Have you read a newspaper lately? What about a magazine, article, or blog post? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you might be a little confused about what college students and recent grads really want, especially with regards to their careers. We get all sorts of mixed messages from the media about millennials and their values.
Or maybe you’ve heard certain pieces of “wisdom” from your coworkers or predecessors, but have started to wonder if maybe you should test some of those assumptions.
We decided to get to the bottom of things the easiest way we know how—by just asking students and recent grads to share their thoughts with us. So that’s what we did in the 2014 AfterCollege Career Insights Survey. Here are some of the most interesting results we found, how they sometimes contradict what you see in the media, and what we think dispelling these myths about university recruiting means for you.
Myth 1: Career fairs don’t matter
Sure, it can be a pain to go to on-campus career fairs, and you might feel like your return on investment at these events is so low that you shouldn’t even bother to go. But students consistently cite career fairs as one of their favorite job search methods. In the 2014 AfterCollege Career Insights Survey, students ranked career fairs as the third most effective way of finding jobs and internships (their top choices were searching online job sites and visiting employers’ websites).
We also asked students what they liked least about career fairs, and the overwhelming majority (nearly two-thirds of respondents) said that career fairs are often so busy that it’s difficult to get enough one-on-one time with recruiters.
What this means for you: Look for career fairs that are targeted to specific majors or industries. This means fewer attendees and those who do attend will be more in tune with the type of positions you’re offering. If this doesn’t work for your company or the schools you visit, try strengthening your publicity before the event so that the right students can find you. Build relationships with student groups, faculty, and current and former interns and ask for their help to get the word out there.
Myth 2: Students are only engaged in the job search at the end of the year
Seasoned university recruiters already know that the job search starts well before seniors are ordering their caps and gowns. But if you’re new to the recruiting game, you might think it’d be fine to just show up at the end of the year and catch students when getting a job is weighing most heavily on their minds.
Unfortunately, it turns out that students have the job search on their mind all the time—not just at the end of the year. They ranked all times of year about equally, except for early spring semester, when they were paying a little more attention.
What this means for you: Don’t limit your on-campus recruiting activities to just one time of year. Make sure you have some sort of presence throughout the year to build your employer brand on campus, and make use of online tools like talent communities and social media to keep potential applicants informed of what you’re up to and what opportunities you have coming up.
Myth 3: Students only want to work for cool companies
The definition of “cool” can be hard to pin down, but it’s no secret that companies like Google and Facebook regularly make it to top ten lists of the most desirable companies to work for. (Oh and then there are movies like The Internship, which, let’s face it, is basically a two-hour commercial for Google).
The New York Times even ran an article recently about how difficult it is to attract young talent to companies that lack the “cool factor.”
Yet, when we asked students about what factor has the strongest influence on their decision about which companies to apply to, coolness was decidedly not at the top of the list. In fact, the resounding number of respondents—71.6%—said that caring about what the company does was the most important thing to them. In comparison, only 9% of students said that working for a “cool company” was their top priority. Of the 10% who chose “Other,” the most common write-in answers were “location,” “I think I could do the job well,” “working environment/cultural fit,” and “professional development opportunities.”
What this means for you: Make sure that you can communicate your company’s offering to students in a clear and concise way. Forget about generic mission statements and share real stories about what you’re doing and why that matters. Be sure to bring current employees who can add more depth to this discussion, and make sure your materials address potential applicants’ questions about company culture, job specifics, and advancement opportunities.
Myth 4: Perks are the only way to attract top talent
Along the same lines as the coolness myth, a lot of employers seem to think that as long as they have foosball tables and a kegerator, young talent will come flocking to their offices. However, the job-seekers we surveyed didn’t care about pet-friendly offices (only 28.1% said this factor would increase their interest in a role), casual dress code (46.6% said this wasn’t important at all), or company-sponsored happy hours and social activities (35.8% said this wasn’t important at all and only 5.3% said it was very important to them).
There was one notable exception. A significant majority—78.4%—of job-seekers said that the ability to work from home or a coffee shop one day a week or other leeway with their workplace and schedule would significantly increase their chances of applying for a position.
What this means for you: We’re not trying to say that you shouldn’t offer any perks to employees at all, but just know that for millennial job-seekers, it’s not the ping pong and office parties that are going to make the difference.
Focus instead on promoting the aspects of your company culture that promote work/life balance. Let students and recent grads know if remote work is a possibility, if you’ll give them time and/or budget to work on passion projects, offer volunteer opportunities, and any other perks associated with how they’ll be spending their time and energy at work and beyond.
Myth 5: Throwing money at students is the way to get the talent you want
Are we saying that students don’t care about money? Absolutely not. They definitely do, but just be aware of the type of money that attracts them. In this year’s survey, job-seekers ranked salary as one of the most important factors when considering a job. But at the same time, sign-on bonus and stock options were the lowest ranked factors.
What this means for you: Current students and recent grads are prioritizing regular financial stability. So when you create your offers, think about presenting an attractive regular salary instead of one-time bonuses or the potential of big paydays in the future.
The next step: Have you let any of your university recruiting strategies be guided by these myths? What are some easy changes you can make to align your actions with millennials’ preferences?
If you’d like to learn more about the survey, the results, and what this means for your recruiting strategy, tune in to our webinar on Wednesday, June 18 at 10am Pacific. Get all the info here.