Information Recruiters Should Know When Working With College Students

By Elise Nelson on January 26, 2018

Your business deserves the best and the brightest minds. This doesn’t always mean bringing the most experienced workforce veterans onto your team. The best decision you make for your company might be working with college students instead. They are the future of business, of course.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, although it is well worth the process. You need to know your new student audience well, and if this is your first time hiring students, you’ll need to adjust. Here is the most important information you should know when working with college students.

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Common misconceptions students have about the hiring process

Before you begin working with college students, you should put yourself in their shoes. Get an idea of how they think their job search will work after graduation. Listen out for these misconceptions students often have about the hiring process and steer them in the right direction.

“A degree is all I need for success.” Many students are under the impression that simply earning their degree will guarantee a job after graduation.

While a degree in the field they’re applying for is certainly going to give them a leg up on competition, it’s not the end-all-be-all. iCIMS’ Class of 2017 Job Outlook Report found that recent graduates may be struggling to find jobs because they lack hard and soft business skills, such as interview etiquette.

“College grads need to evaluate the skill sets that align with what employers are looking for and adjust accordingly. This might mean getting certified in a specific skill, like Microsoft Office, or honing public speaking, data analysis or social media skills,” said Forbes writer and co-founder of Early Stage Careers, Jill Tipograph.

You should keep in mind that college students might not be as career ready as they think, and work with them to improve their professional skills.

“Career fairs are unnecessary.” Ninety percent of colleges host career fairs, but there is a sizeable chunk of students who feel they don’t need to attend. Some feel they won’t find opportunities in their field of study at a career fair. Others are too shy to attend, or would rather pursue job opportunities on their own time.

You might find that working with college students is easiest on their campus, where students are most comfortable. You should heavily advertise that you’ll be attending campus career fairs and offer incentives for students to meet you, such as on-campus interviews.

You’ll find a larger, more diverse pool of new hires at career fairs than anywhere else if you encourage any and all students to attend.

“I don’t have enough experience to apply for this.” College students are often worried that they don’t have the proper experience to match what employers are asking for. You might have heard the common dilemma yourself— “I need X years of experience to apply for this job, but I need a job to get experience.”

Recruiters and students have different definitions for “experience.” While they don’t have years of experience in the field, students may have experience from campus extracurriculars, internships, or even classwork.

When you’re working with college students, spark a discussion about their campus life and what they’ve participated in. You might help them see accomplishments in their field that they’ve never realized.

How is working with college students different than working with professionals?

Remember that working with college students entering the job market is going to be very different than working with experienced professionals already in the field. So, it’s important to tackle student recruitment from a new perspective. Here are some things to consider.

Their resumes won’t be full of work experience. College students and recent graduates are looking for entry-level jobs, so the only work experience you’ll see is probably going to be a few years in retail or food service. These jobs might seem irrelevant if you run an accounting firm.

Instead of looking at the part-time job itself, look at what the job may have taught the students—communication skills, multitasking, time management, etc. Read their resumes with an eye for potential. How can college students apply the skills they’ve learned in their part-time job to your business?

You should also pay attention to their education and extracurriculars, where they’re more likely to impress you. Do they have good academic standings? Do these students hold any leadership positions in campus clubs? Students are more likely to discuss these topics confidently in interviews, anyway, so you’ll get a better sense of their interests.

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They’re likely to be a little less confident when they’re first hired. When you first start working with college students, you might notice that they’re dependent on your guidance. Bear with them as they learn the ropes of your business. They’re new to the field, after all, so it might be a little intimating for them.

In time, they’ll be doing tasks on their own. But in the first few months, you should expect questions that you might not hear from experienced professionals.

They also might be reluctant to offer their ideas or develop their own ways of doing things at first. Encourage them to speak out as much as possible, and ease them out of your guidance once they’ve been trained. They’ll start to take initiative when they’re confident with the new position.

A job isn’t their primary focus during the college years. If you hire a college student part-time, remember that they are still juggling school and work. This will likely affect their available work hours.

To prevent confusion, both on your end and theirs, you should discuss time commitment in the early stages of recruitment. Be clear with students on how many hours you will expect them to work, whether it be time in an office or time working from home. On the other hand, your students should also be clear with you on their class schedules.

The key to avoiding scheduling conflicts when working with college students is remaining flexible and staying updated. Your students may need to work different hours each week to stay on top of schoolwork. They should let you know when they have big exams to study for, or anything else that may cause stress while they work for you.

Their schedule will change every few months. College students will have to adjust their availability with each semester. You may find that your employees need time off for school breaks because their hometown is farther away. When they return from breaks, their class schedules will be different.

This can be frustrating if your work needs consistency. If you need students to work over their breaks, consider the possibility of allowing them to work remotely during winter and summer. They will be out of the office for a while, but having no classes means more time dedicated to the job.

You might be surprised by how much your college students can accomplish from the comfort of their own couches when they don’t have other distractions.

