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I am trying to recruit recent college graduates for a software engineering position, and I am having difficulty finding candidates. We have posted on the job boards for several colleges and a few job sites, but I am not getting very many applicants.

I am not very experienced at this step of the recruitment process, as I am usually hiring experienced people, and for that networking and head hunters seem most effective. But for new grads I can't use my normal network or head hunters.

I have thought about developing relationships with professors for local colleges, and I can pursue that, but it does not help me very much right now.

What is standard practice for generating candidates? Basically, at this point I want as many people that graduated with a relevant degree this year as possible. I think I can filter them effectively, but I need a larger set of candidates.

So far it seems like new college grads don't actually monitor the job boards very closely. Can others confirm if this matches your experience?

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    I was a recent college grad last year, and I have to say most recruiting websites are beyond terrible. I got frustrated very quickly with almost all of them (Monster was a sort-of exception) gave up on most. I suspect many do the same. And, please, for the love of $%&%, let me contact you directly after reading the add, not sign up for an account to fill out forms on your terrible, terrible recruiting website. Because if you have one, and it's more than "here's the job offer, call/email here", I'm sorry, it's terrible. – Rarity Jun 12 '12 at 11:19
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    It wouldn't hurt to visit a particular class where they teach the skills you are looking for. Even visiting the "senior project" course may get you some great applicants that are about to graduate and are looking for positions. – Austyn Mahoney Jun 12 '12 at 19:13
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    My college allowed employers to search the school database for resumes. I never applied for a job and got one this way. The employer was impressed with my resume and called me for an interview. – crh225 Jan 11 '13 at 14:00
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    go to career fairs. – Vic Mar 14 '14 at 13:22
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Some general thoughts on finding college grads:

1) It needs to be a multi-year program. If you decide in May that you want to hire that year's best and brightest, you'll find most are gone. (Even in a down economy, but especially in a good one) At the latest you want to start in September 9-12 months before you need them.

2) Interns make the best full time hires. It can be hard to make a hiring decision after 10 weeks, but that highlights the near impossibility of making an informed decision on the basis of a few rounds of interviewing. This gives you a shot of seeing them in action. Good interns wind up taking full time jobs. If you don't hire interns, you will miss many of the best.

3) Going deeper at fewer schools is better than a scattered approach. You should know what the most relevant and hardest classes are. You should have long term relationships with the professors that teach them. This will help you find the best candidates.

4) Look for hints beyond academics. I know of one consulting firm that learned "Having any work during the school year" as being a large predictor of success. It didn't matter what the work was, just that it was enough to force multi-tasking.

All this work - why bother?

1) If you want to hire the best, especially folks who can make things happen in an unstructured environment, you have to get them early. If you don't, there's a good chance that the person who does won't let them go. Obligatory Joel Post on the topic.

2) If you want a strong culture (not all do!), it is easier to imprint it upon blank slates. This one reason why Japanese companies historically have gone strong with college hires. You'll also see that companies with the strongest reputations for culture in their industry doing the most campus hiring. (P&G, Accenture, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs...) Again, this isn't a value judgment on their cultures, or the need of one.

Good luck!

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We've had some good luck here (Austin, Texas, USA) by going to college job fairs where we can meet the candidates directly and conduct an initial screening with the interesting ones.

We also hire a lot of interns, some of whom wind up as full timers and all of whom have friends that they can introduce us to.

  • Ditto in Boston, MA, USA. – bethlakshmi Jun 12 '12 at 13:02
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    Ditto in Pittsburgh PA. – Monica Cellio Jun 12 '12 at 14:46
  • +1 for interns. Any good campus program needs to start early. – MathAttack Jun 14 '12 at 3:45
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I had received recruiting email redirected from my department from time to time.

Usually the company send email to professors or a career department in that school, then they can mass mail to their students.

  • This is exactly how most of the jobs were posted at my University. – Austyn Mahoney Jun 12 '12 at 19:13
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Find out where the local students are posting their resumes. Then look at them and contact the students that interest you.

Finding applicants involves both posting info so they can find you, and wading though the resumes they post.

  • This. Too many people expect good employees to just turn up in their lap. If you really want the best of the best youre going to have to do some hard work and searching yourself – Rhys Apr 15 '13 at 12:51
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Think of it this way... even if you were getting some resumes and interest, you will still probably end up with software developers that will need some investment of time to become productive on a project.

I have learned that colleges simply don't prepare graduates for what real ISV's want in entry level graduates. This goes beyond the skills that they are taught and carries through to the types of jobs that they can reasonably attain if they set their mind to it. I went to school for IT, and what I learned in school was a fairly general synopsis of just about every IT career one could have, but say for instance I had a real interest in becoming a DBA, nobody there could really help you understand what your realistic skills are, what they expect, what your job will entail, and what you can expect in terms of pay and long term career challenges.

