The Three Sides of the Recuiting Problem: The Student, The Business Owner, and The Career Services Professional
In a recent infographic by Inc. magazine, they cited a study by Simply Hired that showed 39% of 2012 college graduates would prefer to work at a small or medium sized business. Contrast that to 27% that would prefer to work at a large corporation, 19% who would prefer to work in the public sector, and 11% who would prefer to work at a non-profit. That’s quite the picture.
What the data doesn’t show is where these students actually end up. Recent statistics from a Yahoo Finance article showed that somewhere between 8.2% and 16.3% of 18-29 year olds are out of work, which means that a fair share of those graduates are hanging out at home.
Now, put yourself in a student’s shoes. You want to go to work for a small or medium sized business (stats on your chances later). All you see on campus are the largest companies who want to hire the 3.9 GPAs from the Honors program with 2200 SAT scores and 4 internships (ie one from high school). You think, “Shoot. I don’t have that stuff. I’m way better than average, but I invested my time in meaningful experiences and ended up with a 3.3 GPA, no internships, and a great story.”
“Where are all those small businesses? How am I supposed to find them? And once I find them, how do I know if it’s the right place for me? Dang, I better just apply for jobs with these big companies and hope I get picked.”
The Small Business Owner
Inc. also reported that in April 2012, companies with fewer than 50 employees did 49% of the hiring; companies with 50 to 499 employees did 48% of the hiring; and companies with 500 or more employees did just 3% of the hiring.”
Small and medium sized businesses did 97% of the hiring in April of 2012… And yet 27% of graduates were looking for the 3% of jobs provided by big companies. What’s most frustrating? You get some of the most talented, committed, driven people fighting tooth and nail for the same spread sheet analyst roles (an over-generalization, made for emphasis), where they’ll learn one little part of a very large business until they get promoted a couple years down the line. They’ll sit in a cubicle, follow directions, and either get complacent with where they are or quit to search for something more fulfilling.
The small business owner knows college grads are getting fooled by the system. The big companies have all of the advertising dollars to make their job openings most visible. They have the most leverage on campuses because they have the ability to bring 10x (or more) as many jobs as a small business to the campus over the course of a year.
So as a small business owner you have to get crafty. You have to spend hours of valuable time finding the right people, convincing the right ones, the talented ones that they want to work for you. And if you’re lucky you don’t have to settle.
The Career Services Professional
You have a target that’s been set for you: 90% graduate employment rate by three months after graduation. You have a small team to help you accomplish that goal. Three, four people at large public universities.
So what do you do? Well, if you’re smart you develop strong relationships with the recruiters from the largest companies possible. They can help employ large swaths of people all on their own. You invest time in the relationships, learn what the company is looking for, and send out invites to recruiting events to your students.
One day, a small business owner sends you an email. She has no HR department, no advertising budget, limited time, and two roles to fill. She wants to know which of your students would be best fit for the roles she has open. You know the perfect students for the opportunity. PERFECT…
But your fiduciary responsibility nags in the back of your mind and you send all 25 potential candidates to the business owner. You follow up a couple of weeks later. And then again a month after that. Come to find out, the business owner didn’t have time to sift through the resumes, so they just got the work done instead. Such is the nature of running a business.
There is a Problem
All of the stats in the three stories above are factual… As in they come from data. I haven’t analyzed all of the sources and evaluated the quality of data-gathering technique. However, I hope we can agree that the stats as they are paint an interesting picture.
The stories I’ve woven around the stats come from conversations I’ve had with students, business owners, and academics. All of this combined has led me to a conclusion: there is a problem with the way we are distributing our talent and connecting the dots from college to career. When I founded Living for Monday, I knew there was good work to be done, and I knew I was passionate about helping connect the dots between people and the work that is meaningful to them… But I never expected to find so much proof of the problem at hand.
There are many college students who want to go to work for small and medium sized businesses and a few more who want to go to work for startups. I would argue (because of my personal experience) that even more of the graduating population would be open to going to work for small and medium sized businesses if they knew what that meant. As a previous conformist following the beat of the system’s drum, I wanted to go to work as a management consultant because that was prestigious, it paid well, and the opportunity was presented to me through recruiting events, class speakers, and endless exposure to the big firms.
What I have to wonder is this: what if the system had been flipped and all I ever heard about were small business jobs. What if the mom and pop owners and the company founders and the entrepreneurs were the ones in the classroom every other class period. Would I still have wanted to be a management consultant?
On the business side, we regularly hear that turnover rates are high. Hires are often made too fast with too little information because there exists an immediate need that must be met. Work is piling up, clients are knocking on the door, and opportunity awaits… The missing solution is simply hiring more people.
The problem is that when we don’t take a careful approach to the hiring process, we end up hiring people that don’t fit our culture, don’t believe what we believe, and don’t want to do the work as a result.
As a small business owner approaching a faculty member at a university, we’re looking for help in narrowing the potential pool of talent. We want advice on who to hire, who is interested in opportunities like the one we have available, and who fits the values and strengths we’re looking for. Imagine the disappointment and frustration when all you get back is a list of names and resumes with no particular detail about any given candidate. That’s only one step up from posting on Monster.com and seeing your inbox flood.
And then there’s the system. It’s a politically correct system built to avoid criticism and any potential discrimination claims. It’s an everybody’s a winner type system. It’s a system that assumes career services professionals don’t know how to make the right connections and appropriately distinguish between candidates.
So what happens? We get resume books instead of a curated process for recommending applicants. If you want less choices, simply wait until a couple of months after graduation. Then you’ll get less choices (and the most talented candidates will have already been hired). So you end up choosing from what’s left, and if you’re lucky you find the right fit, or a diamond in the rough, or something along those lines. But is that really what it has to come down to?
There is a problem with connecting college graduates with the jobs being offered by small and medium sized businesses. The system is broken, but not irreparable… So that leaves us with a question: how can we fix it?
We’re crafting up one potential solution over at Living for Monday, but I would love to hear your feedback on each of the three segments: students, business owners, and career services professionals. I would also love to hear your ideas for how to fix the problem. What can we do? Please share in the comments. Let’s help more graduates find fulfilling, purposeful jobs.