There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the hiring process straight out of college. Much of the misinformation is rooted in the fact that every employer and recruiting firm operates differently. But with that being said, there are some common threads when it comes to an attractive resume.
For employers, hiring is big business. It doesn’t matter if they’re hiring someone to fill an opening in the C-suite or bringing in a recent college graduate for an entry-level position, the cost of employee onboarding is always high. According to Deloitte research, recruiting expenses alone average $4,000 per position. Then there are training costs, equipment and supplies, and usually a temporary loss in productivity.
By the time the process is completed, hiring a new employee can cost more than $10,000 (not counting actual pay). Having said that, most employers are spending more time evaluating talent in order to ensure they’re making the right decisions.
In terms of recent graduates, here’s what they’re looking at:
1. College pedigree
There’s always some debate among students, universities, recruiters, and businesses about whether or not college pedigree – or the reputation of the school – matters. In most cases, the answer is no. The difference between getting a business degree from your local community college and a large public university in the state probably isn’t that significant. (Though the difference between a degree from your local community college and Harvard Business School would matter.)
College pedigree matters most in industries like healthcare, where employers meticulously review school program rankings. Higher program rankings are touted by institutions and used as recruiting tools. Therefore, graduation from a program like Rush University – which has seven nursing programs listed in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings – carries some clout.
2. GPA and relevant coursework
A second factor employers and recruiters look at is GPA. The exact number doesn’t matter as much as what the number indicates. For example, having a 3.7 versus 3.8 isn’t going to keep you from getting a job offer. But if you finish with a 4.0 in a program where most graduates average a 3.25, then you have a differentiating factor.
On a related note, many companies will also look at relevant coursework and whether or not your classroom training has prepared you for the challenges you’ll face on the job.
3. Internships and work experience
Outside of the classroom, what have you done to prove that you’re a good candidate? Internships and work experience are a must in competitive job markets. Employers expect you to have some relevant experience and don’t like to take chances on candidates who coasted through their college careers.
Volunteering and extracurricular activities matter, too. Things like fraternity or sorority membership, intramural sports involvement, and participation in various on-campus groups and clubs can boost your appeal as a candidate with varying skills and interests.
Develop yourself into a well-rounded graduate
If you’re a college student, the most important thing you can do is work on becoming a better-rounded individual. Having a 4.0 GPA won’t do you any good if you don’t have any work experience. Accumulating 1,000 volunteer hours won’t matter if your GPA is a 2.5. Attending an Ivy League school will have little bearing if you have multiple arrests on your record.
When it comes to hiring recent graduates, employers are looking for individuals who are well-rounded. From their perspective, these are the candidates who generally provide a healthy return on investment.
Are you spending your college career prioritizing the factors that employers are evaluating?
About the author: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.