How to Recruit and Retain the Best Students or Graduates?

Career fairs on college campuses can provide many candidates for your job opening. – Courtesy photo / COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)
Career fairs on college campuses can provide many candidates for your job opening. – Courtesy photo / COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)

By Daniela McVicker

How successful your company does, falls heavily on who you recruit. You need to ensure that you’re hiring the very best people for the job, as well as keeping them to grow with your company.

Students and graduates could be a great place to start. They arrive with fresh ideas, an unmarked passion, and drive.

As an employer, you’ll be very much aware of how expensive the recruitment process can be. Not to mention, a questionable turnaround doesn’t reflect well on a company.

How can you make sure that you not only attract the best applicants, but you retain them for the foreseeable future? Here are my top tips.

Be innovative 

You might remember it yourself. At university innovation speaks to you at an entirely different level. You wanted to join a company that was different, pick up a role that was fresh, and shape the way of the world.

Students and graduates usually choose innovative roles over traditional ones. When advertising your job, include your innovative ideas in the description this will surely attract dedicated people.

For example, some offices are introducing “hot desking” (the idea where workers are never chained to a single desk). Some spaces even have music rooms, puppy Fridays, and creativity workshops.

Even some innovative design in the office could attract and retain your employees. Take the Barbarian Group’s 4,400 square-foot desk that weaves around their office, where employees can even sit under the desk for a quieter workplace. Who would want to leave?

Do the recruiting yourself 

Graduates and students are straying away from recruiters.

Imagine there’s the perfect candidate for your company, and they decide to cancel their application purely because a recruitment company contacts them. I’m not saying that this will happen, but doing it yourself might save you from this scenario.

We understand why you might go with a recruiting service – it saves a bunch of time, and the recruiters are the experts.

Making your way through all the applications yourself has mutually beneficial consequences – you’ll be able to find candidates that match your requirements, you’ll save money, and you won’t scare any perfect applicants in the process. It’s a win for everybody involved.

Make sure your online presence is out of this world

Online presence is so significant, primarily for students and graduates. They spend the majority of their studies (and lives) online. Here are different ways you can make sure your online presence is exceptional.

Your website

Make sure your site is completely up to date. When people are applying for jobs in the modern day, they’ll more than likely check out the company’s website. If you haven’t updated your site in years, it might put applicants off.

Think of your website as an advert, not only for customers but for your future employees. Make sure it looks fresh, innovative, fun and organized. This will, without a doubt, give your future ideal candidates the best idea of what kind of company they’ll be entering.

It’s also an excellent idea to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. Mobile phones are just mini computers hanging around in our pockets. Student and graduates will look for jobs, check out your website, and reply to all emails on their phones. Your site has to be mobile friendly.

Social media 

Making sure that your company is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn could make a big difference to your recruitment process.

You can also use Facebook to post jobs; this way people can share your job posting with people who they feel are suitable. Sometimes word of mouth is the best advertisement.

Instagram is a platform that students and graduates are big fans of. Chances are, if they apply for your job they’ll give your Instagram page a little stalk. What do you want them to see when they enter your page?

LinkedIn should also be used as a recruitment tool. That’s what it was designed for.

A blog

You might have heard of blogging to increase sales and traffic, but what about recruitment?

Why not utilize your blog to show what daily life is like in your office? This will give candidates an idea of just how amazing it would be to work for you, and exactly what to expect.  This will also weed out the ones that aren’t suited for your job.

Be present on campus 

If you went to university, you’ll be familiar with the concept of career fairs.

Showing your face (and brand) at a university career fair will spark interest in valuable candidates. It will also build up relationships, and make your name known within the university.

Put your best people on the job, and make it your sole aim to attract the candidates which your company is craving.

Something as simple as putting a little sign-up form on your stall could be useful too. Try to be innovative, even in the recruitment process, and don’t forget to hunt for potential, not experience.

Set up internships  

Every employer has been in the same situation – they believe that they are hiring the perfect candidate, and a few months down the line, they just weren’t the right fit.

The best way to avoid this is through internships. This will help you build relationships with potential recruits, train them for your company, and ensure that they are the right fit for the company.

Studies have shown that one of the main benefits of internships is improved retention. That’s something you should be aiming for as a recruiter. Not to mention interns make great additions to the team.

Use your analytics  

You should be keeping a close eye on just how many hires you’re making, your retention rates, and interviews conducted.

If you’re conducting countless interviews in a week, but not hiring a single person, the fault cannot be placed with the applicants. You should take a critical look at your website, job listing, and hiring process to try and understand just why this keeps happening.

The same goes for companies with high turnaround rates. Why are your employees leaving? What can you do to make them stay?

It’s easy to shrug off these things, but there must be a reason why your candidates aren’t right for the job.

Here are some of the top ways which you could unknowingly be sabotaging your recruitment process:

  • The job description is too vague/not entirely accurate to the role you’re advertising.
  • You are not entirely sure what kind of candidate you’re looking for.
  • Is the salary you’re offering to the applicants too low?
  • Is there room in your company for the employees to progress?
  • You’re taking too long to offer your candidates the job.

It might be awkward, but asking your candidates, and employees, why they’re leaving/turning down your offer, can be extremely illuminating.

Be willing to adapt 

Adaption is essential, especially in today’s digital world.

If you’re offering a job which hasn’t changed in 10 years, you risk the turnaround for that role being very high.

Similarly, if you don’t give your employees room to grow, adapt and put forward their own ideas, they might not remain happy in their role. Students and graduates will be flooding with new ideas. You need to be comfortable with them entering your workplace and shaking things up a little bit. It’s what you both want.

This could be a selling point in your recruitment process. You could also ask the candidates what they would do different, what they offer, and how they believe the company could evolve.

You want to create a company that moves with the future, not one that gets left behind. This is a surefire way to retain your employees too.

Don’t focus too much on the grades 

This point might shock you a little bit. Don’t focus on the student’s or graduate’s grades too heavily. How would you benefit from turning down the perfect applicant because they lack the grades in certain areas?

Everybody is different, and although one person might be excellent at revising and getting top marks, somebody else might be much better at the practical side of work.

“By all means, ask your candidates why they didn’t get a good mark in an exam. Being cautious is always a good trait to have when recruiting. However, [completely] rejecting somebody because they answered a few questions wrong isn’t the best way to hire somebody,” explained Jeffrey Peterson, HR manager at Topwritersreview.

It works both ways too. You could hire somebody with impeccable grades. They came out on top of the class, but they are the wrong fit for your company.

This is where internships come in handy. You’ll be able to gauge which potential hires are the best for your business.


Recruiting is a nightmare, for all parties, nobody will ever deny that. It can result in loss of money, motivation, and time. Employing the right people and retaining them is crucial for any organization.

With these little hints and tips, you’ll be well on your way to hiring some of the best students and graduates available and keeping them. Who knows, one of your recent hires could become one of your partners in a few years.

Daniela McVicker is a career coach. She’s also a business communication coach, helping future job applicants to write business emails to help them achieve success on their career paths.


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