April Jobs Report: Should New Grads Be Part of Your Hiring Plan?

April 2015 Jobs Report

The April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs last month. This is welcome news after a disappointing March report. With April’s numbers, the U.S. economy has now logged 62 straight months of private-sector job growth, the longest streak on record.

The overall unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in April. This is the lowest unemployment rate since May 2008, and nudges the U.S. economy closer to the Federal Reserve’s expectation of “full” employment. In March, the rate was 5.5 percent.

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers 25 and older edged up slightly to 2.7 percent, compared to 2.5 percent in March. At this time last year, it was 3.0 percent.

Here are some additional highlights from the April jobs report:

  • Professional and business services added the most jobs in April with 62,000 jobs gained; over the prior three months, job gains in this sector averaged 35,000 per month.
  • Employment continued to trend up in computer systems design and related services (+9,000), business support services (+7,000), and management and technical consulting services (+6,000).
  • Temporary help services added 16,100 jobs (up from 13,200 last month).

New college graduates: Your source for skilled talent?

If your business is looking to add staff, consider an emerging pool of talent: new college graduates. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) estimates that 1,855,000 students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree this year. With skilled professionals in high demand, you may be able to meet your hiring needs by bringing promising grads on board and offering training to help them build skills in certain areas.

I personally know and mentor several talented Millennial professionals and am genuinely impressed by their knowledge and abilities. They are motivated and flexible. Many have developed amazing soft skills through internships, student activities and volunteer work. And most Millennials, because they have been exposed to more advanced technology than any other generation, have an enviable level of technical know-how that can help raise the bar for your entire team.

Millennials also have an impressive capacity for learning quickly. Take, for example, a recent graduate I mentored through Beta Alpha Psi who landed a job straight out of college. In her new role, she was challenged right away and given a heavy workload. On top of that, she needed to accommodate the management styles of several bosses. All in all, it was a big transition. But she took everything in stride and was quickly promoted. Her story reinforces for me just how quickly Millennial workers can learn and adapt to a demanding workplace environment.

How to find the most promising graduates

If you’re looking to recruit new grads, you need to act fast. NACE estimates that U.S. businesses will hire 9.6 percent more graduates from the class of 2015 than last year’s class. And you need to know how to evaluate potential candidates who are largely untested in the business world. That’s no small feat. Here’s my advice:

Examine work experience closely. Internships within your industry are a big plus, of course. But don’t discount other jobs recent grads have held. For instance, if a candidate worked for a local parks and recreation department every summer throughout college, this could be indicative of a loyal employee. The fact that the worker was rehired every year may also mean he or she is the type of person a business is eager to keep on the team.

Focus on results. Look for evidence of a results-oriented mind-set on the candidate’s resume and during the job interview. Has the person shown a proactive approach to work by helping a previous employer (or nonprofit or student group) save money or increase efficiencies? Many of the Millennials I mentor are enthusiastic and innovative, and eager to find new and better ways of doing things. Keep an eye out for those who want to be change agents at your organization.   

Consider more than a GPA. Because many graduates have not built an extensive work history, you may feel you have little more than their GPA to use in your evaluation. But be careful about putting too much stock in academic performance. It won’t tell you everything about a student’s potential.

In this situation, you’ll need to invest extra effort in the interview. During that meeting, consider the candidate’s demeanor. For example:

  • Was the new grad polite? Polished? Professional?
  • What about the person’s communication skills? Was he or she able to get a point across effectively? Did the job seeker seem confident when answering your questions? Was the candidate comfortable throughout the conversation?
  • Did he or she seem genuinely excited about joining your organization?
  • How eager did he or she seem to learn new things and take direction from more experienced colleagues?

I’d recommend having one or two other members of the team also meet with the candidate so you can get their impressions, too.

Ask about work ethic. When speaking with references — which may include teachers and other mentors — dig below the surface and try to get a sense of how candidates approach their work. Are they deadline-oriented? Do they ask a lot of questions? How do they respond to feedback? Do they demonstrate leadership potential? The level of commitment and maturity they demonstrated throughout their college career can provide insight into how they will perform in the “real world” and whether they’d be a good fit for your organization.

It can take time and effort to identify the right new grad for your organization — and even more of the same to train that person and show them what a career with your company can mean. But the results are often worth it! These professionals can make a positive impact on your business immediately and, perhaps, evolve into future leaders over time.

April 2015 Jobs Report

Developing Millennials Into Your Firm’s Next Generation of Leaders

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