Hiring & Recruiting

Why You Can’t Afford Not to Hire College Graduates

By Krista Williams

I have been working with college students … well, since I was in college. In most, if not all, of my positions I have had the fortune of working with interns, new graduates, placement offices, faculty, and students. My support has not only been to assist in job placement but also to support the transition of students from the life of ramen noodles and 10 a.m. classes to meeting the demands of a completely connected work environment with high expectations.

I enjoy the aspect of the students being full of life, holding huge aspirations, and having absolutely no idea how to get where they are trying to go. I have partnered with placement offices at several colleges and managed college hiring programs for several organizations. Over the years, some things have changed and some things haven’t at all. Here is what I have learned and what I would advise hiring managers to keep in mind:

Students have very limited views of the types of positions they can actually perform once they graduate.

They need to speak with a lot of people in various industries in order to be able to make an educated decision about where they should be focusing their career search efforts. There are several places that we are able to assist and make an impact on college graduate entry into our desired markets.

As a prospective employer, you can offer internship programs, volunteer to be a guest speaker, participate as a guest panelist, and/or sign up for career day involvement as a start.

If you’re a hiring manager with a lesser known company in a competitive industry, invite a class to come to your office. Give them a tour, have junior- and senior-level folks speak to them about their potential career paths with your company, and get students interested in working with YOU. Make sure they get a connection beyond what they can learn online. They can also serve as a great referral resource for you down the road if you play your cards right.

Companies should hire for potential, not experience.

A pickle we often get in is that if we do have entry-level positions, we think we are too busy to slow down enough to train someone without experience. I disagree. This is an opportunity to take someone without any preconceived notions about what it is like to work for an employer—someone who has not developed any bad habits yet—and completely mold him or her into the type of worker we would like. This particularly helps in high production environments of companies with really elevated goal structures. If you are able to attract highly talented, motivated, bright, competitive staff, they will only have one another to compare themselves to—not a slower paced previous past place of employment.

Think of it as the boy that grew up among gazelles. He thought EVERYONE ran that fast, right? Look at fit, aptitude, drive, motivators, etc. One to 2 years of experience in your field doesn’t hold a candle to someone willing to give the extra effort for the team to make their quarterly goals or prepare a killer presentation because it is something they want to do—not what they are told to do.

Provide training and opportunity.

Whether it is on the desk or in the training room, make sure you are providing an environment where your eager, fresh graduates can continually learn. They are coming off many years of absorbing lots and lots of information and let’s face it, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Make sure that you keep your new hires challenged, interested, and involved.

Don’t worry about whatever path you thought was good enough for you or others several years ago. Allow effort, production, and results to speak for themselves and reward based on performance.

Although I will be the first to admit that sometimes time is the best teacher, as you get to experience lifecycles and events recurring, don’t let too much time go by and allow the next best opportunity to come from an outside employer. The first several moves or promotions for fresh graduates (once earned) should be made in shorter time intervals their first 2–5 years of work. Otherwise, you may stand to lose your rising leaders to competitors who may appear to value their worth sooner than you do. Stay abreast of talent, how marketable they are, and make sure they are rewarded appropriately,

I appreciate all of the time I have spent these past years with students, graduates, faculty, and hiring managers in an effort to employ the newest members of our educated workforce. Sometimes I have given soon-to-be-grads tough love about their social media presence or advised them not to ever apologize for anything in their portfolio (it is a lifelong work in progress) or even create a personal brand, but most of all I have tried to broaden the view of their capabilities in the workplace in their own minds and with the business.

There is a great amount of opportunity for everyone if we work together and have the right frame of mind. So, next time you think you must have 3–5 years’ experience in a hire, think again. And take a close look at the advantages of hiring a fresh college grad.

About Krista Williams

Krista Williams is a Strategic Director for Seven Step RPO. She has more than 15 years’ experience in recruitment, and currently oversees client accounts while providing strategic consulting to client stakeholders. Her expertise includes driving innovation, compliance, client relationship development, team building, process improvement, and operational delivery. Previously, Krista served in various corporate positions in recruiting, human resource systems, and vendor relationship management in the healthcare, retail, banking, energy services, travel/hospitality, and contingency agency recruitment industries. Krista lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

  • Barb

    Potential vs. experience is a great point, especially with many talented students not being able to afford to take unpaid internships where they’d gain experience.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on this. Over the past seven years I’ve hired over 100 people and around 90% of them were right out of school. Myself and my management team are always recruiting even when we have no open hire reqs.

    We spend a lot of time working with classes each semester in two local Universities – we’ve not only developed a great rapport with business department heads but also the career enrichment departments. My management team and sales, marketing and merchandising team members mentor students as well.

    On any given Friday you will see young people on my sales and merchandising floor shadowing team members. Many of the students in our office are Juniors – we like to find the right people, let them come in and see what we do and most importantly, have some participation in where they go inside of our company. Let’s face it, who really knows what they want to do when they get out of school? Most just want a job.

    One of my favorite things to do is offer a student a job five months before they graduate. Once they join your company – you have to understand their aspirations and commit to helping them be successful. It’s a very gratifying part of my role – I love to see their confidence build and see them flourish. Many of the people we’ve hired have moved on to leadership roles in our company.