Here’s How to Limit High Turnover Among Recent Grads

Your hiring processes could be contributing to a turnover problem among new hires.
By: | February 15, 2019

As unemployment remains at historically low levels, it’s a great time to be a new college graduate. With many grads having the luxury of choosing among multiple entry-level job offers, surely they must be finding their best match and thriving in those roles, right?  Unfortunately, for many grads the answer to that question is no.

Early career turnover rates remain high, as grads and/or their employers decide the fit was not quite right. Studies show that up to 70 percent of grads have left their first employer within two years. Lately this has morphed into the “ghosting” phenomenon, in which employees exit their jobs without even giving notice. All of this is costly to employers and it can derail graduates’ career aspirations, too.

So, how do these poor matches occur in the first place? There’s plenty of blame to pass around, but it typically comes down to flaws within the job search and hiring processes.

On the job-search side, too many grads limit themselves to the traditional paths linked to their degree. My fellow English majors all seem to be pursuing teaching, reporting or graduate school, simply because they feel that’s what they are qualified to do.

Likewise, employers’ hiring processes set them up for poor outcomes, especially organizations that lack the resources to invest in large campus recruiting programs—which today is almost all companies. With the expansion of online job boards and the ease of submitting applications to open positions, employers were faced with too many applications to process. As a result, they narrowed their candidate pools via easy-to-identify factors: specific degrees, specialized technical skills, and the perfect amount of (enough, but not too much) previous experience.

Neither side is particularly well-served by this arrangement.

There’s a Better Way

The solution for both sides? Get beyond the simple resume facts such as major, test scores, GPA, brand-name internships, etc. Instead, focus on a defined set of transferable skills: a healthy mix of soft and hard skills that really matter in the workplace. During our 20 years of experience matching over 10,000 recent college grads into right-fit entry-level positions, we at Avenica have a track record of two-year retention rates well above the average. We’ve been able to get there by identifying just how valuable certain skills are—the ones you can’t spot on a resume, like problem solving, critical thinking, organization, initiative, resilience, confidence, numeracy, leadership, communication, basic IT knowledge and maturity.

In matching recent grads with our clients’ entry-level roles, we get to assist both sides in recognizing the power of this solution. We take qualified recent grads through a structured behavioral-based interview, which has proven to be more predictive of job performance than traditional unstructured interviews, assessments, degrees and work experience.

Our structured interview has two segments. It begins by identifying strengths and weaknesses across all 12 skills outlined above. When completed, we have a good handle on the types of roles in which the candidate could thrive. The second segment is a career exploration that focuses on what the candidate aspires to do, what they enjoy doing, the environment they prefer, and the real day-to-day work required in relevant entry-level roles in the market. The mash-up of these two segments is when the light bulb ultimately turns on: “I never thought of doing that job in that industry, but it sounds like I’d be good at it and enjoy it.”

On the employer side, we focus on identifying which of those 12 skills are required to succeed in the position, as well as understanding the work environment and culture. In many cases, we help hiring managers refine their job descriptions to emphasize the required skills and de-emphasize things like degrees, experience, etc. that don’t so much translate to long-term employment.

High Turnover is Not Inevitable

Of course, both college grads and employers can get to this same point without our help. Grads should perform an honest assessment of where they stack up on the 12 transferable skills, and research the types of roles that lean on their strengths. They shouldn’t rule out accepting certain jobs just because they’re in the less sexy industries–those opportunities often provide potential for rapid growth because the employers truly need young talent.

Employers seeking to fill entry-level positions can revamp most of their current hiring process, beginning with a fresh examination of their job descriptions and requirements, and focusing on which of the 12 transferable skills will lead to success in the role. With that in hand, they can adopt some variation of a structured behavioral-based interview process, after which the candidates who are good matches will be much more evident.

The significant damage—to both employee and employer—of high turnover among recent college graduates is not inevitable. Entry-level employee satisfaction, longer-term retention and productivity are attainable if recent graduates and their employers both reorient their search and hire around the 12 transferable skills.

Brian Weed is CEO of Avenica, a recruiting firm that’s focused on helping college graduates find entry-level, career-track positions.