The 9-Point Business Case for Hiring College Grads

May 2, 2013

It is apparent to most that the U.S. labor market continues to slowly recover from the depths of the recent Great Recession. As employers find it increasingly hard to secure qualified talent for professional positions, more and more of those employers are hiring college and university students for internships, part-time jobs, and seasonal positions. They’re also turning to recent graduates for entry-level jobs and other career opportunities.

But is that the best course of action for these employers? In short, is there a net benefit to recruiting college students and recent graduates?

I often have the pleasure of speaking with hiring managers, recruiters, and other human resource professionals at organizations large and small, private and public, government and non-government. Their reasons for hiring students and recent graduates vary somewhat but the nine most common are:

  1. Compensation. Generally, employers pay more experienced workers more at least in part because those workers tend to be more effective and efficient. Sometimes, however, the spread between that productivity and compensation is so wide that it is more cost effective to hire multiple inexperienced workers to do the work of fewer experienced workers. And sometimes there is an inverse relationship to the years of experience and the ability to get the done job, such as in IT where there are rapid advances in the tools and techniques used to get the job done.
  2. Technology. Younger workers, on average, are simply more comfortable with technology than are older workers. I was once told that the definition of technology is something that didn’t exist when you were born. For today’s college students, that means that the Internet is not technology.
  3. Innovation. Fans of the children’s TV show The Magic School Bus will recognize the popular line, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” One of the benefits of having under developed frontal lobes and no mortgage is a willingness to take risks. Innovation is risky, fraught with error, and sometimes costs people their jobs. But that risk, as employers of young adults know, also brings reward.
  4. Collaboration. Today’s college students and recent graduates were raised in very programmed environments. Few just rode their bikes up to the park to see if other kids were there. Instead, they were in daycare and organized activities. Those environments instilled in the kids the need to take direction from their supervisors and work together in teams. Although some employers bemoan the perceived inability of Gen Y workers to work independently, even those employers tend to recognize the ability of Gen Y workers to communicate with and leverage the talents of those around them.
  5. Culture. Many organizations prefer to hire from within in order to build and foster their own unique culture. Hiring laterals with years of experience can undermine those efforts.
  6. Energy. Younger workers may chug energy drinks like there’s no tomorrow, but there’s little doubt that the average 22 year old has far more physical and mental energy than their more seasoned colleagues.
  7. Math. College grads learned their math skills far more recently than did workers with years of experience and so are often better able to remember and employ those skills. Sure, some couldn't add or multiply their way out of wet paper bags though neither can many more experienced workers. But look around at a room full of college grads and you’ll find that most have taken multiple math-related classes within just the past couple of years. Their fresh mathematical abilities are huge benefit to human resource departments as C-level executives place an increasing emphasis on the use of data to drive decisions. Intrigued? Sit in on my presentation at this June’s 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers annual conference on how and why recruiters need to use metrics.
  8. Temp-to-perm. Internships are, at their core, temporary work arrangements. If the internship doesn’t work for you or them, both sides can walk away without any real harm. Try that with someone who has worked for the same company for 30 years and finds out two weeks after joining your organization that they’re not a cultural fit.
  9. Leadership. Many of our larger employer clients recruit college students and recent graduates because they recognize that those hires will, in time, become their next generation of leaders. Recruiting your next Chief Marketing Officer from within is far less expensive and far less risky than luring that person from another organization. You’ve probably heard that LinkedIn’s fastest growing group of members is college students and recent graduates. That’s no accident. LinkedIn has invested significant resources in winning over these members as its recruiter clients want to hire these future leaders today. These members will only become more and more valuable as they advance in their careers.

Want to learn more about why and how to recruit college students and recent graduates? Join me at LinkedIn’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California on Monday, May 13th from 8:30am to 1pm Pacific., the leading niche job board focused on internships and entry-level jobs for college students and recent graduates, is hosting a half-day, $50 college recruiting conference during which you’ll learn the how’s and why’s from seven of the nation’s foremost experts on college recruiting. Can’t get to Mountain View in 1.5 weeks? Join us via free live streaming at