How to recruit new college graduates

It's May — the month when reality hits college seniors. Graduates that haven’t found a job yet need to double down on their job search efforts, meaning an influx of resumes will likely start appearing in recruiters’ inboxes.

I'm always grateful for this wave of applications. Even with little to no work experience, recent graduates have a lot to offer. They bring fresh perspectives to the table, and they're easy to train since they haven't been exposed to many work styles yet.

I've recruited hundreds (maybe thousands) of fresh college grads at this point. Here are a few strategies I've learned for assessing their skills, identifying great hires from the bunch, and encouraging them to join your company.

Fill in the resume gaps

Assessing expertise from resumes is always somewhat murky, but it's especially challenging when you're hiring recent grads. They have, at best, minimal work experience, so you're only able to evaluate their resumes based on two factors:

  • Technical skills, such as coding, fluency in other languages, or building spreadsheets.

  • Transferable skills, or attributes that can be used in a variety of jobs. Examples include communication, leadership, and organization.

Technical skills are easy to recognize and measure through aptitude tests. Transferable skills, on the other hand, are difficult to detect in resumes. They can be shown in any number of ways — whether it be captaining a sports team, participating in student government, or engaging in arts programs. Recruiters have to holistically look at graduates' non-professional experiences to pick out the transferable skills and determine whether they would be a good fit for the role.

I was lucky enough to benefit from this approach in my own career path. After studying politics throughout college, I quickly realized after graduation that it wasn't what I wanted to pursue. Luckily, a CEO at a small local tech company pointed me in the direction of recruiting. He recognized that my experience in politics helped me build core recruiting qualities — namely, being outgoing and not easily intimidated by titles — and recommended that I apply for a recruiting role at his company. If he hadn't recognized my transferable skills, I'm not sure where I would be today.

To evaluate recent grads' skills, consider their entire set of experiences. Avoid overlooking any attributes that could be useful at your company by evaluating each of these areas:

  • Extracurriculars: Did they hold leadership roles in their groups? If so, what did they achieve in these roles? You can also assess their level of dedication by noting how long they were a member.

  • Internships: Did they intern in your industry and build relevant skills and knowledge? Even if the internship is unrelated to your work, consider whether the graduate is passionate about this subject. If you can harness this energy in a full time job, they could be a valuable hire.

  • Degree: Do their studies contribute to their knowledge of your industry? How did their studies help them build skills for the role and your workplace?

Notice that I didn't put GPA on this list. I haven’t found grades to be a reliable predictor of job performance — and yet, many companies treat GPA as the most important factor of new grads' resumes. It’s not hard to see why. Grades are one of the few data points that companies have about recent grads, so they assume grades reflect these applicants as a whole.

Weighing one factor too heavily will lead to poor hires, period. Consider every experience that recent graduates bring to the table, so you can judge all of their attributes and decide whether they would be a good match for your company.

Build graduates' confidence with training programs

New graduates who have never held a full-time position before are often unsure of what they want from a job. As a result, they might be hesitant to apply to roles or — as we see all too often — quickly switch jobs if they're hired. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 55% of recent college graduates quit their jobs within a year.

Show new grads that they will be able to thrive at your company by creating training programs. Recent grads place a high value on this support — 84% of them expect their first company to offer formal training programs, according to Accenture. Promote these initiatives, and you'll reassure high-quality candidates that their onboarding and career growth will be supported.

It’s a win-wn. A training program builds new grads’ skills, so they feel more confident in their work. At the same time, training allows you to shape their work habits to fit your workplace environment. You’re also less likely to deal with turnover since you’re nurturing the recent grad and keeping them challenged in their role.

At Google, I've seen firsthand the value of nurturing new grads through training. Five years ago, for example, a recent grad joined my team through the company's HR rotational program. He realized in a matter of weeks that he didn't enjoy recruiting. Through the program, he was able to work for multiple HR teams and realize his true interest: working as an analyst. He developed the skills needed for the role through training, and today is working at Google as an analyst.

