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Advice for Employers and Recruiters

20 proven strategies to maximize your early career hiring efforts

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
February 12, 2024

Whether your organization is looking to hire a handful, dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of college and university students, recent graduates, or other early career candidates, it is likely that you’re always looking for ways to do that more efficiently, effectively, or both.

We recently asked 20 business and hiring leaders to each share one specific strategy that their organizations — or ones they previously worked at — implemented to improve their early career hiring efforts. Here is what the thought leaders had to say:

  • Expand Internship Programs
  • Engage Through Open Houses
  • Implement a Buddy System
  • Offer Practical Interview Tasks
  • Partner with Colleges for Internships
  • Forge Partnerships with Vocational Schools
  • Establish a Dedicated Early-Talent Program
  • Participate in University Job Fairs
  • Initiate a Reverse Mentoring Program
  • Introduce a Fast-Track Leadership Program
  • Build a Strong Internship Program
  • Create a Co-Op Program with Institutions
  • Offer Career-Development Workshops
  • Implement a Campus Ambassador Program
  • Launch an Employee Referral Program
  • Leverage Social Media for Recruitment
  • Digitalize the Onboarding Experience
  • Operate a Dedicated Internship Program
  • Revamp the Career Website
  • Remove Experience Requirements from Listings

Expand Internship Programs

I’ve found internship programs to be invaluable pipelines for junior recruitment. By embedding students in real work for a summer, they gain tangible skills while we assess potential fits beyond resumes. I expanded Helpmonks’ intern slots after noticing that 3 out of 5 scholars continued contributing part-time, then converted to full-time roles post-graduation.

Seeing prior graduates pivot into senior product or marketing positions inspires the latest cohort to envision their journeys. Assigning intern mentors and highlighting flexible work arrangements catering to academic schedules helps position Helpmonks as a magnet for top-tier graduates worldwide.

Nitai Aventaggiato, Founder and CEO, Helpmonks

Engage Through Open Houses

Open houses, live streams, and videos are great ways to encourage students to check in on your industry. As a partner at a recruiting firm, I’m always looking to connect with the youth, both for my own hiring needs and those of my clients. Hosting open houses and posting behind-the-scenes streams and videos have accomplished a lot to that end. Students and young people have a deep thirst for knowledge about all industries, and a lack of experience means they are always looking for ways to expand their understanding.

Bringing them into the office, whether virtually or in-person, feeds their desire for comprehension while gifting you with an early connection that pays off when they’re ready to job hunt.

Travis Hann, Partner, Pender & Howe

Implement a Buddy System

At Startup House, we believe in the power of mentorship to improve our early-career hiring efforts. We have implemented a buddy system, where each new hire is paired with a more experienced employee who acts as their mentor. This not only helps the new hires settle in and feel supported but also provides them with valuable guidance and insights into their role and the company. By fostering a culture of learning and growth, we have seen an increase in employee satisfaction and retention and a stronger pipeline of talented individuals eager to join our team. So, if you’re looking to level up your early-career hiring, don’t underestimate the power of a good mentorship program!

Alex Stasiak, CEO and Founder, Startup House

Offer Practical Interview Tasks

Typically, when you hire someone, you want to rely on their experience and see what they’ve done that could be an asset to your team. However, when you’re talking about early-career prospects, you can’t just rely on experience, even though they may have had internships or apprenticeships before. 

I fully believe that for these types of roles, one of the best things you can do is offer a piece of work as part of the interview. It should only be a short, half-hour piece and something that doesn’t feel overwhelming, but something that still shows exactly what they’re capable of, as well as showing their passion for the work.

This can help you be more diverse in your hiring approach, so that you aren’t just relying on what people have on their résumé, but can also give interviews based on passion shown through a cover letter or in their reaching out to you.

We have to remember not everyone has the same access to experience, so it is up to us to allow a more diverse hiring pool, for fairness and a greater chance of success.

Brett Downes, Founder, Haro Helpers

Partner with Colleges for Internships

One specific strategy our organization implemented to improve our early-career hiring efforts was partnering with colleges for student internship programs. Rather than spending time posting internship opportunities, we collaborated with local universities, allowing them to recommend our company as a viable internship destination for students. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement since it allowed us to assess potential future hires while providing the university with a high-quality internship opportunity that they could connect their students with. As a result, we were able to bring on board multiple top-performing interns who demonstrated their capabilities and fit within the company culture during their internship period. Another benefit to this approach was that there were fewer intern terminations due to poor work performance because of our connection to their university.

