In a thriving job market, hiring the brightest and best from the Class of 2016 is a competition sport. Here’s why – and four essential tips for how you can win.
According to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder, it’s great to be a member of the college graduate Class of 2016, specifically when it comes to finding gainful employment through an entry-level position. The survey results not only pointed out that graduates are encountering the healthiest job outlook in a decade, but talent-hungry employers plan to boost entry-level salaries and hire in greater numbers than last year. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) pegs the increase of college grads they plan to hire for their U.S. operations at 11% over 2015.
If you’re a hiring manager or human resources leader tasked with building up your company’s young talent pool, you’ll have a tougher time this year – especially if you’re looking for graduates with business, information technology, computer science, engineering, math and statistics or health and clinical sciences degrees. These are the most in-demand graduates, according to employers surveyed, so attracting the cream of the crop will require extra effort.
One reason that more employers are looking to the Class of 2016 to fill open positions is a growing knowledge gap within organizations. It wasn’t too long ago that businesses placed a higher value on ultra-experienced employees who could hit the ground running and required minimal ramp-up. A struggling economy and subsequent tight job market allowed companies to bulk up with seasoned staff. We’re feeling the effect of this today – many businesses do not have adequate succession plans in place, many are top-heavy, which potentially impacts profits and, they’re not dialed in to how the expectations and needs of Millennials in the workforce have dramatically changed.
A pipeline of entry-level employees who arrive equipped with fresh ideas and perspectives and who can be mentored to move up through an organization is essential to building a healthy business. To help you get that foundation in place with an entry-level position, here are recruitment and hiring must-dos to drive these in-demand graduates to your front door – and keep them around.
Tip 1: Make a Career Connection Long Before Graduation
If you currently don’t have an internship program, it’s time to start. Today’s college kids generally graduate with 3- 4 solid internship experiences in their chosen field, and many of them receive job commitments long before they accept their diplomas. Internships provide students with invaluable work experience and you have the opportunity to train and recruit a future employee for an entry level position.
You should also have a program in place to keep the communication lines open with summer job and intern applicants who have not yet graduated. Keep the dialogue open – adapt your inbound marketing program to include job applicants and inquiries generated on your (hopefully by now mobile optimized) company website.
Tip 2: Retire Your Old School Ideas
Business folks of a certain age love to bemoan the good old days. You’ve heard it and – go ahead and admit it – you’ve participated. Millennial-bashing, combined with sage advice on how qualities like loyalty, gratitude, work ethic and respect were all so much better back in the day abound in every workplace.
There’s also no denying that graduates come lacking qualities that have long been the historic hallmark of a “great employee.” The CareerBuilder study asked employers to name the essential abilities that Millennials in the workforce are lacking. Most cited a lack of interpersonal or people skills (52 percent), problem-solving skills (48 percent), lack of skills in leadership (42 percent), teamwork (39 percent) and written and oral communication (37 percent).
A robust screening and interview process will be your best way to uncover shortfalls. Instead of traditional one-on-one encounters in a conference room, have a dialogue while giving the prospective employee a tour. Stop and facilitate engagement with existing team members and watch how the interviewee interacts in real social situations. Do they look others in the eye? Are they inquisitive? What does their body language tell you? You’ll learn more from real engagement than from any personality test, in my opinion.
Tip 3: Update Your Benefits and Perks
What do millennials want? Study after study points to training and development along with flexible work hours as top considerations for post-college seekers in the job market.. It’s no longer enough to ship employees off to an annual trade show or conference. To stay competitive, you’ll need to offer programs that provide continuous personal and professional growth opportunities, from certification programs to tuition reimbursement for graduate school.
Telecommuting, once a benefit reserved for on-the-go executives, is now an option for many an entry-level position. Keep in mind that the Class of 2016 has grown up excelling in an environment of relative isolation, be it at a video game console, home alone as both parents worked or swathed in noise-cancelling headphones and attached to a mobile device. This generation treasures having control of their schedules.
Most importantly, show employees how your benefits impact their life, today and tomorrow. Millennials in the workforce don’t necessarily think about or understand traditional benefits like 401k contributions and matching because the time horizon is simply too far in the future. They also won’t read that thick employee handbook you’ve been distributing for years. Instead, create a digital portal with infographics and other visuals that allow new employees to see and hear how company benefits connect to their lifestyle. Consider bringing in influential subject matter experts for on-site lunch-and-learns to engage everyone in discussions on investing and reaching financial goals. I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that we have a program called Bank At Work which does just this. You can call your local Union Savings Bank branch to discuss this program.
Your competition is getting very creative with benefits – stay current on what’s trending in the job market among other companies in your area. Today’s coveted perks range from nutrition coaches and yoga classes to time off to support their favorite community cause.
Ultimately, whether your new employee comes from one of our great state universities and community colleges, private colleges or technical schools, keeping young talent local benefits everyone. We have a lot of work to do here and I for one believe that a dynamic workplace culture is critical to attracting our Connecticut Class of 2016.
Tip 4: Go Visual with Job Descriptions
By the time they’ve graduated, your average 21-year old is spending around 18 hours a day consuming digital media, according to various studies. This includes social content created by peers and news “snacks” delivered in a tweet, or via other links. It’s certainly not reading a lengthy article on a mobile device. Keep this fact in mind when developing your job descriptions. To attract attention in the job market, you’ll need to include plenty of keywords that jobseekers lock onto, such as “culture” and “impact”. Why not have a peer communicate the benefits of a particular job opening in a 90-second video that’s easily shareable via social media? Keep in mind – old rules don’t apply if you want a shot at this year’s top graduate talent.
Written by Jeff McDonough
Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank