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Advice for Employers and Recruiters

How 17 employers improved how to hire college and university students and recent grads for entry-level roles

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
February 20, 2024

One of College Recruiter’s core values is continuous improvement. Like all organizations and even people, we have our strengths and we have our weaknesses. But even if something is a strength does not mean that it is as good as it can get. Employers are no different.

We recently asked 17 employers to share with us one way that their organizations — or ones they previously worked at — improved their hiring of entry-level candidates who were graduating from a college or university.

  • Implement a Mentorship Program
  • Focus on Skills, Not Prestige
  • Prioritize Stories Over Grades
  • Showcase Alumni Career Paths
  • Streamline the Application Process
  • Introduce Aptitude Testing
  • Establish a Robust Internship Program
  • Leverage Alumni Networks
  • Focus on Potential and Agility
  • Emphasize Cultural Fit
  • Engage in Targeted Campus Recruiting
  • Partner with Educational Institutions
  • Create Targeted Job Descriptions
  • Start Recruiting Early in College
  • Introduce Reverse-Interview Process
  • Revamp Onboarding with Orientation
  • Offer Skill-Building Workshops

Implement a Mentorship Program

At Startup House, we believe in giving entry-level candidates a chance to shine. One way we improved our hiring process was by implementing a mentorship program. We paired each new hire with an experienced team member who provided guidance, support, and valuable insights. This not only helped the candidates quickly adapt to our company culture and work environment but also accelerated their learning curve. By fostering a collaborative and nurturing atmosphere, we were able to attract top talent and provide them with the tools they needed to succeed. So, if you’re looking to enhance your hiring of entry-level candidates, consider implementing a mentorship program to give them the best start possible.

Alex Stasiak, CEO & Founder, Startup House

Focus on Skills, Not Prestige

Not every student has the privilege of going to a good university or college. And if we look at past data, there are many talented candidates who have not graduated from a famous university. For our organization, we don’t focus as much on college but on the skills they have in that background. This removes any partiality and gives everyone an equal chance to show their talent. It also doesn’t demotivate them into thinking they’re fighting against the best, since everyone gets an equal opportunity. And for our recruitment, this ensures we don’t miss any capable talent that can do wonders. Ultimately, this has helped us hire great talents from all educational backgrounds.

Ozzi Jarvinen, Founder, Iglu

Prioritize Stories Over Grades

Grades and transcripts aren’t our focus; we’re more interested in their stories, the challenges they’ve faced, and how they envision their career journey. This approach has reshaped our internship hiring process, as we believe it provides insight into their passion, creativity, and potential cultural fit. We’ve found that this personal approach not only enriches our team but also aligns our internships with individuals who are more likely to grow with us in the long term.

As a leader in our organization, I have always been invested in finding the best talent for our team. This includes not only experienced professionals but also interns who bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the table.

Tristan Harris, Demand Generation Senior Marketing Manager, Thrive Digital Marketing Agency

Showcase Alumni Career Paths

As a test prep company, most of our tutors are hired straight out of college. We were able to attract strong candidates by showcasing the careers of past tutors. Usually, tutors who are interested in teaching or education will work at our company for a couple of years to gain experience. They then move on to other teaching roles or continue their education, many of which are at prestigious institutions. By highlighting these alumni paths, fresh grad candidates are able to see how working at SoFlo can help set their future career on a successful trajectory and are eager to apply.

Adam Shlomi, Founder, SoFlo Tutors

Streamline the Application Process

To attract entry-level candidates from colleges and universities, we invested in creating a seamless and engaging online application process. We redesigned our careers page to be more user-friendly, informative, and optimized for mobile devices, acknowledging that many students use their phones for job searches. 

We also simplified the application form to reduce the time and effort required to apply, making sure to communicate our company’s culture and values throughout the process. This effort to streamline the application experience paid off, resulting in a higher number of completed applications and a more positive first impression among potential candidates. By making the application process as smooth and welcoming as possible, we were able to attract a larger pool of talented graduates eager to join our team.

