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Keys to Hiring New College Grads: Providing Connections, Support, Advancement

Class of 2022 weighing options earlier and looking for flexibility, career progression

A silhouette of a person standing on top of a mountain with the word 2020 in the background.

Members of the Class of 2022 spent at least half of their college experience living through a pandemic. Now that they are graduating, they want employers that can give them opportunities to connect with others, help them grow in their career and occasionally permit them to work remotely.

These are factors employers should consider when wooing these new job seekers, according to a new report from LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting and culture firm. But managers also need to set these new graduates up for success once hired.

That includes advising them on what is—and isn't—appropriate attire at your organization, what time they should report to work, and the benefit of arriving early to meetings, said Sirmira Campbell, LaSalle's chief HR officer.

"In today's talent shortage, companies need to focus not just on the candidate experience, but on the onboarding experience because that oftentimes can be a driver for new hires to quit, and in today's tight jobs market, companies can't afford that," she told SHRM Online.  

"Next," Campbell continued, "within their first 30 days of employment, while leaders are focused on training the new hire on the role, they should also create intentional points of connection. [New graduates have] spent the majority of their college career isolated due to the pandemic, so the Class of 2022 is craving in-person connection." 

That sense of belonging can be fostered through employee-led clubs, open communication from your company's leaders, and opportunities for employees to give back to the community or world at large, according to LaSalle's report What the Class of 2022 Wants. Its findings are from a survey conducted in March with more than 2,500 college students graduating in 2022.

Competing for the New Grads

The report offers the following insights and tips to employers as they compete for these job candidates:

College seniors started their search earlier this year. Twenty-six percent started looking for a full-time position three to five months before graduation, and 23 percent started looking six to nine months before graduation.

"The number of respondents who already accepted a position before graduation is slightly higher this year over last," Campbell said, "which may indicate that companies are not waiting around to extend offers because they understand how tight the labor market is and how difficult it is to recruit talent." 

HR is among the three most popular jobs college seniors were targeting, along with health care and communications, according to another LaSalle survey, conducted in November 2021. HR also was among the most in-demand positions that organizations were looking to fill.

Campbell attributes the increased interest in HR to a shift in the way people work and a more pronounced focus on employees and how they are supported—increasing efforts around mental health, belonging, and training and development.

"In today's talent shortage, the candidate and employee experience are critical for talent attraction and retention," she said. "Companies that didn't already have a strong culture in place are leaning on HR professionals for ideas and strategy." 

A survey of 1,041 college seniors in March by TimelyMD, a virtual health and wellness provider, found that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents who planned to work immediately after graduation had a job lined up. Among those, 87 percent landed a position in their desired field and 53 percent will earn salaries higher than expected.

The LaSalle report recommends that in the future, hiring managers begin their college grad recruitment process sooner. If that's not feasible, consider implementing an internship program that could lead to full-time employment for certain roles at the organization.

College seniors are receiving multiple offers. While 53 percent of the respondents to LaSalle's survey had not received any offers when they were queried in March, 30 percent had one to two offers, 8 percent had three to four offers, 6 percent had five to six offers, and 3 percent had seven or more offers.

And students are weighing their options: Although almost half of the soon-to-be grads had received at least one job offer, only 20 percent had accepted it. That's an increase, though, over last year when 12 percent of respondents had accepted a job offer. 

"Knowing what candidates want out of the company and job and keeping them engaged throughout the interview process is essential," the LaSalle report noted. Ask them why they are applying to your organization so you can address their interests.

Forty percent of college seniors expect a promotion the first year on the job. Not all organizations are able to promote a new hire as rapidly as graduates would like, and a fast promotion track may not be available for all positions. However, the report recommends that hiring managers highlight their organization's training programs, mentorships and other learning opportunities. Consider including in job interviews those team members whose careers have benefited from your training program.

Medical and dental insurance, paid time off, and 401(k) match are important. When talking with candidates, provide an overview of your benefits and let them know HR is available to help answer questions. While some may stay on their parents' insurance plan, others may be confused as to what to sign up for, when and how.

College grads want flexible hours and remote-work options. These were two of the top three perks that LaSalle found are important to college seniors—along with in-office perks such as catered lunches, free beverages and pool tables. 

"While nearly 90 percent of respondents stated they didn't want to work virtually full time, they still want flexibility," Campbell explained. "It's a different talent market, and what companies are accustomed to doing to recruit talent may not work today."

In fact, data collected by ManpowerGroup during the first quarter of 2022 found more industries are embracing hybrid work. More than half of all employers globally in human resources, finance and accounting, and administrative industries are adopting some form of a hybrid schedule—and nearly 3 in 10 manufacturers are implementing a hybrid schedule as a retention strategy.

"Really look and consider if flexibility can be offered in some capacity," Campbell said, "and if it truly can't, consider what other perks and benefits you can tout or offer."

They want opportunities to connect. "Be intentional with inviting new hires to different culture events and activities, and encourage them to get to know teammates and other employees," Campbell suggested. "This could be getting coffee, lunch or going on a walk—and ideally, it's with employees who recently earned a company accolade or promotion so they can learn from other top producers." 


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