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Infographic by Elise Nelson via Canva

The benefits of working with college students

Although working with college students will require you to make some adjustments in your recruitment process, it does have positive effects. Your business will see improvements when you offer students and recent graduates entry-level jobs. Here are just a few of the greater benefits.

Hiring students costs you less money. From an economic standpoint, working with college students over the experienced pros is the smarter choice.

Workforce veterans who have been in the field for a long time will require a higher salary for their level of experience. On the other hand, both current students and recent graduates seeking an entry-level job will work for virtually any starting salary.

“Undoubtedly, one of the main functions of a business is to earn a profit through whatever specific trade, services or goods they offer. Combining with this, whenever a business can maintain their running efficiency, while also saving valuable operating capital, they will 90% of the time,” according to Alice McLean from Undercover Recruiter.

In terms of numbers, hiring college students can save you anywhere from ten to twenty thousand dollars in salaries.

College students are eager to improve. New hires will accept any feedback you have to offer so they can build up experience. Constructive criticism is welcomed—students won’t be offended.

You can always teach young college students new skills to carry throughout the business world. They want to learn, and this will motivate them to try new tasks without needing persuasion. Remember that students are working not just for money, but also for their resume. They will hope to use you as a reference later, which means they’ll try their best to do a good job for you.

By working with college students, you can help them reach their goals. In turn, they will help you enhance your business.

They’re quick learners, especially with technology. College students have been learning, studying, and testing for the past four years—picking up skills in a job setting will be simple.

College students bring a positive energy to the office that will keep them driven to learn as much as possible, as soon as possible. Younger candidates have also been proven to multitask better than older candidates, according to a 2013 Japanese study. They’ll be more willing to pile on small odd jobs because of their ability to complete tasks quickly.

You’ll be able to train them in a matter of days upon being hired. College students can adapt to any of your business’s methods. Workforce veterans may be used to doing things differently and therefore be reluctant to change. Students may need time to feel confident with the work, but they will impress you.

They can offer fresh perspectives. Every generation brings new ideas into the workforce. Your business can always benefit from this.

New talent is necessary for a company to grow. With new studies constantly being introduced to college classrooms, students will be able to offer their opinions while incorporating what they’ve just learned in school. Methods can become outdated—you might find that a student’s way of doing things is better for your business.

“Young people hold the key to unlock the future of companies. They have all the bright ideas and are extremely savvy with technology,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, in an interview with Glassdoor.

Working with college students can teach you just as much as it can teach them. To gain the most from this experience, you need to hire the best young minds.

Tools and strategies for working with college students

Recruiting students is going to take a lot more than just participating in local college career fairs. You’ll have to stay fully engaged with potential student employees. This means using every tool possible, from social media to college career development centers. Follow these tips for better college recruitment.

Emphasize the benefits you have to offer. What makes your business stand out from the rest? When you choose to start working with college students, you’ll want them to come to you. The students who are most excited to work for you, not anyone else, will be the most motivated to do a good job.

You should give students an honest glimpse of what working for your business is like. Post a promotional video on your website featuring a day in your office. Provide students with detailed information about what the job will entail—they’ll want to know as much as possible when they apply.

It couldn’t hurt to hand out “swag bags” full of branded goodies at campus events, such as pens or baseball caps, either. You will make students remember your business before any others.

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Use technology as much as the students do. More than ninety-eight percent of college students are on social media today, so that’s where you need to be as well.

“Traditional methods of communication are diminishing due to the fact that the platforms are lacking audience. Employers and Career Services need to be on social media and smartphones – not traditional job boards and emails,” according to Carl Shlotman, author of “Cash in Your Diploma.”

Establish a presence for your business on popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. Encourage students to follow your sites by including your handles on business cards and adding links to your website. Keep the accounts updated regularly. Don’t be afraid to add some humor to updates—students will interact with you more when you humanize the accounts.

Make your company known on college campuses. Be active on college campuses enough that students become familiar with your company’s name.

Attend career fairs at least twice a year—once in the fall and once in the spring. Build relationships with career counselors on local campuses and collaborate with them to find top-notch student recruits. You can do the same with professors. Students are likely to listen to career advice from the people they see every day.

Have a strong internship program for students in local colleges. You get a chance to see students in action this way and help them improve their skills for the possibility of a full-time job later. The National Association of Colleges and Employers 2012 Internship & Co-op Survey found that employers converted 58.6 percent of their Class of 2011 interns into full-time hires.

You can also sponsor college sporting events to get your name out there. Contribute to the athletic budget and make an appearance at games. When students apply to work for you, they’ll already trust you.

Working with college students is a commitment that takes time, patience, and careful planning. But, when done efficiently, you will see years’ worth of benefits for your business.

By Elise Nelson

Uloop Writer
Albright College
Elise is a senior at Albright College in Reading, Pa, studying journalism. She hopes to pursue a career in feature writing and editing for a magazine. Much of Elise's time is dedicated to being Editor-in-Chief of Albright's student newspaper, The Albrightian. She is also a member of Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society, and co-hosts a radio show on WXAC 91.3 FM.

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