexible scheduling.

According to Robert Bird, a professor of Business Law who has written two research articles on flextime, “I think there’s a strong belief that if you’re not in a place where you can be observed, you won’t do the work.” However, Bird’s research actually “indicates that flex work time yields at least the same amount — sometimes more — than a more rigid structure.”

5. Offer Benefits Along with Compensation

While students and recent grads are perhaps more aware of what constitutes “competitive compensation” than ever before, younger candidates are also looking for the security afforded by a comprehensive benefits package.

According to the LinkedIn survey, “excellent compensation & benefits” was the second most important factor when evaluating competing job offers. Offering a flexible benefits program that gives employees freedom to choose the specific benefits they need can be a very important selling point in the minds of current students and recent graduates.

Recruiting in the Modern World

As recruiting the youngest generation of workers will become increasingly important, recruitment strategies must adapt to meet the demands of this new segment of talented candidates. Maintaining a comprehensive database of student e-mail addresses will help you continuously broadcast available job openings and initiate positive, two-way communication to keep candidates up-to-date on the latest company news.

Connecting with today’s top talent requires a targeted, connected approach, but making candidates feel wanted is still about going that extra mile. Developing and emphasizing company culture, using a concerted approach to target individual candidates’ needs, engaging students and graduates year-round, offering quality work-life balance, and developing a comprehensive employee benefits package will have a significant, positive impact on your ability to recruit qualified students and recent graduates.

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