Christine Tran, Marketing Coordinator, Achievable

Forge Partnerships with Vocational Schools

One innovative strategy we implemented at to enhance our early-career hiring efforts was to forge strong partnerships with vocational schools and universities. We created a pipeline for locating and luring new talent enthusiastic about the building and contracting sector by working with these academic institutions. This strategy greatly streamlined the hiring process by enabling us to access a pool of applicants who already had a solid understanding of our industry.

We held guest lectures, funded student projects, and took part in career fairs geared toward students enrolled in construction management, engineering, and related disciplines to optimize the efficacy of this approach. Through these campaigns, we were able to highlight the amazing prospects and career paths that our organization offers while also increasing brand recognition among potential applicants. It gave students a way to communicate with our team directly, which helped them feel connected to and interested in our goals and ideals.

This collaborative approach paid off well, as more qualified and driven candidates expressed interest in beginning their careers with us. It helped us fill entry-level positions with great individuals and improved our reputation as an employer committed to training the next generation of construction professionals. Our dedication to supporting upcoming talent and innovation in the sector is demonstrated by the fact that this policy has become a cornerstone of our hiring process.

Michael Benoit, Founder, Contractor Bond

Establish a Dedicated Early-Talent Program

One specific approach that made a big difference was when a previous employer of mine established an early-talent program. Through this program, they created a dedicated recruitment process and onboarding experience for college students and recent graduates.

The key benefits we saw were threefold. First, it allowed us to build stronger campus recruiting relationships and brand awareness with students earlier in their college journey. Second, it provided a streamlined application process so students felt it was easy and worthwhile to apply. And third, we designed a customized six-month onboarding program with extra training, mentorship, and networking opportunities specifically tailored to support those just starting their careers.

Overall, creating a differentiated early-talent experience was hugely impactful. It helped us attract more qualified and engaged candidates, while also better preparing and retaining them once hired. I’d recommend any organization looking to improve their campus hiring consider creating a similar dedicated early-career program. The focus and investment required to pay dividends in building your talent pipeline for the future.

Noel Griffith, CMO, SupplyGem

Participate in University Job Fairs

We began to actively participate in job fairs and career events at universities with strong programs related to our field. We set up booths, conducted workshops, and even held on-the-spot interviews to engage directly with students. 

This approach allowed us to showcase our company, understand the career aspirations of young talents, and identify potential candidates early in their career journey. Engaging in these events has been an effective strategy to increase brand awareness among emerging talents and establish relationships with future job seekers. It also allowed us to get a better understanding of the evolving expectations and skill sets of new entrants in the job market.

Phil Strazzulla, Founder, SelectSoftware Reviews

Initiate a Reverse Mentoring Program

We initiated a Reverse Mentoring Program where young employees mentor senior staff on current trends and new technologies. This program not only provided professional development opportunities for both mentors and mentees but also showcased our commitment to learning and innovation, making us an attractive employer for early-career professionals. It helped bridge the generational gap and created a more inclusive and collaborative work environment. This program also allowed our younger employees to feel valued and heard, enhancing their engagement and sense of belonging in the company.

Rex Huxford, Director of Demand Generation, MD Clarity

Introduce a Fast-Track Leadership Program

We introduced a fast-track leadership program specifically designed for high-potential, early-career hires. This program offers accelerated career progression, mentorship, and specialized training to attract ambitious young professionals seeking rapid career growth. By providing clear leadership and development pathways, we’ve been able to attract top talent and retain them by offering a clear and appealing career progression plan. This strategy has not only helped us in attracting ambitious individuals but also in fostering a culture of growth and development within the organization.

Chad Sultana, Founder, Chad Sultana

Build a Strong Internship Program

Let me share a specific strategy that my organization used to boost its early-career hiring efforts. We built a strong internship program that provided determined professionals with practical experience and mentorship. This program enabled us to identify outstanding talent early on and prepare them for future full-time jobs. By investing in these young professionals, we not only improved their skill sets but also created a pipeline of talented individuals who were already familiar with our company’s values and culture. It was a win-win situation for the organization and the early-career professionals.

Pat Schirripa, CEO, People 2U

Create a Co-Op Program with Institutions

We developed partnerships with educational institutions to create a co-op program, allowing students to work with us for a semester. This program offers students valuable hands-on experience and academic credit, while we get the opportunity to assess their performance and fit within our company. 

This co-op program has become a crucial talent pipeline, with many students joining us full-time after graduation. It also enhances our reputation among academic institutions and students, positioning us as an employer that invests in and values the development of young talent.

Shawn Plummer, CEO, The Annuity Expert

Offer Career-Development Workshops

We started offering tailored career development workshops at various universities and online platforms to engage with students and recent graduates. These workshops, focusing on industry-specific skills and career advice, gave participants valuable insights while showcasing our commitment to professional growth. 

