The Secrets to Hiring: Recent College Graduates Edition

by | May 17, 2012 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

It’s that time of year when the job field is flooded by over-eager college graduates begging to be given a chance by skeptical (perhaps cynical) human resource professionals and business owners.

What can someone who spent the last four years pulling all nighters and doing keg stands (possibly on the same night) do for my business?

Okay, maybe every employer or HR director isn’t that cynical, but there are certain stereotypes surrounding recent college graduates. Maybe these words come to mind: inexperienced, entitled, inappropriate…

Enough with the negativity! As HR professionals with over 50 years of experience, we’ve interviewed every type of person: a recent college graduate, a mom that’s been out of the workforce for the past 15 years, a retired CEO, a middle-aged entrepreneur, an experienced business person looking for a career change…you name it, we’ve interviewed them.

So today, we’d like to give you a little nugget of our expertise. Because we’ve learned something over the years: never stereotype a candidate because of life experience…or lack thereof.

Even those over-eager and inexperienced college graduates deserve a chance. After all, weren’t you once in their same position? Didn’t you once have that lost puppy look on your face?

And hey, maybe you should give them a little benefit of the doubt. After all, they are facing some very scary statistics. Every news article out there is reporting that 1 in 2 graduates are unemployed (How inspiring!). According to the 2010 census, employment among young adults is now at 55.3 percent, down from 67.3 percent in 2000 and the lowest since World War II. Ouch.

Bonus: Want to know our secret to hiring qualified candidates? Keep reading.

Okay, so now that we’ve convinced you to take a second look at that recent college graduate’s resume, you’re probably wondering: What do I look for when hiring a recent college graduate?

How do you distinguish between the future flourishing CEO and the incredibly lazy candidate who underwhelms you with their empty promises?

The Secrets to Hiring Recent College Graduates consists of looking for the following characteristics:


Now, this is something that can be learned over time, but if the candidate doesn’t at least know the bare minimum of professional behavior, then feel free to show him/her the door.

For example, if the candidate comes waltzing in 10 minutes late wearing last night’s make up and a dress that you can only assume she pulled off the floor of Forever 21, smelling of that intoxicating combination of cigarette smoke and cotton candy perfume, you should show her the door.

If the majority of the words coming out of the candidate’s pierced mouth are riddled with profanities or if his greatest accomplishments consist of the torturous pranks he pulled on his fraternity pledges, then you should show him the door.

Okay, so those are some extreme examples. But you get our point. You need to look for someone who is poised and confident (albeit slightly nervous). Look for someone who is articulate, ambitious, and of course, well-groomed.


It’s a no brainer: You need a candidate who is willing to put in the long hours and the late nights. (Hey! Aren’t recent college graduates used to this? The late nights at least.) Look for someone who was quite the multi-tasker during their collegiate years. It is also good to note a few quality extracurricular activities balanced with maintaining a respectable GPA.

Be cautious of a candidate that comes off as having a sense of entitlement. “I graduated at the top of my class. My dad is a powerful CEO. I deserve to be a supervisor by next quarter.”


Don’t automatically dismiss someone who asks about career advancement opportunities. After all, you want someone who is willing to work their way up the company later. But do be wary of a candidate with an unrealistic time frame of raises, promotions etc. Gone are the days of guaranteed yearly raises and promotions. Make sure they aren’t looking for a company where they can become a manager in the next six months (unless of course, you know you and they can fulfill that dream).

Bonus: Want to know our secret to hiring qualified candidates? Keep reading.


In today’s business world, a mission statement is sort of a work of art. You’ve perfected it over the years and now you make each employee pledge alliance to it before the start of every meeting. (OK, maybe you don’t go that far).

More and more companies are using their values and their mission statements as the backbone of their marketing and brand building. One of our clients believes so strongly in their mission statement that they only hire candidates who show that same type of passion.

Maybe the candidate isn’t as passionate about saving the polar bears from global warming like you are, but you should look for candidates who have that spark. You want to see that spark in their eye when they talk about something that really interests them.

On the other hand, if a candidate doesn’t know what your mission is (whether it is saving the polar bears or providing exceptional human resources services), then you should show them the door. A simple Google search on their part before the interview would have provided enough information to at least be able to make some commentary on the subject.


Keep this in mind: Recent college graduates are not a finished product. Yes, they’ve spent the last four years cramming their minds with information partially related to your field of work. But you have the opportunity to mold them into a successful business professional (as long as they show promise). Then, ten years down the road when they are running their own business, you can look back and say, Hey! I helped them get there. It’s a great feeling. Maybe they’ll even give you a shout out in their first national interview.


In the end, don’t dismiss that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed candidate. Recent college graduates can bring a certain fresh perspective to your company. They see the world a little differently than you and this can be very beneficial to companies looking to survive in this day and age. (If anything, they can at least explain to you the difference between Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Maybe they’ll get you to stop putting the word “the” before each of them. The Facebook. The Twitter. smh—they can even explain what that means).

Bonus: Want to know our secret to hiring qualified candidates? We use assessments!

Does your business struggle to find the “great” employees? Would you like to know exactly how to develop your current employees for better performance?  Perhaps you are looking for a better gauge of a job candidate before a hiring decision is made. How about comparing how your staff ranks against industry benchmarks, or even their own job description? Integrity HR, as a Profiles International Partner, offers a wide variety of assessments to address all forms of personnel development for any size company. Learn more about assessments here. 

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