The biggest myth about college grads that pervades our society that NEEDS TO BE EXPELLED is that they are a bunch of lazy iPhone using hipsters with no work ethic and an overinflated sense of self worth. This is not the case, they are more akin to feeling hopelessly small and overwhelmed and are looking for guidance because there is a whole difficult world out there that nobody explained to them and nobody told them what they can reasonably expect. I graduated with IT and had drive and a passion, but I just didn't understand how to break into software development. Even if I found a job description, I wouldn't even know what half the job duties were or what to expect on an interview, I was really too scared to just give it the old college try, forgive the pun.

It is in this way that our colleges and universities are failing our students.

What I find the most effective way is to resign yourself that since entry-level software developers need a significant amount of training anyway and that since I found the difference between interns and EL developers to be non-existent in terms of useful skills that you might as well bring on interns at lower cost and invest time in them. The ones who are not cut out for the job or who just despise it you can pay less attention to, while the ones that have passion and eagerness to learn you focus on.

When that intern graduates then you have a potential entry level graduate that is already trained and useful on a project, and the graduate has a confidence in a budding new career for a long time to come.

You can find good interns at nearly any school, get involved with local schools early, offer to volunteer as a guest speaker, or ask if you can get involved in capstone projects that the school holds. Make contacts with important faculty and career services personnel and let them know what you are looking for in talent. Educate them in what your company as well as others in the area are looking for.

You do this and the students will eventually learn quite a lot about you and what you do, and I guarantee you will not have trouble finding good talent.

  • Thanks for your comments. I guess I thought that in this age of social media there would be some way to get more volume with less personal investment. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not against developing the personal relationships - this is always a good thing, and I expect it will yield results. I just (naively?) thought that there would be some systems in place that let college grads know about jobs being posted. I mean, you can get updates when your friend changes status to "brushing teeth" why not when a job posts in your field? – ChipJust Jun 12 '12 at 16:15
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    @ChipJust Maybe I failed to convey my point... the problem isn't that grads aren't aware of these postings, it is that they don't understand what is being posted and what will be required of them. Social media can only solve problems of advertisement but ultimately without personal investment it is a one-way communication. If you CAN solve this problem through social media, then it sounds like you have the next LinkedIn (minus the embarassing security issues I hope). My point is that the traditional job description written up by your typical HR person doesn't mean anything to a grad. – maple_shaft Jun 12 '12 at 17:32
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    I did not downvote, but if I had the rep I would. Your opinion on how college "simply doesn't prepare graduates" cannot be more wrong. Maybe where you went to school they didn't prepare you as much as you would have liked, but I received a great education from a University that prepared me immensely for my field. Now I am not saying that I did not do my own studying or projects, but the education went hand-in-hand with that. Don't hire someone who has the expertise to do the entry level position as an intern just because you're cheap. They won't stick around if they are smart. – Austyn Mahoney Jun 12 '12 at 19:10
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    I downvoted. Most of this doesn't answer the question (the part about college prep), and what remains (hire interns) was covered by an earlier answer, so it feels repetitive. – Monica Cellio Jun 12 '12 at 19:22
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    If a company is hiring interns instead of entry level developers JUST because it is cheaper, you don't want to work for that company. If you start at a lower salary, it has been proven in studies that your average wage will be lower than someone who didn't accept the lower salary and kept looking. – Austyn Mahoney Jun 13 '12 at 8:33
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You may find your local colleges involve their students in internships that turn into full-time offers. In this case, their better candidates may already have offers before graduation.

I would contact some of the professsors or counselors and find out how their students are finding jobs. The teachers may be well connected and make recommendations for students to other companies.

This is a long-shot, but their program could be highly theortical, so their students go off to graduate programs.

  • +1 for this. I was hired because one of my Software Engineering instructors got me hired on as an intern. At the end of the summer, that internship turned into a full time position. (Actually, there was a company wide hiring freeze for a few months that complicated the story, but that's not really relevant here.) – Patrick M Aug 16 '15 at 5:11
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I don't know how it works at other schools.

At UT Austin, each college had a placement office. This office had many small cubicles. Companies wanting to hire new grads sent recruiters. Graduating seniors signed up for interviews. First round one-on-one interviews were done at the college. The ones the companies were interested in would get follow-up invitations for plant visits, which were generally all-day interviews with several people.

Contact your target colleges and universities, BY TELEPHONE. Ask them if they have a placement office. If they do, get in touch with the placement office and find out their standard procedure for sending recruiters in.

Yes, this will cost you some travel budget. Think of it as a commitment test: Do you want to hire someone or not?

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Have you tried any of these:

  • printed advertising in universities' premises and dormitories?;

  • on the sport presentations (or as John R. Strohm points out, taking advantage of placement offices offer);

  • organising software competitions with generous prizes (relevant to recent graduates), while mentioning your job ads along the way;

  • online advertising in specific undergraduate social networks?

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