I am looking for evidence a candidate took their college academics seriously. Academic performance is generally mediated by grades. I am also looking for specific majors and disciplines related to our hiring needs. Additionally, depending on the role, I am looking for certifications or certification commitments soon. Example criteria may include a minimum GPA, a particular business or STEM-based major, and a commitment toward sitting for the CPA, CFA, or related designation. Keep in mind, these performance expectations are sometimes, in some combination, minimum screening criteria. In other words, a candidate may not be invited for an interview if they do not meet the minimum objective criteria. While it is certainly possible good candidates are missed because they don’t meet these initial screens, this process helps tune interview pool characteristics to increase the successful hire probability.
2) Leadership and Making the Most of College
I look for confirmation a candidate made the most of their college experience outside their classwork. I consider the evidence they respected their college experience as an opportunity and a personal investment. Not as important is the actual nature of the out-of-class participation itself. There are many useful out-of-classroom career preparation experiences. For example, it could be the business fraternity or business honor society, it could be an investment club or case study club, it could be the social Greek system, it could be a religious organization, it could be an athletic team, it could be employment to pay for college. It could be something else. But here is the important point, I am not looking for a wide variety of participation experiences. I consider the depth of involvement and leadership roles. The candidate should demonstrate how they grew with an organization and helped improve it by taking responsibility.
3) A Demonstration of Resilience
This is, by far, the hardest to evaluate. It is also very important. So here is the thing – work is challenging at times. Clients may be demanding. Hours may be long. Projects may be challenging. Bosses are not always immediately attentive. Promotions don’t always occur as quickly as envisioned.
So, I look for evidence the candidate has successfully managed difficult situations in the past. How the candidate managed a rejection, a failure, or some difficult life event gives me insight into how difficult situations will be handled in the future. I am looking for evidence that when difficult situations are inevitably faced at work, the candidate is capable of effectively handling them.
There are certainly other factors, but hopefully this provides a sense of the key items considered in the college recruiting process. Now, let’s discuss a criterion NOT on my key items list. That is, the name of the college the prospective new hire will graduate. On my list of decision criteria, the name of the school is not directly on the list. I qualify with “directly,” because the school does need to have the relevant majors and accreditation to qualify as a target school for recruiting. In general, I have found targeting colleges broadly and targeting high-quality student’s narrowly to be a successful recruiting strategy.
Also, there is a practical geographic element in that an organization’s offices tend to recruit in their general regional location. For example, Mid-Atlantic offices tend to recruit out of schools in the Mid-Atlantic region. As firm hiring practices and employee geographic living expectations evolve in the post-pandemic world, the regional hiring tendencies may change.
My point is, as a person in college or as a person deciding on a college, don’t get too hung up on the brand name of the school you attend or will graduate. What is more important is that you got the most out of your college and ultimately, your career experiences. The rest should take care of itself.
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