Growing enterprises must think big to attract top talent, says Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, a company that serves as a career matchmaker, helping companies find the ideal fit for open entry-level positions, while also helping recent college graduates discover how their transferrable skills and abilities translate into the workforce.
That’s because the job market for recent college graduates is full of opportunity, particularly due to increased demand from the small-and mid-sized employer market, LaBombard points out. A recent ADP jobs report showed that employers of 500 employees or less accounted for over 90 percent of the new jobs created. This continued a strong hiring push by small- and mid-sized employers, as this group has accounted for about 75 percent of new jobs since the beginning of 2014.
However, the biggest question in the entry-level job market this year will be whether small employers looking to hire new grads will be able to find enough qualified candidates to fill these positions.
“This underscores the fact that the entry-level job market is highly inefficient in that many hiring companies and new grad job seekers have difficulty finding each other,” says LaBombard.
A big reason for this inefficiency is that, based on research by GradStaff, Inc., about 70 percent of new grads don’t know how to identify specific jobs and employers that fit their education, skills and career interests. If 2014 is any barometer, as many as 80 percent of graduating seniors will leave campus without a job this month. Against this backdrop, it’s prime time for small- and mid-sized employers to seize the opportunity and attract the best available talent.
Here are some tips that growing businesses should keep in mind when recruiting for entry-level professional positions:
- Know Where to Look: While large employers have the luxury of large recruiting budgets for college career fairs and direct on campus recruiting, small- and mid-sized employers can have success by using a variety of alternative strategies. For one, if you don’t have an employee referral program, develop one. Further, other referral sources like clients, vendors, consultants and other business partners should also be encouraged to refer strong candidates. Finally, aligning with a third-party “matchmaker” specializing in entry-level positions can be a very cost-effective way to implement an outsourced college recruiting approach.
- Market Your Company, Not Just a Job: If you do want to attract new grads from college web sites, rather than posting ads for specific positions, recruit candidates to your company by providing information on your mission, business model, industry and all the entry-level career opportunities you have available. Encourage all interested candidates to apply and emphasize that the interview process involves working with candidates to identify positions that best fit the job seeker. Mention the types of educational backgrounds you are most interested in, keeping in mind that it is best not to be too narrow.
- Seek Soft Skills: “A lack of work experience should not be an obstacle to hiring great talent,” says LaBombard. Liberal arts graduates are among the best at transferring “soft skills” like critical thinking, time management, leadership and effective communication to any position. Ask candidates for real-life examples of how they applied those skills successfully in a nonprofessional job, volunteer setting or through extracurricular activities like athletics. Then, once hired, give your entry-level employees direction on how to best apply those skills to their new roles.
- Help Candidates Visualize Working for You: High turnover is one reason why many small- and mid-sized businesses can feel reluctant to recruit and hire entry-level employees.
“Give your interviewees a chance to envision their success with your company by introducing them to employees with similar backgrounds and experiences, showing them the space where they will work and discussing the day-to-day expectations for employees,” says LaBombard. “This will show candidates you have given thought to where they will fit within your company.”
- Make Your Hires Feel Welcome: While elaborate classroom training is not necessary (or even advised for most new hires), be sure to have at least 8-12 weeks of departmental or mentorship-based training developed. Companies who hire a lot at the entry-level often assign both an experienced mentor and a peer (a recent grad who may now have about two years of experience) that can provide assistance during the training process. Make sure the new hire begins contributing and making an impact quickly, usually within the first couple of weeks.
For many new grads, small and medium employers represent a great source for that first job after college. GradStaff research shows that 87 percent of entry-level job seekers state a preference to work for an employer of 1,000 employees or less. In addition, almost half of these state a preference for employers of 100 employees or less, which shows that many graduating seniors understand the benefits of working for a smaller employer.
“Knowing where and how to connect with great entry-level candidates will help position your company as a destination for quality young talent,” say LaBombard.
Bonus College Graduate Hiring Advice From A Recruiter and Mom of Recent College Graduate
Kathy Downs, Vice President and recruiting manager of Robert Half International in Orlando, Florida, is also the mother of two, including a son who is a recent Auburn university graduate.
Downs offered the following five tips for employers hiring and employing new college graduates:
- Today’s college graduate communicates different: Understand the way new college graduates communicate is different. They are often accustomed to texting on their smart phones instead of calling and thrive on real-time, immediate responses and short answers.
“While they’ve learned proper oral and written communication in an academic setting, their methods of actually implementing these skills may vary, need improvement, or guidance,” says Downs.
- Address any concerns quickly: If you see a behavior that needs to be changed, address it quickly. For example, it may seem obvious to a seasoned professional that when meeting with a client, office visitor or even an internal company staff meeting or after-hours event, that business formal attire is required. But a new college graduate may not have received the typically well-understood, but sometimes unwritten memo. They’ll only need to be told one time – hopefully – before their manager sees a change in their appearance.
- Give new college grads freedom to express themselves: Much of the instruction college graduates receive comes from the top down, from a professor lecturing, a counselor telling them what to do, or a parent telling them how to go after a job.
“Give new college grads permission to come up with their own ideas and encourage them to present their thoughts and speak up,” says Downs. “They appreciate the opportunity to make a difference and can be highly innovative when encouraged.”
- Take advantage of tech skills: When it comes to technological advances, new college graduates may know more than their managers. They recently took classes on cutting-edge Excel for finance and accounting professionals, CAD software for engineers and other technologies for various professions.
“These students just received the latest and greatest instruction – so tap into it,” says Downs.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover: A new college graduate may not have a lot of hands-on experience in traditional work environments. But attire and presentation are coachable components. With the right guidance and mentorship, how they look when they arrive to the office every day – and how they present themselves once they are at work – will likely change and improve.
Extra Credit: Downs added this additional nugget and insight: According to a 2010 Pew Research poll, 23 percent of Americans have a tattoo and 32 percent of people ages 30 to 45 have at least one tattoo, according to a New York Times article. Both of Downs’ children have tattoos, which she reminds employers of this point: “Young people tend to tell their stories with their bodies and as long as it’s within reason, tattoos shouldn’t be held against them or viewed as unprofessional.”