Grad season for college graduates can be an exciting time as many watch loved ones walk the graduation stage and start a new, independent life.
For HR though, grad season can signal more than that: It’s the season when young, top talent hunt for new jobs to start their professional careers.
As 1.9 million college students gear up to graduate this May, they’re on the hunt for entry-level positions in one of the most competitive labor markets that the workforce has seen in years.
Even though a new class of grads emerges every year, attracting top young talent is a dynamic effort that can change year-to-year. Between remote work wars and pay transparency efforts, there are many factors you should consider when hiring this grad season.
Here’s how you can attract the best college talent in 2023.
What college grads really want
Amid economic challenges like bank failures and recession fears, new grads are walking into an uncertain and unprecedented corporate world. “Every year brings new positives and negatives when hiring recent college grads,” says Matt Thomas, president of WorkSmart Systems. “It’s important for hiring managers to ensure they take the extra steps to guarantee a smooth hiring process resulting in the best candidate possible.”
College grads are typically lured into the corporate world with cushy perks like snack bars and ping-pong tables, but that’s not enough anymore. This is especially true for Gen Z, the majority of new college grads this year, who are more likely to care about company culture, inclusion and wellness in the workplace than generations before them.
New grads are also more focused on their professional development, and desire learning opportunities and mentorship.
“Over the past few years, companies have made great strides in offering their employees growth opportunities both in and out of the office. However, some companies are not sure how to publicize these opportunities and their company brand other than during the interview process,” says Thomas. This can mean that new grads pass by companies that may be the perfect fit because they don’t realize how well the company aligns with their goals.
Best practices to hire college grads
To make sure that you’re attracting and retaining the top grads of 2023, here are some best practices from Thomas.
Align hiring dates with the academic calendar. The first step to finding the best college grads is to sync hiring dates with their schedule. “Depending on the industry, the hiring timeline will look different, but the typical hiring timeline is somewhere between a month to six weeks,” says Thomas. “If leadership wants an entry-level position filled by the beginning of June, the position should open up sometime in mid-March.”
Showcase your company brand. New grads are on the lookout for top-notch companies, and showing them what you’re all about starts with a solid brand presence. Ensure company profiles online, like on social media, showcase the perks and benefits your company has to offer to get grads thinking about you before they even apply. “Just like recruiters look at candidates’ social media, candidates do the same with companies they are interested in,” says Thomas.
Modify the job description. For many grads, this is their first time applying for jobs, and even many entry-level positions require years of experience that grads simply don’t have. “When targeting new graduates, changing the verbiage in your job description or requirements can make a big difference in hiring managers having to pick between two mediocre candidates and hiring managers being able to select the perfect person to fill the role,” says Thomas.
Expand efforts to various schools. “It’s so easy to get stuck hiring from the same schools every year,” says Thomas. “While it’s simple to get people from the same local college every year, there will end up being a lack of diversity in thought processes.” Instead, try reaching out to a mix of local colleges, in-state schools and out-of-state or private universities to keep your talent pool diverse.