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What to Know When Hiring Recent College Graduates

In Hiring Strategy — by Dave Anderson

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As graduation season comes and goes, another class of young professionals will soon be entering the job market. Recruiters will have a whole new group of 20-somethings to hire for entry-level jobs and groom for career success.

You’re likely already familiar with how Millennials and Generation Z differ from the older professionals in your workplace. You’ve probably read one of the many online articles on the topic or have firsthand experience working with young people.

Generational differences aside, hiring someone with no work experience should be approached differently than hiring a seasoned professional. In this article, we’ll provide advice for recruiting recent college graduates.

Be loose on experience requirements

Young job seekers often complain about being under-qualified for junior positions. They get excited when they come across an entry-level job posting online, only to see the company is seeking someone with a few years of experience.

Make the best hire with our “Candidate Evaluation Guide”

You can’t expect a recent graduate to have an extensive resume. Even if they spent four years of college preparing for a particular career, they still have a lot to learn about your industry and the position. They probably won’t be aware of all the lingo, tools and best practices the job entails. And you certainly can’t expect them to already have hands-on experience doing the job.

You should, however, look for candidates who are intelligent and driven when hiring recent graduates. Prioritize applicants with favorable GPAs and impressive collegiate backgrounds. If someone aced their college classes while interning, volunteering, participating in campus organizations or even working a part-time job, they’re likely ready to be a successful member of the workforce.

Be ready to provide training

Since you can’t expect a recent graduate to have an instant impact on your company, you need to be prepared to teach them what it takes to do the job. If your company doesn’t have the time or resources for training, it doesn’t make sense to hire someone right out of school.

Aside from being a low-cost employee, you can think of a recent graduate as a ball of clay that who can be molded into an ideal team member. An experienced professional might try to do things like they did in past jobs but a recent grad will be open to learning the exact processes your company requires employees to follow.

It’s also important to teach a young employee how to conduct themselves in the workplace and deal with the challenges a career present. In addition to a comprehensive training program, a formal mentorship program will help them grow professionally. Consider pairing any recent graduate you hire with a senior employee who can provide guidance and feedback.

Interview well

A solid interview process is always crucial when hiring. However, it’s especially important when your company is taking a chance on a recent graduate who doesn’t have an established track record.

Check out our guide on asking situational and behavioral questions in job interviews

The time you save on reviewing resumes can be spent getting to know a young candidate during an interview. Try to learn what their career ambitions are and if your company is the right fit for them. You should also strive to get a sense of their maturity level and if they’re ready to make the jump from college life into adulthood.

Don’t ask too many questions related to skills and experience. You should instead ask why the young person applied for the job and how they would approach it if hired. Get an idea of their interest in the role and your company since many people with no experience apply to multiple entry-level jobs and hope for the best.

Be fair and legally compliant when hiring interns

It’s common for a company to hire a recent graduate or college student as an intern before bringing them on as a full-time employee. The young professional has the opportunity to get their foot in the door and the company has the chance to train and get to know them before making an employment commitment.

Internships are meant to be mutually beneficial. The young person should receive training that benefits them as their career starts in exchange for working for free. The United States Department of Labor provides the following legal standards companies must comply with when hiring interns:

  • The internship is part of a student’s studies or results in them receiving academic credits.
  • The intern fully understands they will not be compensated.
  • The intern receives training that relates to their field of study.
  • The internship schedule accommodates the student’s class schedule.
  • The internship concludes when the intern has completely their company-provided training.
  • The intern does not replace a full-time, paid employee.
  • The intern does expect a paid job at the end of their internship.

Never view an intern as someone who can do your company’s tedious work for free. Instead, create a formal internship program that provides the participants with valuable training and helps get their careers off to the right start.