5 Job Search Lessons From Students And Recent Grads

Asian student on campus

If you’re a university recruiter, you probably spend a good amount of time talking to students. But do you think they feel comfortable being absolutely honest with you about the job search and your recruiting practices? Unlikely, right?

Luckily, students have no problem being brutally honest with us. So we asked them to do just that in the 2014 AfterCollege Career Insights Survey. We questioned them about every aspect of the job search, from how they like to find out about opportunities and who influences their decisions to which perks they think are most appealing and how they decide where to apply.

Here are some of the most important lessons we’ve learned from crunching the numbers.

Lesson 1: LOL the internet FTW

Don’t speak in acronyms? It doesn’t matter. The important point here is that students spend their lives on their laptops and smartphones, so it’s not so surprising that the internet is the first place they turn to find out about companies and job openings. Here are the the top five methods students said they find most effective in their job search:

  1. Searching online job sites
  2. Visiting the employer’s website
  3. Attending school career fair
  4. Speaking to a professor, teacher, instructor, or dean
  5. Speaking to friends

Did you notice that the top two spots involve online activities rather than any sort of direct contact with the employer? Yeah, we did, too.

Lesson 2: Social media… not so much

Since students are doing so much of the job search online, and the entire world seems just a tad obsessed with social media at the moment, it might seem logical to start focusing your attention on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like to attract millennial job-seekers.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

More than 70% of respondents said they NEVER use YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, Vine, StumbleUpon, Quora, or Keek for the job search.

Judging by these numbers, it seems that a lot of students would prefer to keep their job search and their online social life separate, so trying to recruit them via social media might not be super effective.

There is one exception, though. A sizable chunk—28%—of students say they use LinkedIn frequently and 26.7% use it occasionally in their job search. So if you’re only active on one social media platform, LinkedIn is the obvious first choice.

Lesson 3: The key to reaching students = faculty

In order to win the hearts and minds of Gen Y job-seekers, it’s a good idea to reach out to the people whose opinions they value the most.

We asked students who has the strongest influence on their job search and career decisions, and these were their top three answers:

  1. Parents
  2. Significant other/spouse
  3. Faculty/teachers

Students also ranked faculty, advisors, and department staff as one of their top three preferred methods for finding out about career opportunities (just behind “on-campus interviews and info sessions” and “on the career section of employer websites”).

Lesson 4: Nothing’s worse than… nothing

One of the most common complaints among student and recent grad job-seekers is the lack of communication from employers. When we asked what companies could do to make the job application process easier, an overwhelming percentage—52.5%—said companies should respond to applicants more quickly. We hear from students time and again that once they apply for positions they never hear back from employers, and this is a major source of job search frustration.

Lesson 5: Substance trumps style

Think you’re at a disadvantage because your company doesn’t have a “cool” image? That’s not necessarily the most important factor to most Gen Y job-seekers.

A HUGE percentage (71.6%) of respondents rated caring about what a company does as the most important factor in deciding where to apply. This far outweighed other considerations like thinking it’s a cool company (9%), having had a good experience with the company in the past (5.6%), or knowing someone who works there (3.3%).


So what does these numbers mean for you?

  • Your website is a major part of the experience for many applicants (and potential applicants). Make sure you have content that is clear and helpful for entry-level job-seekers. Need some ideas? We highlight a few of our favorite university recruiting websites here.
  • Getting your university recruiting team involved on social media should be a strategic decision and not just based on the idea that you “should” be there. Be aware of the fact that many students are not actively seeking jobs through these platforms.
  • Job descriptions should be as clear as possible, since this is where a lot of potential applicants get lost and end up abandoning the application.
  • Students look to university faculty for information and advice, so you’ll definitely want to prioritize your relationships with faculty.
  • Make sure that you can make your company’s mission clear to students and recent grads. At in-person events, this often means bringing other recent grad hires to talk about their experience and what your organization is all about. On your website, you can achieve this by including interviews with current interns and employees.

The next step: Choose one or two of the action points we’ve outlined above and begin to implement them in your university recruiting strategy. If you’re still unsure what to do, join our webinar on June 18 for more advice on how to apply these findings to your recruiting program.


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