When employers require GPA minimums, the competition for new grads grows increasingly tight. But for those companies that may not have household name status or gobs of resources, the path to acquiring talent may be to hire smarter.
Consider the 3.5 GPA student: they may have carried a light load of classes and been able to avoid getting a job while they were learning. Another student with a 3.0 GPA may have carried a full schedule and worked full-time to put themselves through school. In a quick comparison of these, which is likely to be more dedicated and ambitious?
Reliance on numbers alone (or the name of the school) doesn't always net top talent. In fact, recent data suggested hiring from the top tier schools may not be the best recruitment bang for a company's buck. HR Dive spoke with Parker Dewey CEO Jeffrey Moss to uncover a better way to find top talent, regardless of academic pedigree and GPA.
"Right now, companies are filtering out the majority of candidates for thousands of entry-level hires," he told HR Dive. "They're looking for a signal of who they should dig into and the only information they have are academic credentials and networks. These are not a good predictor of who to hire — or who will be successful."
Who's applying and who isn't
In Moss' experience, the students applying for jobs posted through career services aren't representative of the student body as a whole: "Companies are all interviewing the same 10% of students, based on GPA, major, and sometimes family connections. They're honing in on a small percentage of grads because, while they may get hundreds of applications, they're all screening for the same data points — major and academic achievement."
Students work on their resume, trying to make it perfect so it will entice hiring authorities, but still don't get an interview because they're being screened out. "It's hurting business, students and universities," he added. "Companies are missing out on great talent, often with the top soft skills they're looking for — like communication and leadership."
On top of that, some students, even at colleges with a 100% placement rate, self-exclude. Some may be the first in their family to attend college or not have the industry savvy to understand different titles for the same role. Others, Moss said, may lack the confidence to apply. They may have preconceived notions about what it means to work for a major company and assume they don't have the requisites. "These self-disqualifications are costing businesses," Moss said.
A foot in the door
The challenge for students who aren't being actively courted by employers is getting a foot in the door — an introduction to the organization that lets them show what they're capable of. These can take many forms, including internships, apprenticeships and micro-internship opportunities.
"We need to look at the job search like dating," said Moss. "We're not asking them to jump into marriage on the first date — we're looking at whether we're a good match." Experiential recruitment of this sort can give both sides a chance to see if they want to continue with the working relationship, since students get a chance to work on real projects.
For some hiring managers, this ability to 'try before they buy' may be key to opening their hiring to a wider range of candidates. For students, it can provide larger insight into the world of working. And even if the project didn't work out, the student has more work experience to add to their resume. "Like a bad date," said Moss, "at least you probably got a good meal out of it."
Going beyond the numbers
Moss noted that even the best university hires may not translate into long-term employees; "Many students will accept the first offer they receive from a good company, but they lack the context to understand if it's going to be a good fit." They often don't know what to expect from the role or the organization and it can be a culture shock once they're in place. On the other hand, retention rates tend to improve when an intern, apprentice or micro-intern make the transition from student to employee because they know the situation.
"With experiential recruitment, we're lowering the stakes and lowering the risk," Moss said. If a candidate the organization normally wouldn't have considered doesn't work out, it's no harm, no foul. "With short projects and internships you know quickly if they're the wrong fit."
Career fairs are becoming irrelevant on campus, Moss said, even though everyone is used to seeing them. In today's "apply online in 10 seconds" era, wandering the halls from booth to booth doesn't attract every student, especially those who have to work. But hiring talent through apprenticeships or internships opens the door to a wider range of candidates.
"Too many companies still rely on a minimum GPA:" said Moss, "that's how they've always done it and they don't know how to change. But it's a flawed system: once you get hiring authorities past that narrow qualification, they can see hiring based on deliverables is the better option."
Often, he added, no one wants to be the first to venture into uncharted territory, like a slightly lower GPA or a different major than the job description calls for; it's often seen as too high stakes. But an intern or apprentice who's already proven their chops through the work they've performed makes the transition easier. "By lowering the risk," said Moss, "experiential recruitment helps business shift past 'the way we've always done it' to a system that works for every stakeholder."