How to Hire New College Graduates in a Post-Covid19 World

How to Hire New Grads in a COVID-19 World

The COVID-19 Pandemic shifted the way companies and candidates view hiring. At the beginning of 2020, the unemployment rate in the US was at a record-low (3.6%), making hiring great candidates a real challenge for employers. Fast forward just a few months and everything has seemingly turned upside down. With stay-at-home orders in place and non-essential businesses being shut down due to the outbreak, millions of jobs have been cut, millions of workers have been furloughed or laid off entirely, and hiring freezes are occurring in every industry. The unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 14.7% in April, and has dropped a bit to (a still staggering) 13.3% in June 2020.

So what does this mean for the employer who needs to re-staff their business and wants to add new college graduates to their team? Owners need to be proactive, adaptive, and innovative.

Be Innovative: Reimagine the traditional internship 

Internships are a win-win for both students and employers: College students get firsthand working experience and the opportunity to gain new skills outside of the classroom, Employers  get extra support on projects and gain insight into a new wave of potential hires. Unfortunately, with many Spring and Summer internships being cancelled this year, students and companies have been left at a disadvantage. Instead of throwing in the towel for internships, try getting creative with your approach.

Try digital internships

Remote work is on the rise. It’s easier than ever for teams to organize, track, and manage their work anytime, anywhere. Take advantage of this digital agility to run a virtual internship for students. Stay connected and provide feedback to your group with video conferencing and instant messaging!

Team up locally

Reach out to a college or university that is already online or is adapting to a new online curriculum. Team up with professors who teach classes that align with your company and see if students could help with research or a remote project for credit.

Work with freelancers

 If you want to test the waters with new candidates, but don’t want to commit to fully employing someone right away, hiring a temporary independent contractor or freelancer is a great happy medium. Posting in LinkedIn groups or finding qualified candidates online is a great way to start.

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Be proactive: Put yourself out there 

The toll that COVID-19 has taken on the US economy is tremendous. As owners slowly reopen their doors for business, jobs are being created or re-opened. Candidates’ priorities have shifted and there is a greater emphasis on job security, health and safety during this uncertain time. If you’re trying to find and recruit the newest members of the workforce, you need to stand out from the crowd.

Attend job fairs on campus (and online)

Stay active and involved in the college community. Colleges frequently host job fairs which are a great opportunity to get in front of students and speak about your company. The new trend of digital job fairs are a great way to diversify your applicant pool and reach candidates from outside your area. It might be out of your comfort zone to try new methods of outreach, but switching up your recruitment strategy is key to attracting candidates today.

Stay social (and offer a peek behind the curtain) 

Use social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn – depending on your industry!) to connect with new grads. Consider your target audience, how are they thinking about job searching right now? They probably thought they were graduating into a flourishing job market – and now expectations have been shattered. How can you ease minds, pique interest, and show that your company is ready to take on new team members? Develop a recruitment strategy around these questions and start sharing on social. Be open with your target audience from the start and you’ll find the right candidates faster. 

Host a webinar Q+A with current employees 

This can be a great opportunity for students to learn from your employees while also increasing exposure for your company. Use social media to advertise your event, and encourage local colleges to put the word out to their recent graduated class. Q+A panels give students a chance to ask questions and learn the skills they would need to apply to open positions. 

Be Adaptive: Recalibrate your expectations

Even in “normal” hiring  times you wouldn’t expect a new graduate’s resume to look like a seasoned pro.  Entry-level candidates understandably lack real work experience, and you typically won’t see recommendations from anyone in your industry. This is especially true when hiring in a Post-COVID world, where students likely missed out on extra opportunities for internships and even in-class experiences. Some candidates may have taken gap years or needed to cut back on classes to help with family matters. For these reasons, it’s important to recalibrate your expectations. 

Students who successfully completed course work during the pandemic gained a variety of skills. They were adaptable, technologically savvy, and self-motivated. They not only learned the material necessary to pass their classes, but they also learned how to manage their workload, personal lives, and emotions in the midst of a crisis. These skills can help them succeed in remote work at your company, or put them in a better position to be resilient and adaptable in a traditional office environment when the time comes. 

Rather than focusing solely on traditional work, internship experience, consider the technical skills and transferable skills that the candidate has to offer. Many people took the extra time during stay-at-home orders to pick up on new skills and pursue outside learning. Ask your candidates how they spent their extra time, and if they have gained any technical skills — such as graphic design, coding, or Excel.  

You can also ask about the transferable skills they have developed over the past years. Transferable skills (or people skills) include attributes such as leadership, teamwork, time management. Keep in mind, while technical skills can be taught and learned through time, transferable skills are harder to teach. 

People had to get really creative to stay entertained during COVID-19. Besides binging hours of netflix or TikTok, how did your candidate keep themselves busy? Did they pick up a new hobby or skill? Ask about the activities your candidates like to do outside of work to get a well-rounded picture of who they are and how they would fit into your company culture. 

Letters of recommendation typically come from other professionals who will provide an honest opinion of the candidate. They are a great way to do a quick gut-check of your initial impression of a candidate. Keeping in mind that new grads had a disrupted Spring Semester, be open to who these letters come from. You might decide to accept personal recommendations rather than insisting on professional recommendations. 

New college graduates help you keep up with technology and industry trends, while bringing new perspectives to your business. In a time where adaptability and a fresh outlook are essential – we hope these tips and tricks will help you hire the fresh minds that keep your business moving forward.

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