This initiative served as a platform for us to interact with potential candidates, significantly improving our early-career hiring efforts. The workshops have also helped in building our brand as an employer that values and invests in young talent, making us more attractive to job seekers at the start of their careers.

David Gaglione, Founding Partner, PS212

Implement a Campus Ambassador Program

We implemented a Campus Ambassador Program where selected students from various universities act as our representatives on their campuses. They create brand awareness among their peers and provide us with direct access to a pool of potential early-career candidates. Our Campus Ambassadors organize events, share company updates, and act as liaisons between students and our organization. 

This strategy has been very effective in building our employer brand among the student community and attracting top talent from various educational institutions. Additionally, it’s been a great way to engage with the younger generation and understand their perspectives and career aspirations.

Hardy Desai, Founder, Supple Digital

Launch an Employee Referral Program

One strategy to improve the hiring efforts of your organization is to implement a referral program for early-career candidates. You should place incentives and mechanisms to encourage your current employees, especially recent hires, to refer talented early-career candidates for open positions. Offer incentives such as referral bonuses or recognition programs to motivate employees to participate actively in the referral process. This strategy can tap into your employees’ networks and attract candidates who are a good cultural fit for your organization. For example, in the past year, we have hired three individuals who were referred to me through current employees. In my opinion, not only does a program like this expand your potential hiring network, but it also helps with team morale.

Mathias Johansen, Co-Founder and COO, Guide2Fluency

Leverage Social Media for Recruitment

To enhance early-career hiring, dasFlow focused on leveraging social media platforms, particularly LinkedIn and Instagram. We created targeted ads and posts showcasing our company culture and the dynamic opportunities available for early-career professionals. This strategy not only widened our reach but also attracted applicants who resonated with our brand values and were genuinely interested in the athleisure apparel industry. As a result, we saw a notable increase in both the quantity and quality of applicants for our early-career positions.

Nicolas Krauss, Founder and CEO, dasFlow Custom Sublimation Apparel

Digitalize the Onboarding Experience

The company improved its onboarding procedure by implementing a digital onboarding experience to entice tech-savvy, early-career personnel. This platform offered new hires a seamless, interactive introduction to the organization, including virtual tours, gamified learning sessions, and online networking opportunities with peers and senior leaders. By using technology to build an engaging and informative onboarding experience, the business was able to increase retention rates among early-career hires and foster a sense of belonging from the start.

Cindi Keller, Communications Coordinator, The Criminal Defense Firm

Operate a Dedicated Internship Program

Early career hiring can benefit an organization in multiple ways because it becomes overall more convenient and cost-effective to hire a candidate who is early in their career, i.e., 0 to 5 years of work experience. Since they’re relatively new in the field, they don’t have higher salary expectations and an upward learning curve, which can make them more eager candidates who want to achieve more. Our organization maximizes this opportunity by operating a dedicated internship program during the summer and winter breaks, where candidates can work in our offices for a couple of months, and the top performer usually gets a PPO (Post-Placement Opportunity). Since interns are already aware of our company’s dynamics and get a sense of the work culture followed at our place, they’re more likely to accept our job offer and even stay with the company for the long term. I also landed my first job with the company where I was an intern, so practically, the loyalty your company would win over with these internship programs is immense. Candidates today are very skillful but do not have many chances to work on a live project, so your early hiring efforts can see a boost by offering PPOs to your interns.

Jack Vivian, Chief Technology Officer, Increditools

Revamp the Career Website

We revamped our career website to make it more appealing and informative to early-career professionals. We included detailed descriptions of our entry-level positions, potential career paths, and insights into our company culture. We also highlighted our commitment to diversity and inclusion, showcasing how we support the growth and development of all employees. 

This transparency and detailed information have been crucial in attracting more informed and interested candidates, improving the quality and fit of our early-career applicants. It also reinforces our brand as an employer that values openness and provides clear opportunities for growth and development.

Ian Sells, CEO, Million Dollar Sellers

Remove Experience Requirements from Listings

To improve early-career hiring efforts, organizations can implement a strategy of removing specific years of experience requirements from job descriptions. By eliminating this criterion, our organization opened up opportunities for individuals who are just starting their careers. 

Setting a designated number of years of experience discouraged early-career candidates from applying because they didn’t meet the requirements. When a company focuses on the skills, qualifications, and potential of candidates rather than solely relying on years of experience, it can attract a more diverse pool of talent and provide opportunities for individuals to grow within the organization.

Travis Willis, Director of Customer Success, Aspire

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