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What college grads want from their careers, Part II

Published on: Monday, March 17th, 2014

This article includes selected data from the Universum Student Survey conducted Spring 2013.  Over 65,000 graduating college seniors from across the country responded to this survey.

Primary Values

  1. To have work/life balance            (62%)
  2. To be secure or stable in my job                (57%)
  3. To be dedicated to a cause or to feel that I am serving a greater good     (49%)

Changes over the years to these values:  Since the Great Recession, the desire for security and stability has increased.  The interest in being “entrepreneurial or creative/innovative” has increased substantially.

Employer Attributes

What are students looking at when examining potential employers?

  • Attractive/exciting products and services
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Ethical standards
  • Fast-growing/entrepreneurial

Students are keen on organizational culture, and note these characteristics as most desirable –

  • Creative and dynamic work environment
  • Friendly work environment
  • Acceptance towards minorities
  • Enabling me to integrate personal interests in my schedule
  • Interaction with international clients/colleagues
  • Leaders who will support my development

Most attractive Job Characteristics:

  • Challenging work
  • Client interaction
  • Control over my number of working hours
  • Flexible working conditions
  • High level of responsibility

Once again, as in other surveys, the opportunity for career advancement leads over high salary.

Where and how students would like to find more information about employers:

  1. Career/Job Fairs               (47%)
  2. Presentations on campus             (44%)
  3. Employer –sponsored events    (38%)
  4. Employer websites
  5. Social networks
  6. Job Boards

Note, the top three involve in-person interactions with employers!

The Take-Aways for college recruiting:

  • Know your target audience and what motivates them
  • Determine your value proposition, what differentiates you from your competition
  • Find ways to integrate the personal touch, in-person interactions
  • Ensure that you are sincere in your messaging

Bottom Line – you can’t be what you’re not, you can’t be all things to all people, but if you can find ways to communicate with college candidates in person to describe your culture, and what could make you an employer-of-choice, you will be doing well!

Questions about this Universum survey report can be directed to John Flato,


Are you an Employer-of-choice? Part I

Published on: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

[This is Part I of a 2-part series citing survey reports from college seniors.]

Each year the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducts a survey of graduating college seniors.  The Class of 2013 survey had over 10,000 respondents from across the U.S.  I wanted to share some insights that stood out to me, within Employer Relations – insights that might help employers understand what could make their opportunities attractive to a new college grad.

What do students look for when considering a job?

  • Casual atmosphere
  • Clearly defined assignments
  • Workforce diversity
  • Friendly co-workers
  • Good benefits

These items are fairly consistent with the Millennial Generation profile.  Notably, three out of their top five are reflected in an organization’s culture.

When weighing a job offer, what is considered?

  1. Opportunity for personal growth
  2. Friendly co-workers
  3. Job security
  4. Good benefits package
  5. Recognition for good performance

As our over-scheduled children become adults, we find they get bored easily, therefore, the interest in continuous learning, growth & development in their careers is at the top of their list.

In reviewing Benefits, which are most important to a college grad?

  • Annual salary increase
  • 401(k) company match
  • Tuition reimbursement benefit

Up until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the number one benefit desired by college grads was employer-paid health insurance; now they are covered until age 26 under their parents if necessary, so that is not as big a concern.  The two items now at the top of the list reflect their interest in Security and Stability.

When seeking information about an employer, what sources to students turn to?

  1. The employer’s website
  2. Their friends
  3. Their parents/relatives
  4. Career fair participation
  5. Faculty

Note the number one source – have you developed a webpage for college applicants that is helpful, educational, and inspirational?  Are there lots of photos?  Videos?  Clearly, a well-done website, will make a good impression!

Who is most influential?

  • Friends
  • Parents
  • Faculty

If friends are most influential as students engage in their job search, then it makes sense that your past interns can be important PR spokes-people for you when they return to campus.   They will talk about their internship with you… in positive or negative terms.

A full copy of the NACE Class of 2013 Student Survey Report can be found at:

How to find the best intern talent

Published on: Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Yes, there are lots of college students looking for internships, but there are also lots of internships available.  It goes without saying that employers offering monetary compensation will be the first to draw students’ attention, but what will continue to attract an intern applicant is much more than just $$.  You have to break through all the hundreds of other internship listings to grab their attention.

