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Grad Hiring: It's Tough Out There for Start-ups

Surprising new survey results show that while grads are keen to work at established small businesses, very few are looking for a start-up gig.

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With May upon us, business owners may be plotting spring cleaning, summer promotions, warm weather inventory or even Memorial Day getaways, but there's one more seasonal consideration that's not to be overlooked: the annual influx of eager, job-hungry new graduates flooding the market. These young workers may not be seasoned but they're fresh, enthusiastic, and full of ideas. SimplyHired.com recently polled them to figure out how businesses can best attract some of these youthful potential hires.

The small survey asked 250 recent grads about what they're planning job-wise post-graduation, and the results suggest a mixed bag of good and bad news for smaller businesses, as well as some tactics for entrepreneurs hoping to hire some of the latest college graduates. The good news is for established small businesses. They're the preferred place to work for recent grads, with 29 percent of respondents saying they want to work at a medium or small business. That's significantly higher than the 27 percent looking to find work at a large company, the 19 percent hoping to head into the private sector and the 11 percent that have their hearts set on working at a non-profit.

The news is much gloomier, however, if you're a start-up looking to hire grads. Adding to the already much reported on struggle to staff up start-ups is a new distressing data point from SimplyHired's survey. Of the grads pollsters talked to, only a miniscule four percent were hoping to find work in a start-up.

Why such a small percentage? "Over the last four years, this new class of college graduates saw their friends and family struggle in the job market. According to the survey, less than half of college students are optimistic about their opportunities in the job market after graduation. The survey also found that college graduates value job security over company culture, health care and even salary. While start-ups often offer a culture that new graduates might enjoy, the class of 2012 is looking for stability over perks. They perceive established businesses as offering greater stability, while start-ups are seen as having higher risk and instability,” Gautam Godhwani, CEO of SimplyHired.com, explained to Inc.com.

Whatever the reason that young people are skeptical of working in start-ups, the survey reveals that there are ways businesses of all sizes can better attract this fresh batch of talent. SimplyHired recommends:

Focus on long-term growth opportunities. Contrary to the idea that new graduate job seekers are unwilling to make a long-term commitment right after college, the majority of new grad job seekers are actually looking for a place where they can stay and grow as a professional. When asked how long they expected to stay at their first job, 41 percent of students surveyed planned to stay with their employers for at least a year, and another 38 percent aimed to stay two or more years. Another 17 percent would like to stay at their first employer for five years or longer! Career development within the organization is a powerful incentive for potential new grad employees. Mentoring programs and advancement opportunities are important to highlight early in the process.

Demonstrate how your company makes a difference. With a recent history of learning, most college students want to do something meaningful in their first real job. During the recruiting and interview process, this is your opportunity to show how they can make a difference at your company. Be honest about your company's strength and weaknesses, as well as the advantages of becoming a member of your company’s team. Is it your organization’s flexible, creative atmosphere? The opportunity to do cutting-edge work? The ability to make major contributions to the community? Consider why someone would want to come work for you. These should all be conveyed in the job posting, career page, and social media outreach.

Is your business hoping to hire new grads and, if so, what are you doing to attract them?

Last updated: May 8, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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