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Stories From a New-Grad Recruiter: Working Gen Y Values to Your Advantage On Campus

by Jun 14, 2013, 6:13 am ET

The War for new-grad talent has never been fiercer. More and more companies are turning to universities as their main pipeline to build up their workforce of amazing engineers, designers, and quants. However, many companies who haven’t been active in campus recruiting for the past few years may be surprised to find that the game has dramatically changed.

Remember when you thought pizza and soda at an information session was enough? Now, it’s pizza and soda delivered to your dorm room during finals week with a personalized “good luck” note and invitation to interview. More than ever, companies are adapting to, and even embracing gen Y values in their recruiting processes to sign the best students from top-tier schools.

Jane Graybeal wrote a great piece titled “Valuing the So-Called Me Me Me Generation”,  summarizing three key ideas around gen Y. While some companies may work against these “me me me” values, a handful have worked with them to get some of their best hires. Let’s take the three concepts that Graybeal summarized and apply them on a more practical level — specifically on how university recruiting programs are staying competitive on campus:

Gen Y is entitled … and that can be a good thing: As Graybeal mentioned, members of the gen Y workforce often aren’t afraid to reach out to people a few rungs above them for guidance — because they believe they deserve it.

Companies are taking advantage of this concept earlier, before, or during recruiting processes, by connecting strong candidates to high-level employees from their company. One of the biggest reasons why I was sold to taking my first job was because the global head of HR scheduled to have lunch with me to congratulate me on my offer. Though this isn’t possible for all organizations, having anyone very senior interview or speak to students in the recruiting process can be a huge closing strategy.

Going off of this “entitled” concept, many students will not apply to or take opportunities that seem generic and too easy to obtain. I clearly remember companies who understood this concept and used it to their advantage among my friends:

  • When a company flew my friend to New York City for his interview, he was picked up from the airport by a private car driver holding a sign with his name on it. He posted photos on Facebook documenting this experience, which made the opportunity seem exclusive and desirable to many of our friends (we had never heard of the company before).
  • A week before our campus career fair, my friend received a personalized email from a recruiter inviting her to come by the booth and attend a private reception afterwards. The email made it known to her that she was targeted for her awards, class standing, and previous accomplishments. She felt recognized and valued, before the recruiting process even began.
  • While still in school, one of my friends who accepted a position from a company in California was offered to fly out join the annual company ski-retreat weekend (all expenses paid, of course). He came back with amazing stories that got other students excited about applying with this company and going through the interview process.

These practices may make some question why competitive companies go this far to build out their university recruiting pipeline. The answer is, simply, because they understand getting top new-grad talent is worth it.

Gen Y will champion diversity: Graybeal emphasizes the importance of accepting differences to members of gen Y. Today, students understand how valuable it is to work for a company that encourages employees to be their true, authentic selves.

Companies who have adapted their recruiting initiatives to gen Y values don’t even think twice when it comes to sponsoring events and organizations on campus that promote diversity and inclusion initiatives. They will connect students with their employee resource groups, create scholarship funds for underrepresented minorities, and attend national conferences that attract many talented students from all across the world.

Another personal example — many of my brilliant friends who identify as part of the LGBT community were worried that they couldn’t be their true selves when transitioning into the workforce. After attending Out for Undergraduate Technology Conference, they were drawn to companies who sponsored the event, knowing that these companies were inclusive and understood the importance of diversity.

Gen Y is not one size fits all: Graybeal states that gen Y workers should not all be treated the same. Adding to this point, this should include college students looking for their first job out of school. The best university recruiters recognize that many students look up to them for guidance and support through this important transitory times in their lives.

A friend of mine told me a story about a recruiter who helped him through deciding on taking an offer or going to grad school. He recalled the recruiter being supportive of either decision, and was open to him about the pros and cons of both. In addition, the recruiter offered to connect my friend with someone in the company who had completed the master’s program he was looking to pursue. He ultimately decided on grad school, but referred a few friends to the recruiter and ended up joining the company two years later after he graduated from his master’s program.

Some of the best recruiters on campus that I’ve encountered during my time as a student and in industry are the ones who genuinely care about the candidates they interact with. Great recruiters take on a guidance counselor role for students, asking each candidate about their values and trying to help them find the right next step — even if it isn’t immediately with their organization.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Timothy.
    I don’t think the stories you mentioned apply to the typical recent job-seeking grad. Does “The War for new-grad talent has never been fiercer.” mean:

    Recent U.S. college graduates disillusioned, more than 40% unemployed: poll Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 3:21 PM

    Today’s students graduate from college with heavy debts, and many aren’t reaping the benefits of that education — a poll shows recent grads often find jobs that don’t require a college degree. More than 40% are unemployed, and 16% are in part-time positions.

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/college-grads-disillusioned-unemployed-poll-article-1.1331346#ixzz2WCtY2WR0

    OR

    53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?
    Jordan Weissmann Apr 23 2012, 3:06 PM ET

    A college diploma isn’t worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

    More than half of America’s recent college graduates are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, the Associated Press reported this weekend. The story would seem to be more evidence that, regardless of your education, the wake of the Great Recession has been a terrible time to be young and hunting for work.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/

    …………………………………………………….

    How about this as a hiring incentive?:
    “As long as you work for us, we’ll pay your student loans.”

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Merlynn Bertini

    @Keith, I would have to agree with you on this. While I am
    not currently doing college recruiting, I was doing a fair amount last year. The scenarios listed in the article did not match with the discussions I had with students. It was very competitive and many were considering grad school in the hope that additional education would position them more competitively with companies. I was at top tiered schools (Stanford,UI, etc). looking for BSEE and BSCS grads.

    I would say it is actually pretty competitive for students.

    Merlynn

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Merlynn. I think that if they can, a lot of grads should consider emigrating to countries like these with lower UE rates and high living standards:

    Norway
    Korea
    Switzerland
    Austria
    Netherlands
    Japan
    Luxembourg
    Australia
    Israel
    Germany
    New Zealand
    Czech Republic

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Avia Swan-Brown

    Interesting article – doesn’t reflect our current climate in Australia at all – I run the graduate recruitment process for our Melbourne office & we receive circa 1000 applications for 10 jobs, with the gap between applicants & vacancies widening from last year to this. The calibre of graduates in Melbourne is excellent so thankfully we can afford to pick the cream of the crop – the students know this, so have to stand out from the crowd to be in with a chance. We look at many other factors than just academic credentials – relevant vacation work, extra-curricular activities (sports, music, arts etc), paid work, volunteering & travel – even then we have too many to choose from!

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Avia: As mentioned, I’m not sure this reflects the overall reality in most places for most grads. When second-rate grads from third-rate unis are receiving multiple job offers, then we’ll have a “war-like” situation, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen…

    Cheers,
    Keith

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