Ryan Hammill, Executive Director, Ancient Language Institute

Introduce Aptitude Testing

When it comes to apprentice recruitment, aptitude testing was a major game-changer. Cognitive ability is almost perfectly synonymous with the ability to learn, and apprentices should be hired predominantly based on their ability to benefit from training. As with most early-talent recruitment, you can’t expect apprentices to already have workplace-relevant skills; they often have yet to enter the workforce properly. Aptitude tests, therefore, serve as a powerful proxy for their overall cognitive potential, which ultimately determines whether someone will actually benefit from the extensive training and development opportunities presented to them. Consequently, when we introduced aptitude testing in lieu of reducing resume sifting, we saw the quality of hire skyrocket and, ultimately, the completion rates of our apprentice programs improve dramatically.

Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership

Establish a Robust Internship Program

One significant improvement we made in hiring entry-level candidates from colleges and universities was to establish a more robust internship program that served as a talent pipeline for our organization. At Spectup, we partnered with local and national educational institutions to offer students hands-on, real-world experience in their field of study. This program was designed not just as a temporary work opportunity but as a comprehensive learning experience that included mentorship, participation in actual projects, and exposure to our company culture.

The key to this approach was the creation of a structured evaluation process that allowed us to assess interns’ skills, work ethic, and cultural fit throughout their tenure. Successful interns were then offered full-time positions upon graduation, streamlining the hiring process and ensuring a smooth transition to their professional roles. This strategy not only helped us in identifying and nurturing young talent early on but also significantly improved our retention rates for entry-level positions. We recommend this approach because it benefits both the organization and the students, providing a solid foundation for their careers while allowing the company to invest in and retain promising talent.

Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, spectup

Leverage Alumni Networks

We improved the hiring of entry-level candidates by leveraging alumni networks more effectively. We realized that our employees were a valuable resource in identifying and attracting recent graduates. By encouraging our staff to share job openings within their alma mater’s alumni groups and leveraging platforms like LinkedIn to connect with recent graduates, we were able to tap into a wider pool of candidates. Additionally, we hosted networking events and career talks at universities, often featuring our employees as speakers to share their career journeys. This approach not only helped us reach potential candidates directly but also made our organization more attractive to recent graduates by showcasing real success stories and opportunities for growth within our company.

Phil Strazzulla, Founder, SelectSoftware Reviews

Focus on Potential and Agility

Hire top entry-level grads by focusing on potential, not just pedigree. Go beyond GPAs and embrace diverse skills: volunteer work, projects, side hustles that show initiative and passion. Assess for learning agility, not memorized facts. Use group simulations to gauge teamwork and communication under pressure. Invest in mentorship and training, providing a supportive environment and targeted programs to bridge skill gaps.

Let your positive company culture shine! Attract talent who see themselves thriving with you. Remember, diamonds in the rough often hold the most potential. Hire for the future, not just the past!

Michael Branover, Business Development Director, Branover Contractors Inc

Emphasize Cultural Fit

In my experience, cultural fit is important. Thus, improving the hiring process for entry-level candidates graduating from college or university involves prioritizing cultural fit alongside skills and qualifications.

This begins with clearly communicating your employer brand, articulating your company culture, values, and work environment in job ads, on your website, and through social media platforms. By providing insights into what makes your organization unique and attractive to potential candidates, you allow applicants to self-select based on their alignment with your culture. Additionally, involving your team in the hiring process fosters a collaborative approach to assessing cultural fit. Your team members, who understand your company culture best, can provide valuable input during interviews, asking culture-related questions and offering feedback on candidates. Finally, investing in a comprehensive onboarding process tailored to entry-level hires is essential. This includes orientation sessions, introductions to team members, mentorship opportunities, and shadowing experiences to facilitate a smooth transition into the company. A positive onboarding experience sets the stage for long-term success, fostering engagement, reducing turnover, and ensuring that new hires integrate well into the organizational culture.

Michael Hurwitz, CEO and Co-Founder, Careers in Government

Engage in Targeted Campus Recruiting

At our company, we aim to hire recent graduates with fresh perspectives and ideas. Our organization has found success in improving entry-level hiring through targeted campus recruiting. 

