With a huge reservoir of recession-stranded grads out there, you'd think that even though the economy is picking up a bit of steam, hiring college-educated young people would be no problem for business owners. But while warm bodies aren't in short supply, finding the ambitious, educated employees who will really move your business ahead is never so straightforward.

The best and the brightest can be choosy, and despite sky-high levels of interest in being an entrepreneur, there's a surprising level of skepticism among grads about being employed by a startup company. So if you're hoping to overcome these obstacles and net yourself some great recent grads, where are the most promising fishing grounds?

Skip the suburbs

A new report suggests a handful of cities are probably your best bet. The research from think tank CityObservatory looks at 51 metropolitan areas to determine which are most attractive to well-educated and highly mobile young adults. This demographic is highly sought after by startups, the report notes, and very far from evenly spread around the country.

"Well-educated young adults are disproportionately found in a few metropolitan areas," the study states. And the preferences of grads are even more specific--no suburbs for them. "Within the largest metropolitan areas, well-educated young adults are increasingly moving to close-in urban neighborhoods," CityObservatory reports.

Businesses are taking advantage of this fact and "locating in or near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated young workers, and because these central city locations enable firms to better compete for talent locally and recruit talent from elsewhere," the organization found.

The best fishing grounds for grads

If your company too is looking to find locations rich in potential young employees, you'll probably want to narrow things down, aiming not just for any old inner-city location but one that is the among the hottest for well-educated young people. The report can help.

Not only does the study lay out the areas with the highest absolute numbers of grads (the usual big-city suspects like New York, L.A., Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston top the list), but it also compares cities by the concentration of grads among residents. These are the places where well-educated young people make up the greatest percentage of the population (as close to the recruiting equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel as you're liking to get):

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose (Silicon Valley)
  4. Denver
  5. Austin
  6. New York City
  7. Minneapolis-St. Paul
  8. Raleigh
  9. Seattle
  10. Columbus

Growth in population and attractiveness to top young talent are two separate issues, the report is at pains to point out. Detroit, Atlanta, and Dallas, for example, have done fine when it comes to population growth in general in recent years, but the proportion of their citizens who are well educated is actually falling. Meanwhile, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and Las Vegas are showing anemic population growth overall, but a particularly high number of those who are moving in are bringing a four-year diploma with them.

Interested in more intricacies of how your city (or that city where you're thinking of expanding) is doing when it comes to attracting well-educated, mobile young people? Check out the in-depth report.

Published on: Oct 21, 2014