How To Successfully Recruit New College Graduates

Before he was a best-selling author, Ron McGowan was a small business owner and recruiter. He wrote and placed help wanted ads, read hundreds of resumes and cover letters, interviewed and hired for numerous positions in his career.

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Through all of that, one thing stood out to McGowan. In order to hire successfully, businesses need to prepare to hire, especially this time of year when college graduates are ready to flood the market.

“The reality for small business owners is that they often don’t give the hiring process the priority it needs,” says McGowan. “It’s just another hat they wear at the time and another chore to be done.”

As CEO of GradStaff, Bob LaBombard has witnessed recent college graduates and entry-level workers struggling to find work because they approach the job search the wrong way. At the same time, LaBombard has helped companies reduce entry-level turnover by helping businesses implement successful, efficient and cost-effective entry-level hires.

He knows just what job seekers – and employers are about to go through.

“May and June is a time when panicked new grads desperate for a job will start getting serious about their job search after a very enjoyable, but all too short senior year,” says LaBombard, noting that at the same time “emails, online applications, phone calls and Tweets can overwhelm HR and talent acquisition departments.”

McGowan is now the Principal of How to Find Work, a consulting company that helps recent college/university graduates understand today’s workplace and how to go about finding work. He’s also the author of the international bestselling book How to Find WORK – In the 21st  Century, which is currently in use at hundreds of colleges and universities worldwide.

To hire correctly, and to manage a sudden overload of applicants,  businesses need to put in the time, resources and processes to make the right decisions, says McGowan, noting that in the frenetic times that we live in, those conditions are not often in place. Finding the right employee for your company often starts with a well-written employment advertisement that aims to attract the right college grad from the start. How that job seeker responds to that ad should go a long way towards deciding if they are worthy of coming in for an interview.

“If the requirements for the position are clearly spelled out, either grads have them, or they do not and it’s fairly easy to sort out those who are qualified from those who are not,” says McGowan. “I believe you can tell a great deal about the grad by the way they present themselves and respond to the ad the employer puts out, including their cover letter and their resume. Hiring is a two-way street and employers/recruiters are too quick to criticize applicants and gloss over their own shortcomings in how they approach the hiring process.”

Because so many employers and HR professionals are wearing multiple hats with multiple responsibilities, corners can be cut. And good candidates can be overlooked.

“I was on a panel at a university years ago talking about this topic,” says McGowan. “A recruiter on the panel said that she didn’t even look at cover letters. If that’s her approach, she’s missing an opportunity to assess the grad.”

HR departments and employers can prepare for the onrush of applications and communication from college graduates by following these tips from LaBombard:

  1. Recognize that entry-level resumes are different: Lacking direct work experience in your industry, it is easy to overlook the resumes of great new grads based on a natural bias for experienced candidates.
  2. Establish a dedicated application process for new grads: This could include a unique email address for your job postings or a unique application procedure for online applicants from your website or mobile device. In addition, the application process and information requested will typically be different for new grads. Be sure to send a confirmation email to job applicants to acknowledge receipt of a candidate’s application and/or resume.
  3. Determine screening criteria: Most entry-level resumes look the same, so how to choose those to contact can be a mystery. Determine those criteria that are important to you. For some, it may be a candidate’s major, coursework, GPA and other academic parameters. For others, well-rounded candidates combining academics as well as transferrable work experience and participation in extracurricular activities are more desirable.
  4. Train hiring managers on how to interview entry-level candidates: Because new grads lack direct work experience, many hiring managers are lost when interviewing to fill entry-level positions. One good way to address this problem is to train managers on behavioral-based interviewing techniques, which can be used to identify transferrable skills required for success in the position.
  5. Don’t hesitate to bring in an outside resource: Filling entry-level positions is much different than those requiring experience. From generating resume flow to screening, interviewing, hiring and on-boarding, success depends upon a keen understanding of the millennial candidate. Outsourced college recruiting firms like GradStaff can be an efficient and effective solution for small- and mid-sized companies looking to hire the best and brightest talent among recent college graduates.

McGowan offered eight additional things to consider when assessing, interviewing and hiring college graduates:

  1. Does the grad indicate that they’ve looked at the employer’s web site and know something about them and the sector they’re in?
  2. Does the response show that they’ve thought about the employer’s needs and believe they can meet them?
  3. Do they give any specific examples of how their background and education can benefit the employer?
  4. Does their response target and answer the key points spelled out in ad, or is it all over the place?
  5. Does their response suggest, in a credible way, that they want to work in this sector? Or does it suggest that they’re responding to anything and everything? Have they any summer/part-time experience in it?
  6. Is their degree related to the sector, or have they taken any courses that would increase their chances of being hired in it? Do they belong to any group or association related to it? Do they cite any blogs, newsletters, or any other sources they read that are related to it?
  7. If the employer is a small business, does the grad’s response suggest that they know something about this sector and are flexible and willing to chip in and do whatever is needed on any given day? Or do they come across as someone looking for a stable, predictable environment?
  8. Does the grad come across as entrepreneurial, if that’s important to the employer, or someone looking for a traditional job?

“I would suggest to any organization that wants to improve their hiring success that they assess how important their HR and hiring practices are within the organization,” says McGowan. “If employers take the time to properly assess the cover letters, resumes and online applications they receiver, they’ll find good prospects.”

Written by

Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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