It starts with a great internship job description.

Are you effectively describing the types of projects and experiences interns will have with you?

Could you even add a link to an example of something produced by a past intern?

If you are too vague and general, no one can imagine what they will be doing or learning.  Why would that generate applicants?

How can a candidate learn more about you and the experience?

Are you utilizing social media to its fullest?   Be creative…create:

  • A Group on LinkedIn for your internship program.
  • An Instagram showcasing company culture.
  • A video of past interns and staff talking about the neat things they are doing and what they like best about your organization.  Upload it to your homepage and/or YouTube.
  • Engage with school career center LinkedIn Groups – Post Discussions about your internship!

Do you have ways to personally interact with potential intern candidates?

In this age of technology, students still appreciate one on one interactions!

Campus Information Sessions, Student Club Presentations are common forms of visibility, but can you think outside the box?

Do you have staff that are alum from your target schools?  Are they active with their Alumni Associations?  There are usually programs and events that can connect alum with current students.

Can you create a group Skype or Google+ event?

Connect with influential players

Get to know the career center staff at your target schools.

Learn about relevant student clubs, their student leaders & faculty advisors.

Ask your current staff who are recent college grads about classes where profs invited guest speakers in – who are those faculty?


Challenge the applicant

A creative challenge, when done right, will not scare away applicants, but will draw in candidates that like to stand out.

  • Include requests for writing samples, or portfolio samples with applications.
  • Within social media develop a fun “challenge” – have applicants record a speech, make a video, whatever activity will showcase the skills you need.

Offer enticing elements

Note in the position description any extra perks in addition to an hourly wage you can provide – how can you be different from all the other intern employers?

  • Free parking?
  • Lunch once a week?
  • Work from home or remotely one day a week?
  • Pay for a workshop or conference for the intern?
  • Attend Board meetings?
  • Offer Lunch & Learn sessions with your executive team?
  • Offer job shadow days with other departments?

You want the intern you hire to return to campus describing their experience with you as “awesome!”

So, remember, great impressions about you and applicant-intrigue begins with the job description and continues through the hiring process and the internship itself.

Adapted from TLNT online blog article, “The Top Reasons You Probably End Up Hiring Mediocre Interns” by Nathan Parcells, October 2013.

Offering Effective Information Sessions – Employer Topic

Published on: Monday, January 9th, 2012

In the past 18 years, I have seen a lot of Employer Information Sessions.  From my perspective as a career professional, below is a list of suggestions to create really engaging Information Sessions for a college student audience.

  •  Try not to rely too heavily on PowerPoint slides.  If they are used, make sure text is not too dense on each slide.
  • Incorporate video and images where possible.
  • Skype in an executive or employee and ask them to talk about their work. 
  • If bringing alumni in, ask them to not only describe their responsibility areas, but describe a specific, typical project they worked on.
  • Leave out industry-specific jargon and acronyms.
  • Share information about the state of your industry and what current issues are hot.
  • Explain how you differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  • Describe any training or mentoring provided first year on the job.
  • Students are very interested in a typical career path and how long it takes to move from one position to another.
  • Note average hourly wage for interns and average annual salary range for entry-level.
  • Talk about the benefits to you when a student has internship experience.
  • Offer job search and networking advice.
  • Describe what is expected of interns and new hires in terms of professionalism.
  • Prizes/give-aways are always appreciated.
  • Always provide some refreshments too!

Interesting presentations become memorable presentations, and memorable presentations are talked about on campus.

College Recruiting? Advice for Employers

Published on: Friday, May 13th, 2011

When hiring interns or entry-level professionals, there are ways to reach out and communicate to the college student audience that can enhance a candidate’s perceptions about you and the position.

