How to Hire the Right New College Graduates

BY Kathy Crosett
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For managers struggling to find their next A‑level sales rep, there’s good news from the 2020 Campus to Career report published by Handshake earlier this month. Hiring the right new college graduates comes down to holding virtual career fairs and using a streamlined remote hiring process. Managers should know that these new diploma holders also show some savvy about the employment market.

These employees can bring an added dimension to your workforce. You'll need to keep in mind that Gen Z employees are focused on career development and their income stream. As they watch the job market, they’ve indicated a bigger interest in jobs that the health care industry, computer and information systems, and in working as account managers.

The latest jobs report from the Labor Department indicates that employers added 245,000 jobs in November 2020. According to analysts, U.S. employers have brought back 11 million of the 22 million jobs that disappeared early in the pandemic. This slow recovery indicates that hiring managers may have plenty of applicants, including new college graduates, to choose from when it's time to fill a position.

Looking ahead, U.S. employers believe they’ll increase their payrolls by 17% during Q1 2021. The ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook survey data shows the strongest hiring intentions in leisure and hospitality, transportation and utilities, and in nondurable manufacturing. In addition, 23% of U.S. employers believe their hiring levels in April 2021 will return to what they were doing before the pandemic started. While some of this hiring amounts to bringing back furloughed workers, employers will need to recruit for open positions.

Employers have also learned that they need to take care of team members. The pandemic has caused organizations to emphasize:

  • Health and well-​being (55)%
  • Manager and leader development (22%)
  • Upskilling, learning and development 20%)

These factors should also be highly visible during your recruiting process, especially if you're hiring new college graduates.

Making the Right Hire

If you’re like many employers, you may prefer to hire new college graduates and train them in your selling style and in your work culture. With this approach, your employees will have fewer bad habits to break. Your new employees might be A‑level reps in no time, or they might turn out to be subversive rabblerousers. Is there any way to know for sure before you extend an offer of employment?

You can improve your changes of hiring a quality candidate by reviewing how you source, interview and rank candidates. Over 60% of sales managers rely on networking and 50% use employee referral systems to find their candidates. Fewer than 30% turn to college job programs.

The decision about whom to interview may rest on the quality of a candidate's resume. Some managers might hesitate to hire a fresh college graduate who lacks experience or any kind of track record. They also might worry that their resume was put together with the help of the campus career office. 

The good news is that you don't have to rely solely on what the candidate tells you or what an internal employee believes about the friend they are trying to refer into your organization. A good sales skills assessment test will reveal basic personal characteristics and help you measure a candidate's fit on a number of levels. To learn more about a candidate who interests you, study the results of the behavioral part of their assessment. If your candidate has a tendency to be impulsive or inconsistent under pressure, know that you’ll have to coach them on those details.

The more objective information you have about a candidate before you extend an offer of employment, the better your outcome will be.