Drive applications and increase retention from recent grads by supporting the talent pool with training, such as:

  • A structured internship program where you familiarize new grads and college students with every department and your company culture. With this exposure, interns will know what work interests them at your company and they will have a clear sense of the culture. They're prepared for your workplace, so they're more likely to stay at the company if hired.

  • A rotational development program where recent graduates are hired as full-time employees and exposed to multiple departments over several years. By the end of the program, they decide which role they would like to pursue at your company.

  • A mentorship program that pairs employees who are new graduates with experienced employees. Set up regular meetings between the two so that recent grads have a constant support system when they have a question about the company or their new role.

  • A conference program that requires employees who are new graduates to attend a set number of industry events every year. Attending these conferences will help recent grads build their industry knowledge and realize the positive impact of your business.

These training programs don’t just encourage applications—they help new grads thrive at your company in the long-term by building their skills and exposing them to multiple departments.

Prep for next year's college grads

There is no such thing as targeting college students too soon.

The talent market is competitive — many companies accept applications and make offers to seniors as early as the fall. While you don't need to fill openings this early, you'll have a much better shot at hiring talented students if you follow this timeline.

Beyond reaching out to seniors, there is a lot of value in connecting with younger students. Build their awareness and trust in your company early on, even if they're not eligible to apply for internships and full-time positions at the time. With this foundation, they'll be more likely to accept an offer from you when they graduate.

Your student outreach doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be intentional. Say, for example, several employees at your company were a part of the same software engineering group in college. Considering how many alumni are at your company, there is a good chance that current group members would enjoy working at your company, too. Nurture them as potential hires by hosting a campus event for them, such as a sponsored pizza party.

Likewise, you should be deliberate in choosing the universities you want to target. A lot of companies make the mistake of only recruiting at well-known or prestigious schools. The problem? Every other company wants applicants from these colleges, too.

The truth is there are plenty of equally skilled students at smaller colleges and state universities. Instead of focusing on rankings, recruit at colleges that have a genuine connection to your workplace:

  • Universities with strong industry-related departments. You don't have to be a top-ranked school to have a top-ranked department — plenty of small schools and state colleges excel in specific fields. Research which universities are the leaders in your industry-specific subjects through US News & World Report's college search filter

  • Universities that your employees attended. Be conscious of diversity — you don't want to exclusively recruit students from your employees' alma maters. At the same time, it's important to take advantage of this alumni connection. If students can connect with employees about their college life — campus traditions, dorms they lived in, school sports — they're more likely to feel a meaningful, human connection to your company.

  • Universities in your local area: Many students will want to stay in the region after graduation, so they will be eager to explore job opportunities at local companies.

Once you've selected your target universities, there are a number of ways to build relationships with students at these schools:

  • College job fairs. These are usually widely attended by students since they're able to interact with so many potential employers at once.

  • Host virtual talks with a group of campuses. A video conference is an affordable, yet powerful, way to promote your employer brand and workplace environment with hundreds of students from different universities.

  • Post on college job boards. Focus on quality over quantity, just as you would with any job board. It's tempting to submit job postings to every university since it's such a low-effort tactic. At the end of the day though, it's better to be sifting through fewer high-quality applications from target schools, instead of a massive amount from a random assortment of colleges.

  • Connect with local universities to set up employees as guest speakers at panels and/or classes. These engagements will increase students' awareness of your employer brand and position your company as knowledgeable in its industry.

Don't limit college recruitment to the post-graduation period. Promote your employer brand at universities and connect with students throughout the year. These relationships that you build with students over time will translate into high-quality hires.

Strengthen your team by hiring recent grads

Recent college graduates are inexperienced — but the potential value that they bring to your workplace is massive. They have transferable and technical skills that are useful in a variety of roles, and they're easy to train as young professionals.

Attract this talent pool by connecting with students as early as possible. Show skilled students the value of your workplace when they're freshmen, and they'll have good reason to accept an offer and contribute to your company after graduation.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.