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Best Practices for Recruiting College Students and Recent Graduates

Published by Ellen Zhang on April 20, 2021
4 min read

Ellen Zhang

Ellen is the Chief Marketing Officer at Symba. Prior to Symba, Ellen worked in the cybersecurity industry, marketing data loss prevention (DLP) and cyber insurance solutions. She graduated from Boston College with a degree focused on Marketing and Information Systems.

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As an employer, successfully recruiting college students and recent graduates to work for you depends on how accessible you make your opportunities. Whether these are job openings or internships, consider how college students and recent graduates discover work opportunities today, plus what drives and inspires them.

While a college student’s perspective is about getting their foot in the door, yours can be how to hold that door wide open for those new to and excited about your industry. Here are 5 tips on how to recruit college students and graduates, from offering paid internships to including your company’s mission in your job listing. 

  1. Offer paid internships.

Recruiting college students can start by offering paid internships. Offering pay increases a prospective intern’s incentive two-fold. Not only are they ready to start chipping away at their expenses like student loans and housing, but studies show that paid interns are more likely to get job offers than unpaid interns, either with the company they interned for or another. The experience you offer is valuable, but so is the work they will contribute to your company. Here at Symba, we advocate for paid internships

Paying your interns opens opportunities up to a wider talent pool, as those who come from low income backgrounds often can’t afford to take an unpaid position or might have to take a second job in order to make ends meet. Paying your interns allows them to have the time and energy to put their best foot forward.

  1. Dedicate a page on your website to job openings or internships for college students.

This might be a given, but college students are usually internet-savvy and will probably find you if you have this option available. Have an “Opportunities” page with your available jobs or internships or a way they can be notified when a job gets posted.

If you are specifically interested in hiring college students or recent graduates, make that clear. This also helps the applicants know their chances of getting hired are high because they are not competing with those who have more work experience. Letting them know you are recruiting college students will boost their confidence when applying to work with you. 

  1. Include your mission statement in the job description.

Add your mission either as a company or why you think it’s important to work with those new to your industry in your job listing. Nowadays, everyone is very in tune with the “why” and not just the “what”--describe why the work is important and not just what the work entails. We all want to feel like the work we’re doing is for a positive reason. 

While your description of the work should be very intriguing, including who or what benefits from your work outside of the company is how you’ll find those that connect to your mission.

There are tons of ways to make your job listing stand out to effectively describe your company’s culture, but including your mission is key!

  1. Partner with the career centers at universities and community colleges.

Getting on campus and working with a college’s career center is a great way to recruit college students and new graduates. Coming to them is another way to increase your accessibility and awareness of your company. 

This also helps take a load off of promoting your opportunities since helping students find work during and after college is what career centers do. It’s a win-win! Make sure you diversify the career centers you work with. Partner with HBCUs, community colleges, and technical schools. Talent is everywhere, so look beyond just state and Ivy League schools. 

  1. Post your opportunities on virtual platforms.

In addition to connecting to students through their on-campus resources, expand your reach to those who may only find you online. There may be students who studied out-of-state, are returning to their hometown looking for work, or are looking for remote work. 

There are plenty of job posting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, or even and College Recruiter. If you’re offering a paid remote internship opportunity, you can reach out to our team to get on the Symba Slate, which we promote within our intern community.

Measure the success of your recruitment strategies.

We’ve given you several strategies on how to recruit college students, so we also want to equip you with ways to measure how successful these tactics are for you. 

  • How did they find you? Include a "how did you learn about this opportunity" question in your job applications to see which recruitment sources work best.
  • How much did it cost to hire them? Track how much you're spending across different recruitment channels and create a budget. If you find that one channel is way more expensive than the rest but is not producing viable candidates, that's a sign that you need to pause that channel.
  • What is your acceptance rate? If applications are coming in but your offer acceptance rate is low, it would help to measure this and consider why applicants showed initial interest in your company but decided not to accept your offer. It may come down to pay or other unique offerings and benefits your company has.

Recruiting college students and recent graduates to work for you is about meeting them halfway, making your opportunities unique and motivating, providing incentives, and including them in your mission. Remember your audience, what you like about working for your company, and what will help others want to work for it too.

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