  • Find ways to describe your organization’s culture.  What is the environment like?  Fast-paced?  Relaxed?  Deadline-driven?  Creativity valued?  Flat or Hierarchical? 
  • Find ways to describe your positions in language understandable by a college student audience.  Balance the amount of information:  not too much detail, but not vague either.  Reduce jargon unique to the field or industry, use generally recognizable terms and concepts.
  • When talking to candidates and explaining positions you have, it’s helpful for college students to hear adjectives that describe traits and characteristics that work well for that job function.  E.g. adaptable, fast-learner, competitive spirit, “people-person”, etc.  This helps them decide if it’s the right thing for them.
  • Be ready to describe the typical career ladder within your organization, or typical career paths externally for the career field.
  • Most workplaces have four different generations working together.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to promote an awareness of generational differences and encourage intergenerational respect.

Tips for Employers re: Internship Program Planning

Published on: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Best Practices

  • Develop a detailed, well thought-out job description and list of potential intern projects.
  • Use the same hiring process as for regular staff, i.e. resume review & interview(s).
  • Create a thorough orientation and training to the position, the department and your organization.
  • Identify and communicate to intern who can delegate and supervise their work.
  • Communicate with intern your expectations for communication and processing of tasks.
  • Be prepared to offer feedback (positive or constructive) frequently.
  • Have a mid-point and/or end-point evaluation meeting; provide written form and/or letter of recommendation if deserved.

Excerpts from the NACE Journal:

The Student Perspective

A survey of students by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) reveals student comments about the best internship experiences.

“Students felt that the ideal organizational culture was …

  • one where the internship program was recognized throughout the organization,
  • the work environment encouraged diversity,
  • the organization actively solicited feedback from the interns,
  • the intern is treated just as professionally as full-time employees.”

An Employer’s Approach

The internship coordinator at Geisinger Health System shares their training workshop strategy for new, incoming interns:

“Address in training workshops:

  • Conventions, forms and expectations of professional communication
  • Intergenerational issues and differing expectations concerning technology, communication, and work styles
  • Issues and problems presented by the blurring of lines between social and professional networking, activities and communication
  • Professional etiquette.”

Read complete articles in the February 2010 edition of the NACE Journal at

Employers: Re-work your entry-level job descriptions and tailor to college student audience

Published on: Sunday, March 28th, 2010

In reading hundreds of posted job descriptions, some are confusing, some are discouraging (qualifications out of reach), and some are unclear about the nature of the job.  You want to create a description that is accurate, concise, and grabs the attention of a college student or recent graduate.  Below are some things to keep in mind as you review your current position descriptions.

  • Eliminate excessive industry/company jargon
  • State in clear terms what responsibilities are part of the job
  • Be clear about the competencies needed, e.g. note personal qualities helpful, or specific technical skills needed
  • Describe your organization’s culture, e.g. competitive, driven, collaborative, team-focused
  • Be realistic about Qualifications, remembering the limited amount of work experience held by college students.

Why employers want to hire University of St. Thomas students and graduates

Published on: Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Quotes from recruiters about why they come to UST:

  • Proven track record of turning out students with relevant skills, work experience, and leadership potential
  • Reputation and quality of the candidates and faculty.
  • Great candidates – alumni doing well in our organization.

Quotes from recruiters about UST candidates:

  • Students had strong interpersonal skills and interviewing skills; they showed confidence.
  • Overall very strong interviews. Good questions for me, good examples.
  • Very driven, very self-motivated students, and intelligent students.
  • They are very bright, have good intellect, and are confident in who they are. They also present themselves very professionally.

UST Student Demographics:

  • UST Students of Color enrollment in 2009-2010: 14.5% undergraduates and 13.2% graduates.
  • Average ACT composite score of the freshman class (F2009) was 25.4
  • Almost 40% of the more than 6,100 undergraduates are enrolled in a Business major

Employers: No cost visibility/recruiting strategies

Published on: Thursday, January 28th, 2010

  • Create a separate web page for College Students in your Careers section.
  • Offer Information Sessions via Webinar – place on your website for easy access.
  • Host student/faculty/staff groups at your site – tours and conversations with your staff go a long way in solidifying your brand on campus
  • Create a Linked In Group for College Recruiting, invite students to join and get out information you want them to know
  • Create a company Blog area within your website – share information on entry-level positions by asking a new hire to blog about their job; include valuable descriptions of your corporate culture
  • Advertise that you are available for Informational Interviews, on campus or off at your site.
  • Use Career Development Center Linked In Groups!
  • Use Skype to interview/communicate with out-of-state or out-of-country candidates.