Discover more in the Best of OPEN Forum series

The Pros and Cons of Hiring New College Graduates

They may work hard and get creative, but hiring new entrants into the job market may offer its own challenges.
April 15, 2016

College graduates prepare to flood the job market this spring, after graduation. If you’re considering adding to your employee roster, now may be the time to give college graduates a try, advises Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of Barefoot Wine and authors of The Barefoot Spirit, How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.

Benefits to Hiring College Graduates

“Today’s college grads are a great source of new, fresh energy for your business,” Houlihan says. “They're skilled at Internet research and are willing to put in extra hours. Since they haven’t had a lot of experience with other companies, they're less likely to come to you with preconceived notions and other ways of doing things. That means they're easier to mold into what you ultimately need.”

College graduates may be highly innovative and used to working in collaboration in team environments. They have often had some leadership experience, so they are often quick learners and are usually highly energetic. From a compensation standpoint, they may also be more cost effective.

Cautions When Hiring College Grads

There may be, of course, a variety of cons to hiring newbie employees, Harvey notes. “College grads can be impetuous. Because they have little or no experience building a resume, they may not realize that they should stay with a company for more than two years to look stable to their next boss. They also may not realize how good they have it at their first job, which may lead them to quit early for what they perceive as a better opportunity to do something more conducive to their true passion.”

Today’s college grads are a great source of new, fresh energy for your business. They're skilled at Internet research and are willing to put in extra hours.

—Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine

To help protect your investment in terms of orientation, training and compensation, Harvey suggests digging deep when vetting and interviewing college grad applicants. “Employers will do well to probe deeply into the true passion of each applicant to see where the person sees himself or herself in five years. It may not be at your business, and that is something to consider before you do any hiring,” she says.

Also be prepared for a “cut-and-paste mentality,” where the new grads ask for examples that they can just copy, Houlihan warns. “This approach makes them feel less culpable. And protection from culpability is at the heart of their reliance on virtual communication, because it protects the user from accountability.”

Virtual communication may also be the culprit in the erosion of soft skills, such as making phone calls to develop relationships with customers and vendors. “The younger generation tends to want to do everything by text, email and tweets, when a simple phone call would be so much more efficient and productive,” says Houlihan, who suggests training them to use realtime communication methods first to establish relationships and virtual communication second to document and confirm. He suggests monitoring them for a few weeks to make sure they're doing this.

Importance of Transparency

Another potential drawback of hiring college grads is that few may have a basic understanding of how your business monetizes on your goods and services. “They tend to think of a job as a specialization that is insulated from the sales process, despite the fact that many of them are working in the realm of sales support,” Houlihan says. “This can result in a myopic view that does not always take in the big picture.”

You may help solve this limited view and mold effective workers by going long on orientation. “In addition to good job descriptions, spend time explaining how your company’s business model works,” Houlihan says. “Make sure they understand that their money comes from the customer, not the company. When they see their job as ultimately supporting sales, they will have a better understanding of not just what they do, but more importantly why they do it. This will make them more productive, engaged and empowered.”

Consider What Drives College Grads

Like generations before them, this era of employees is unique. They often place a high value on freedom to enjoy personal time, and they may strive for work-life balance, so consider offering flexible hours whenever possible. If working from home is an option, also consider allowing for certain days as telecommuting ones. Consider making meeting the deadlines with exceptional work the barometer of performance, rather than hourly accountability.

“This generation of college grads also has a deep desire to be proud of where they work on a social basis,” Harvey says. “They want their employers and their products and services to stand for more than their mercantile values. They want to tell their network that they work for companies making a difference in the world. So make sure they know how your company is doing just that.”

Read more articles on hiring & HR.

This article was originally published on April 30, 2015.

Photo: Getty Images