If you’re hiring in the coming months, you very likely have at least one eye on the newest crop of potential future employees: soon-to-be-graduating college seniors. New grads can be a great resource for companies of any size—they're full of energy and new ideas and willing to get their hands dirty in their first real-world job.
But as you’re thinking about recruiting new grads this spring, let me give you a peek into what things look like from the other side of the table.
Recently, a friend of mine, a senior at Stanford University, applied to a job she found through the campus career center. Everything looked great on paper—the organization seemed reputable, her skill set matched the outlined requirements, and the position was a perfect mixture of her interests in science and business. She scheduled the interview and made all the necessary preparations.
Then she got there. After waiting on-site for 20 minutes, my friend was taken to an empty room where she had expected to find the interviewer. Instead, she was asked to complete a typing test. Yes, a typing test. Just like the ones from elementary school.
After the test, and before an interview ever took place, my friend walked out. There was no point in seeking a job at a company where typing skills mattered more than experience, intellect, and potential.
This story hit very close to home, because it brought me back to the same painful process I went through years ago when I was a student. Though I was never given a typing test, my first job search felt like a confusing maze of networking, paperwork, interviews, and most of all, frustration. Through the whole process, I couldn't help but wonder why there wasn't an easier way to be matched with a company that excited me and also valued my skills.
Ironically, I was so disillusioned by college recruiting that I started my own company, MindSumo, which helps companies find talented college students through “challenges,” or real-world projects. And after collaborating with a wide array of organizations and seeing dozens of campus recruiting strategies, it’s become clear to me that college recruiting has some interesting—and sometimes unfortunate—parallels to dating in middle school. Students are "flirting" for the first time, and recruiters are all too often making the big mistakes their parents told them to avoid during early courtship.
Since I can’t blame students for their inexperience, I’ll focus on you—the hiring manager. As you’re interviewing new grads for their first gig, here are three rules to follow to make sure you don’t jump into the wrong relationship.
1. Love Doesn't Always Come at First Sight
Recent data from the Society of Human Resource Management shows that 63% of hiring decisions are made during the first 4.3 minutes of the interview. But coming to a fast verdict with students can be a huge error. Remember that this is often the first time students are putting themselves out there. Sure, they had to pitch themselves to get into college, but transcripts and test scores did most of the talking back then. Now, they have some experience and relevant skills, but they don’t always know how to show off what’s under the surface.
So, if you judge candidates right away based on interviews, case studies, or personality tests, you’ll miss the valuable qualities that they don’t know you care about, like creativity, honesty, leadership, and the ability to collaborate. Instead, make sure you give students some time to shine. Try holding interviews in non-traditional settings or having someone take candidates on a short on-site tour to get them comfortable before the official interview. You can also put your top candidates through multiple interview types or meals to give them time to really open up.
2. Don't Get Married After a Week
My mom always told me to go on as many dates as possible before getting into an exclusive relationship. This would let me see girls in multiple situations, and really force me to get to know them before launching into any serious romantic involvement. Looking back, it was great advice, and it probably kept me from falling for many girls who seemed perfect at first but didn't end up being a good fit.
Recruiters should do the same. Seeing a candidate’s work sample is a great way to test out his or her skills, and it can increase your ability to predict performance by about 40%. Try to find a way to let students show off what they can do—for example, submit a work sample with their application, highlight a neat project from a relevant class, or complete an assignment before the interview. Oftentimes, you’ll be surprised by who has the skills you’re looking for.
3. Be Nice if Things Don't Work Out
Auto manufacturers have figured out that if they can capture a teenage driver as a buyer, they will have established brand loyalty early, which will lead to more purchases in the future. The same concept holds true for students shopping different potential employers.
Remember that this is the first interaction a young professional has with the people behind your brand. If you don’t treat a student with respect during the recruiting process—and subject them to things like abrasive emails, long waiting times, and prolonged stretches of silence—you’ll leave a bad taste in their mouth, which might last for years. Think about the impact angry exes can have on your reputation!
Don’t forget, students who express interest in your company are likely starting a career in your industry, which means you might need their help or want to hire them at some point down the road.
Campus recruiting is a chaotic process that can leave both recruiters and candidates exhausted, even in the best of circumstances. But if you follow these three points, you’ll better understand your inexperienced dates and set yourself up for a great, long-term relationship.