We identified 20 top colleges based on reputation, program strengths, and location. Instead of general job postings, we worked with these schools’ career centers and faculty contacts. 

A key contact at each college helped us vet upcoming graduates and make tailored introductions. We also visited campuses for resume drops, information sessions, and one-on-one meetings with referred candidates. 

By building these campus partnerships, we were able to screen candidates more thoroughly.

Madhurima Halder, Content Manager, Recruit CRM

Partner with Educational Institutions

One effective strategy we implemented at DayJob Recruitment to improve the hiring of entry-level candidates from colleges or universities was to establish strong partnerships with educational institutions. This involved collaborating with colleges and universities to gain early access to soon-to-be graduates, providing us with a fresh talent pool. 

We also participated in career fairs, internships, and workshops, which allowed us to directly engage with students, understand their skills and aspirations, and tailor our recruitment efforts to match them with suitable entry-level positions in the manufacturing and construction industries, particularly in areas such as metal fabrication, CNC operations, and stone industry roles. This approach not only streamlined our recruitment process but also ensured a better fit between candidates and employers, significantly improving the hiring outcomes for entry-level positions.

Ana Alipat, Recruitment Team Lead, Dayjob Recruitment

Create Targeted Job Descriptions

Ditch the one-size-fits-all job descriptions and craft targeted talent magnets. Highlight real-world projects, not just years of experience. Test for potential, not pedigree, with skills-based assessments. Go beyond the keyboard warriors—engage with diverse talent pools at career fairs and online communities.

Remember your company culture? Showcase it. Showcasing growth opportunities and a supportive environment is like catnip to ambitious new grads. Think outside the resume box, and watch your entry-level hires hit the ground running.

Raymond Kishk, Co-Founder & Principal, Custom Filters Direct

Start Recruiting Early in College

If you intend to hire for entry-level positions in the e-commerce arena, you may want to look deeply into the potential manpower of schools. E-commerce is a big business that can practically encompass every industry as well. However, it is also a simpler business than, say, banking. Yes, it is dependent on sales, so if you want to hire people fresh out of school, you can start as early as the college freshman year. It all depends on the kind of skills your e-commerce business requires, which may not really need the other skills that subsequent years in school will provide.

Erman Küplü, CEO, Analyzify

Introduce Reverse-Interview Process

In a previous role, we improved our hiring of entry-level candidates by introducing a reverse-interview process. Instead of the conventional approach where the employer asks all the questions, candidates were given the opportunity to ask questions and interview us about the company, team dynamics, and our commitment to their career development. This approach empowered candidates and provided us with valuable insights into their curiosity, research skills, and genuine interest in joining our organization. It resulted in a more transparent and mutual understanding between us and the candidates, leading to better hiring decisions and improved employee satisfaction.

Erik Wright, CEO, New Horizon Home Buyers

Revamp Onboarding with Orientation

One of the better ways I’ve seen this handled in the past has been making a significantly more robust onboarding process for new joiners straight from university that is more reminiscent of orientation at their universities. They only brought in new joiners four times a year, so you would always have them start in batches and have an immediate support group that they can learn and develop with at the company. They organized lunches once a week for the whole group and did some general sharing sessions between the new joiners to see how everyone was getting on, and had other new joiners fill in the blanks, as they are better at anticipating where some issues might arise for their peers than those planning the experience half the time.

Kate Kandefer, CEO, SEOwind

Offer Skill-Building Workshops

To improve our entry-level hiring process, we offered ‘Skill-Building Workshops’ at various universities, focusing on practical skills that are critical in our industry but not always covered in academic curricula. These workshops provided students with valuable knowledge and hands-on experience, while also allowing us to showcase our expertise and company culture. 

Students who excelled in these workshops were fast-tracked into our interview process, ensuring we attracted not only talented but also highly engaged candidates. This approach allowed us to contribute positively to students’ education while also creating a direct pipeline of trained and motivated graduates eager to start their careers with us.

Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President, altLINE Sobanco

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